Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Better Communication

According to many in Twitterdom, Metro did a better job communicating after yesterday's suicide on the Red Line. Notably missing were vague, seemingly euphemistic and frankly uninformative terms Metro often uses like "disruption," "incident" and "situation." These terms are useless for riders making commuting decisions.
The e-alerts, too, were better. The also were in plain English and conveyed, as well as a short message can, what was going on.
To be fair to Metro, we thought they did a good job with tweeting alternate bus routes the night of the crash and anything that appeared to be written by a person was more informative than the robo-messages.
When asked about the apparent improvement, a Metro spokesman said they hadn't changed anything in the wake of criticism it received after last week's crash. They send out a mixture of both human generated messages and automated messages. Metro said when they have the staff available, they'll supplement automated messages with live ones, with a goal of "all live" for major problems.
"It’s not an issue of what changed, our goal has always been to get our messages out to as many people as we can," the spokesman said in an email exchange. "Like everything else though, we are spread very thin, remember, we just lost 300 positions for budget cuts last month and lost like 160 a few months ago, which is why we use the automated feed for twitter."
Metro added that they continue to work to get their automated feed, which has, they say, 52,000 subscribers, to convey as much information in as few characters as possible.

Here are yesterday's tweets from @metroopensdoors:
  • Red Line: Expect delays to Shady Grove due to a report of person struck by a train at Forrest Glen station.
  • Red Line: Trains are sharing the same track between Forest Glen & Silver Spring due to a report of a person struck by a train at Forest Glen
  • Red line trains will single track between Silver Spring and Forest GlenCustomers on the Red line should expect delays from Glenmont to Silver Spring throughout the rest of tonight's rush hour
  • Preliminary reports indicate the person, who died, was on teh tracks intentionally
  • Person struck, killed by train at Forest Glen station http://bit.ly/z5XSa

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