See Something say Something

See Something Say Something

Used by MBTA

Launched in 2012, the See Say smartphone app is the collaborative work of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and ELERTS of Weymouth, MA. Traditional ER systems push out static messages through lowest common denominator methods, often SMS. The See-Say platform transcends those approaches by empowering citizens with smartphones and tablets to share real-time eyewitness emergency or disaster reports - using crowdsourcing, and to receive official public safety notifications.

The related “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign (itself started in 2010) is funded by agrant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Transit Security grant program. It promotes a collaborative effort of state and local agencies working together educating the public to be more aware of their surroundings, and report any behavior that may appear suspicious to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities. The MBTA originally adopted the campaign in 2003, based upon a campaign implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MBTA is the first transit system in the United States to launch a smartphone application as part of the “If you see something, say something” efforts. This new app allows MBTA riders to proactively communicate with transit authorities and also to receive alerts from authorities in emergency situations.

Riders may choose to send reports anonymously and a rider’s smartphone flash is automatically turned off when taking a photo of something suspicious. See-Say allows two-way communication so riders can comment back on alerts from MBTA Police (eg. “I see the missing person”) and for the Transit Dispatcher to ask a rider for more detail regarding a specific report from a rider. In addition weather and emergency alerts are provided to riders when there is a delay or service issue.

The MBTA is the United States 5th largest transit agency serving approximately 1.3 million passenger trips each weekday. The MBTA operates Subway, Light Rail, Bus, Commuter Rail, paratransit, and Ferry Boat services across eastern Massachusetts. ELERTS licenses its software to transit systems, college campuses, power utilities and hospitals nationwide.

Impact Question: The lack of positive network effects is evident in the 2013 national START survey results showing very limited awareness of the See-Say program in general. How and why does individual, immediate use value of See-Say overcome the influence of social loafing, despite the lack of social cohesion-building features in the platform?