Washington City Transit’s mobile rider alerts have been shut down after the company that designed the electronic messaging system complained it was never paid for the work.
City Transit General Manager Joseph Thomas confirmed that the system was disconnected “a few weeks ago” and the agency has been left with a diminished ability to inform riders when routes are changed or suspended.
That was evident Monday morning when snow showers forced City Transit to suspend several Metro routes while making the announcement on its website.
“It’s not as convenient for the passengers as if we had directly contacted them by email or text,” Thomas said of the website news alerts.
Matt Staniszewski, who is a former city councilman and partner of nTouch, which designed the alert system, said they had no choice but to terminate the service after Washington officials refused to pay his company for nearly eight months.
“It was just recently taken down since the city was so negligent in paying its bills,” Staniszewski said. “The company tried to work with the city in good faith. It’s just like the electric and water companies. If you don’t pay the bills, they will shut it off.”
The original $2,100 bill came in last April but was tabled repeatedly while city officials unsuccessfully asked for a company representative to come forward to discuss the work. Council voted Oct. 10 to deny the increased payment of $3,257 to nTouch for building the web platform for Washington City Transit because members said they were concerned about Staniszewski’s connection with the company.
Staniszewski, who is now the community and economic development director in New Castle, said his company is willing to work with the city to put the system back in place once the required payment is made.
Councilman Joe Manning, who adamantly opposed approving the payment last year, said he is reconsidering denying the payment because of how it is now affecting riders. He plans to discuss with other council members the possibility of paying the invoice, perhaps with reduced surcharges and late fees, at Thursday night’s voting meeting.
“I feel like we have no choice,” Manning said. “They have the ability to turn it on and off at will. We can’t put the public in jeopardy like this. People are depending on the system to get to work or for whatever reason they need to use transit. We can’t fight (the bill) anymore.”
Thomas did not know how many people have signed up for the mobile alert system. Until the system is functioning again, he urged riders to check for route updates on the transit agency’s website at www.washingtoncitytransit.com.
Staff writer Scott Beveridge contributed to this story.