Monday, February 14, 2011

@PGHtransit –how social media can change your transit experience

I wanted for some time now to write a few words about my experience with @PGHtansit , Port Authority’s tweep [1]. But, as there were more important transit issues such as the TDP changes, service cuts or the funding crisis, I kept on postponing it.   And I postponed it until…I got to read an article about The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority  and how transit providers shall not to use social media. And I realized that I can write a blog post from which WMATA can actually learn – not from me, but from PATs tweep.
So what does @PGHtransit do to make my transit experience better?
·         Acknowledges my questions: even when it does not have an answer, it still tries to work with me on either clarifying the issue or finding a way to help me figure out a solution. When I asked for sidewalks, I was explained why the Port Authority is not able to help me with sidewalk paving and also I was told what authority I may want to contact.
·         Courtesy: even stupid questions deserve an answer.
·         It is effectively helpful: I asked @PGHtransit why the new route 48 did not stop at a previous 51A stop. I was explained how the TDP impacted not only routes but also stops and why the Port Authority is behind with changing stop signs.  I pointed out to @PGHtransit how the old sign got both a new resident and I confused. And if someone like me who rode in the local transit network for several years is expected to know how to keep track of stop changes, for new residents and visitors it is more difficult to figure it out. As a result – the sign was changed.
And the reason why @PGHtransit was able to effectively help –
·         It connects with the riders and other tweeps: One sad fact is that many customer service departments and social media initiatives for public agencies such as WMATA and PAT are disconnected from the rider’s realities. The cause may be that good customer service is related to creating customer value and loyalty and agencies such as WMATA and PAT thought that customer value and loyalty was not an issue. Or the cause may be that riders are assumed to be somewhat stupid –after all they do not drive a car. Or…but this are only assumptions, the real issues beyond the lack of customer service quality are issues for WMATA and PAT and not for me. I can only note the difference among the bus stop related experience I mentioned above and the one I had several months after I moved to the US. I called the phone customer service number that time to ask about a bus stop that appeared on schedules and Google map but could not be found as I walked across the sidewalk. I was told with a condescending tone that there is a bus sign to indicate the bus stop –‘in this country we have those blue signs with the white writing etc.’ I had no success in convincing her that there is no bus sign so either the schedule is wrong or they need to get a bus sign up, she treated me as I had no idea what I was talking about tho I was sitting there looking for an inexistent bus stop. It did not cross that lady’s mind, or perhaps she was not trained to signal to another department that a rider had noted a discrepancy between the printed schedule and the situation in the street. But fortunately there it was social media, twitter and @PGHtransit .
So I do not have to call. I just tweet because:
·         1. I get an answer to the best of its knowledge
·         2. I get someone actually asking other departments for an answer when the answer can be found in another department.
·         3. I get an explanation on why my issue cannot be solved by PAT,  e.g. sidewalks.
·         4. I am given enough credit to be trusted that I provide information about the street, route, bus or bus stop that is as accurate as my own experience makes it. So if I tweet that I do not see the sign or I see a wrong one I am not told that I am perhaps temporarily blind because some paperwork tells us that the right sign is there.

This is why I thank @PGHtransit and because today is February 14 I’ll send it some sort of a  Valentine[2].
What about you? Do you follow @PGHtransit ? What do you think about it?

[1] Here  tweep is used for an individual’s or agency’s persona on twitter. I do not know the person beyond @PGHtransit tweets this is why she/he is called “tweep” and “it”. But I hope to know it one day…
[2] Besides the jewelry advertising and the cards my children give to their teachers and friends I am not sure if it is proper to send a valentine to a tweep, but since it is February 14th


  1. QT @bmantz65 I agree, the @PGHtransit account does a great job! .

  2. I follow a good amount of companies and organizations on Twitter and sometimes I will send them a message via a @ mention. Very few times I will get a reply back, even after repeated submissions. @PGHtransit is the only one who will answer my question or reply to me in some form. It makes you feel like you are talking to a person and not a Black Hole. Big kudos @PGHtransit!