The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is the largest public transit authority in the United States. Every day, the MTA provides transportation throughout the New York metropolitan area to more than 11 million passengers. These commuters rely on www.mta.info to remain up-to-date on everything from daily traffic to emergency and severe weather events.
The MTA was facing a required upgrade of its website infrastructure. Mta.info was increasing in popularity, and was becoming an essential channel to communicate with customers. The MTA not only needed to keep pace during normal, everyday traffic, more importantly, it needed to handle the three-fold increase in traffic during emergency and severe weather events. Not knowing what public transportation services were running during an event like Superstorm Sandy could put personal safety at risk, and hinder citizens of the New York Metropolitan region who are dependent on public transportation.
The MTA was laboring under an inefficient, outdated publishing process, which required manually updating HTML and XML files along with managing tens of thousands of objects on the website file systems. The process was becoming an unsustainable, lengthy, laborious, and error-prone process.
During an emergency weather event, the MTA had to simplify its website to compensate for the increased user traffic, effectively turning a normally robust communications vehicle into the equivalent of a plain text page. This severely limited the agency’s ability to provide effective tools to assist customers in navigating the MTA network when the value of providing information about the availability of service was crucial to public safety.
To end its antiquated mode of content management, the MTA adopted Drupal as the foundation for a new website architecture. The MTA also decided to use Acquia Cloud to assure resiliency.
Customer safety during emergencies dictated that the first project using Drupal on Acquia Cloud would be a specialized emergency/weather application; its goal: exceptional content management and delivery, enriched emergency focused features and workflow, combined with the ability to scale to tens of thousands of requests per second.
The MTA spent four weeks working with Acquia’s Professional Services team to develop the foundation for the agency’s Drupal sites: a data-feeds site; an emergency/weather notification site; and the normal mta.info site. Within four months, an application was developed that included a complementary innovative business process allowing real-time content delivery of service notifications and news to the new cloud-based site. Final development and load testing of the new site was completed just days before Superstorm Sandy hit.
The importance and timeliness of this move to Drupal and Acquia Cloud cannot be overstated in terms of the MTA’s ability to effectively communicate with customers, the public at large, and the media during Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath.
The MTA experienced several benefits from the move:
- Untethering alert.mta.info from any internal dependencies insulated it from the loss of those resources caused by Sandy, keeping it working reliably throughout the event.
- Dynamically expanding hardware and communications bandwidth during the storm in response to traffic spikes and ramping them down post-storm resulted in 100 percent uptime during and after the storm.
- Designing alert.mta.info for resilient performance under duress allowed access to 30,000 customers per second with 99 percent of page loads in less than 4 seconds and an average load time of 2 seconds.
- Tapping into Acquia’s around-the-sun support, when MTA lost access to internal development/support staff at the height of the storm resulted in uninterrupted performance of the website.
- The new Drupal site is able to more effectively communicate with the public, with a first-ever use of maps showing service disruptions as well as service restorations.
With Acquia and Drupal, the MTA can provide effective web-based messaging to MTA customers, providing up-to-the-minute information, pictures, and service restoration maps. MTA was able to keep more than 5.1 million customers informed before, during, and after Superstorm Sandy. Using Drupal in tandem with Acquia Cloud services provided a cost-effective alternative to on premises proprietary solutions, while increasing functionality, resiliency, and service levels.