So you just had a bad transit experience. A driver was rude to you. Your bus was early so you missed it. Your bus was late and missed the train connection. Or even worse: your bus is scheduled to miss the train connection.
One of my favorite planning-related hashtags is #transitFAIL. The purpose of #transitFAIL is to publicize where public transportation fails its customers and users. It’s a particularly effective tool, because you can use SMS messaging or use a web-enabled smartphone to instantaneously tell the world about how transit just let you down. Some smartphones can even take photos or videos and upload them to Twitter, too.
Smart transit providers will use this feedback to improve their service and see where the problems are. I’d like to see transit providers use Twitter to notify people about service changes or delays, too.
Sounds great if your goal is to express your frustration with an illusion of impact. If thinking that you have “told the world” helps you get on with your day, then fine. But who in the world will care? What do you expect them to do about it?
Planning Pool provides this sample of the tag’s output, most of it completely useless to a transit agency that wants to do better.
Thanks, Scott Bradford, but what bus stop, and at what time? And thanks, “stevevirtue”, but what are TTC and GO Transit supposed to do when you tell them, without details, that they’ve screwed up? Feel bad so you can feel better?
Your transit provider probably does care, but here’s the hard truth:
Useful feedback often takes more than 140 characters, so maybe Twitter’s not the right tool.
For example, comments about a specific transit experience are useless, and
therefore utterly without impact, unless you’ve noted the line number
and a way to identify the specific trip on the line. This can be
either a reference to the schedule (“the scheduled 7:05 trip from
1st & Elm”) or the vehicle number (the unique number painted on the
bus, ferry or railcar).
All this is especially important if your complaint is about
unacceptable behavior by a driver. It’s frustrating for a transit
agency to get a serious complaint without the information they need to
identify the driver in question. Your transit agency can use your complaint as
evidence if it wants to discipline the driver, but only if you’ve given
them the information they need.
So decide what you want. If you want your comment to matter, provide the information that the agency needs to act on it, including contact details so they can follow up with you if needed. Your transit agency certainly has an email address for these comments, and may even have a number to receive texts from your phone. If you want to spew something useful on #transitFAIL, spew those addresses and tell people to send their stories there.
On the other hand, if you just want to get rid of your anger, by all means tweet it into space with #transitFAIL. But you’ve done nothing to improve your transit system.