Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD)
A fundamental success of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District’s entrée into social media is providing a stage for our riders to voice their praises, help clarify information in our publications and technologies, and counter the naysayers.
Although MTD is proud to say we have several advocates regularly contributing positive content on our social networks, one stands above the rest in frequency and depth. I’m fairly confident he would eagerly agree to the use of his full name, as well as his user name, in this article. But I will just call him “John.”
John has a Twitter account dedicated to MTD and his daily rides. He documents bus numbers, details how route transfers went, and shares stories and images of everything in between. At first blush, I wanted to write John off as a bus loon.
But John is a savvy rider who understands our routes and schedules as well as some of our own staff. He rides multiple routes daily and has an awareness of all passenger tools. A professor at a local community college, John is also a competent technology and Web user.
Take one example from the end of November 2011. John brought attention to an issue with several interior destination signs that display upcoming intersections. An ADA requirement, the LED screens required quick attention because they were not outputting any information.
John: “@CUMTD Every MTD bus I’ve been on today has had audio working but the interior sign off. 1182, 9663, and now 0327. Seems like software.”
I reported this issue to the appropriate personnel and thanked John. As technicians worked to find the affected buses and diagnose the issue, John continued to send me bus numbers of affected vehicles throughout the week. It culminated in a page he added to his website that detailed the affected buses with dates and routes. Very helpful, John.
John also frequents MTD’s Facebook page. He affixes comments to many of my posts providing readers with additional tips and reminders. When I shared excitement over the near completion of focus groups MTD hosted on the University of Illinois campus, one rider jeered, “Maybe you should conduct a survey of the people who live here and ride the buses all year long!” John jumped to our defense, naming the two community focus groups he had participated in and noted the specific feedback he had witnessed go into effect.
When I posted details of service reductions for the University of Illinois winter break, John added, “Also no Saturday evening service on 24 and 31 December, and no Sunday day service on 25 December and 1 January.” Good call, John.
We allow Facebook users who have “liked” our page to create posts of their own. As comes with the territory, people have published criticisms. Related to service reductions we impose during University breaks, one user accused MTD of treating the local community as though “it didn’t exist” when the students left town. John listed all (literally, all) services unaffected by service reductions. It was a terrific compliment to the defense I posted. Thanks, John.
The on-the-street reporting and compliments are not blind admiration. John is sometimes critical of our services and is vocal about pockets where improvement could occur. A route we created this year was largely the inspiration of John’s passionate defense of a particular Saturday service.
Providing riders like John a community space where they can share their experiences and opinions is vital to improving customer service, adding to the appeal of public transit, and ultimately, growing as an agency.
Cincinnati Metro/Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA)
Jill E. Dunne
Public Affairs Manager