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5 chapter one Introduction Overview Instead, much of the relevant information about social media was obtained from online sources. These included blog posts, Social media, also called social networking or Web 2.0, are a websites, conference presentations, and online journals and group of web-based applications through which users interact publications covering technology and governance. with one another. Many transit agencies have begun to incor- porate social media into their marketing and communications strategies. Reasons for doing so vary, but goals for using these Survey channels include communicating with current riders, reaching out to potential riders, developing stronger community con- Thirty-nine transportation providers in the United States and nections, and enhancing the agency's branding and messag- Canada were invited to participate in an online survey. Only ing. Some organizations also use social media applications to transit organizations known to use one or more social media support customer service and to obtain feedback from stake- platforms were asked to participate. Responses were received holders on services and programs. from 34 transit operators in the United States and Canada and one U.S. transportation management association, a response While providing these benefits, social networking appli- rate of 90%. cations can also pose specific challenges for transit agencies, including content management and strategies for address- Respondents represented 18 U.S. states, the District of ing online criticism; estimating resource requirements for Columbia, and five Canadian provinces (see Appendix A and managing social media and staffing; developing techniques Figure 1). Most agencies (80%) were located in large metro- to measure the costs and benefits; and ensuring that social politan areas, defined as urbanized areas with a population media applications are accessible to people with disabilities of 200,000 or more; 17% were in small urbanized areas and individuals who do not have ready access to personal (population 50,000200,000). Only one agency (3%) was technology such as smart phones and high-speed Internet. located in a rural area. All transit modes were represented, Agencies also face legal and security concerns, including online including rail, bus, vanpool, demand-response, and ferry. security, privacy protections, and complying with requirements Annual ridership ranged from fewer than 500,000 trips to more for transparency and records retention. than 2 billion. Survey findings are incorporated in chapters three through six. This synthesis explores these issues and documents successful practices among transit properties in the United Case Examples States and Canada. Because the field is changing so rapidly, the issues and challenges examined in this report could be Six transit organizations were selected from the survey considered a snapshot of the conditions when the study was respondents for follow-up telephone interviews, using the conducted. following criteria: (1) include transit agencies of different sizes in different parts of the United States and Canada; (2) include a mix of early adopters and newcomers to social media; and Synthesis Methodology (3) incorporate agencies using different social media strategies. The following six transit properties agreed to participate: A review of relevant literature was combined with findings from a survey of selected transit agencies. Based on survey Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)--San Francisco, results, several case examples were developed to describe California innovative and successful practices in more detail. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)--Dallas, Texas Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority Literature Review (LANTA)--Allentown, Pennsylvania Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)-- Because social media are still relatively new (Facebook was New York, New York launched in 2004, for example, and Twitter came along two Mountain Line--Morgantown, West Virginia years later), there is not yet a large body of academic research. TransLink--Vancouver, British Columbia.