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Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Develops Real-Time Transit Information Tool

Web-based system replaces radios and paper spreadsheets.


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has a workforce of 800 operators and a fleet of 1,000 vehicles, which creates a lot of combinations that need to be monitored. To address this challenge and ditch outdated paper records and radio communication, MBTA crafted a new web-based dispatch tool called Skate to enable real-time transit operation information.


Before Skate’s launch in 2019, bus inspectors relied on radio updates and paper records to keep track of vehicle and operator positions, but this solution had obvious limitations, particularly its lack of real-time information to guide decision-making.

Deploying Skate has brought new efficiencies to multiple departments at MBTA. Inspectors can actively engage with shuttles during subway disruptions. Inspectors can react faster to service changes and plan for what’s coming next in the schedule for every bus on the road. When leaders in the instruction department, which is responsible for training drivers, heard about Skate, the value was obvious. They found the money to purchase their own tablets to run the program and requested training in Skate.

The success of Skate has encouraged leadership to issue a tablet as part of an inspector’s uniform. Over 150 inspectors currently have access to the tool, with about 81 inspectors using it every day.


Because no existing software could meet all MBTA’s needs, the agency created its own open-source solution. For agencies that follow the same path, fully supporting the staff needed to build this type of solution is critical for overall success. To make the most of existing capabilities, agencies should apply modern principles of agile methodology and software engineering. While this approach involves many choices, it’s important to focus on standard industry needs and tools that are easy to use.