Skate is a web application that CTD designed and built in collaboration with MBTA bus operations staff. It gives bus officials access to real-time information, allowing them to manage bus service from any location. Skate is also part of how we plan to improve arrival predictions and other useful information for riders on apps, digital screens, and

Bus inspector using Skate on a tablet


In April 2019, MBTA’s Customer Technology Department (CTD) and Bus Operations set out to build a web-based dispatch tool for staff in the field. Dubbed “Skate,” this modern, responsive web application helps bus inspectors track as many as 1,000 buses and 800 bus operators at one time (on over 170 bus routes during peak service and beyond).

First launched in July 2019, Skate has helped the T make major strides in communication and service delivery.

Inspectors play a crucial role, coordinating vehicles, operator’s shifts, and everything that can (and does!) happen on the road. Previously, they managed service in the field using radio communication and paper records. While the public could use their smartphones to track buses in real time, MBTA inspectors continued to use outdated and inefficient tools.

Before Skate

  • Outdated and inefficient tools with limited access to expensive, hard-to-maintain proprietary software and hardware
  • Limited visibility into problems on the route
  • Frequent cross-communication on noisy channels

After Skate

  • Internet-enabled devices that are portable, scalable, affordable, and easy to fix or replace if they break
  • Access to real-time vehicle and operator data
  • Increased visibility into problems on the route
  • Quicker communication with less noise


Our research began with supervisors in bus operations, who had recognized that their field staff needed better technology. After investigative meetings, we met and built relationships with the inspectors themselves.

CTD’s design, product, and engineering teams needed to understand as many aspects of an inspector’s workday as possible. While our dedicated design researcher led these efforts, everyone was involved in creating a roadmap to refine and shape the functionality of the app.

From there, app features included ways for inspectors to:

  1. Monitor the status of scheduled bus service
  2. Track shuttles during subway disruptions
  3. See what’s coming next in the schedule for every vehicle on the road
  4. See and be notified of common issues that arise on bus trips
  5. See and monitor crowding on individual vehicles

Continuous research and candid input from inspectors paved the way for Skate’s success. They were the app’s target users, and their insight helped us identify and improve upon the features we designed for the application.

As a result, Skate represents the partnership between CTD and departments within the MBTA—agile development and best practices in design, combined with decades of know-how from experts across the Authority.


Skate is now used every day by inspectors in the field—in fact, a tablet running Skate is issued as part of their uniform. With better real-time tools, inspectors now have a bird’s eye view of service and can be even more actively engaged. The average Skate user is active in the app for over an hour at a time, with an average of 76 interactions during that period.

Skate is still in daily use and development within the MBTA, and it’s being piloted as open-source software by cities like Washington DC.

We’re currently expanding Skate so that the bus dispatchers in our control center have similarly customized and powerful tools. Skate will also help us digitally “capture” the adjustments our dispatchers and inspectors make during daily service. We can then use this data to give our riders better arrival predictions that reflect our officials’ up-to-the-minute knowledge.

Quotes from our users

Proof of Skate’s success live in the words of the users themselves—none of this would be possible without them!

“The T is coming to the 21st century!”

“Boy, this tool is doing my mind a favor. It’s so much more intuitive!”

“I’m not a man that gets along with technology, but I might just have to learn. This is awesome.”

In memory of Andrew Wong, MBTA employee of 22 years. A delight to work with and one of the earliest adopters of Skate, we honor his life and his important contributions.
Rest in Power, Andy.

Our Impact

Internal Operations and Service Delivery

Bus, Subway shuttles

230 bus inspectors + other bus officials

CTD Team

2 software engineers
1 designer
1 design researcher
1 product manager/product owner

Relevant Technologies


We’re open source:

We’re hiring

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