Globe Editorial

‘Talk to the T’: Gimmick or a solution?

August 29, 2011

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“Talk to the T,’’ the MBTA’s recently released smart phone app, is a newfangled solution to a decades-old problem: By enabling disgruntled T riders to use their iPhones to snap pictures of difficulties they experience during their commutes - from unruly passengers to coffee-soaked seats - and then send them to the proper authorities, the MBTA is opening up a user-friendly line of communication that hasn’t existed in the past.

For some passengers, the opportunity to vent their frustrations will make their T riding experience significantly better. But Bostonians shouldn’t consider “Talk to the T’’ a success if it only proves to be a new, technology-enabled way to express grievances that don’t get cured. Now that it has launched its app, the MBTA needs to show it has the capacity to fix reported problems in a timely, competent matter. An iPhone can call attention to a jammed door, but it can’t fix the door by itself.

If the MBTA doesn’t back up its new technology with traditional forms of customer service - like speedy maintenance crews and communicative station managers - “Talk to the T’’ will turn out to be a gimmick, not a solution.