Metro's next stop: E-mail

Washington, D.C.'s subway passengers may become the first such commuters in the country to get updates and alerts about service problems, schedule changes and other events via e-mail.

"It's another tool for us to get information across to the general public whether it's through the Web site or through.television, radio and print [media]," said Steven Taubenkibel, a spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro as it's commonly known.

He said Metro (www.wmata.com) might be the first subway system to send free e-mail alerts to its riders. The service, estimated to cost $65,000 the first year, is expected to begin this fall.

Donna Aggazio, spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association, said her organization wasn't aware of other comprehensive subway systems similar to Metro that offered e-mail alerts, but she said a few commuter rail and bus systems did offer the service. "I would expect as time goes on, more and more transit systems will at least look into [e-mail service], if not start their own," she said.

With a daily ridership of nearly 600,000 people, Taubenkibel said Metro is trying to be more customer-focused by providing its passengers with instant notifications of service delays and other problems. The information would be tailored to a customer's wishes for a single line or the entire system.

Metro also would send e-mail messages announcing special promotions, service changes, maintenance, enhancements, and weekend and holiday schedules and operations, he said.

The system, which began operating the subway in 1976, manages 83 stations in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland and has 103 miles of track. Metro also runs a bus system with a daily ridership of 500,000 people.

Metro has been offering riders an e-mail service since late April that offers information on transit benefit programs, regional commuter news and special events. Commuters can sign up at www.wmata.com/riding/email_signup.htm.

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