SEPTA beefs up its ‘social’ assets

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

SEPTA Social Media Team members Ikenna Williams (shown left) and James Siler (right.) (Not shown: Mark Bariglio). 
SEPTA Social Media Team members Ikenna Williams (shown left) and James Siler (right.) (Not shown: Mark Bariglio). 

In this age of smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, rapid transit has taken on a new meaning.

Passengers not only want to get to their destinations fast, they want information about their trips in an instant, sometimes while even on the go. Gone is the time of learning about what caused a transportation service disruption long after the fact by reading the local paper or watching the evening newscast — details are needed now.

To answer customers’ demands of immediacy, transportation organizations across the country have taken to using a variety of methods to disseminate details as quickly as possible— ranging from real-time service and vehicle tracking applications to Facebook posts that alert riders to upcoming construction projects.  

Over the past four years, Southeastern Pennsylvania Tranportation Authority (SEPTA) has regularly introduced and upgraded the tools it uses to make customers’ rides more interactive. For example, the agency’s transit customers can request the next four scheduled trips or schedule information for their specific routes via text message by using an assigned route stop identification number. The “System Status” feature on SEPTA’s website lists all routes and rail lines, giving details of detours, service alerts and advisories.

Trainview provides SEPTA regional rail customers with an online glimpse of trains out on the rails and if service is running on or close to schedule. Twitter updates announce service delays (and when normal service has resumed) almost as soon as they happen. In addition to tools designed by SEPTA’s in-house IT team, SEPTA has also invited the local tech community to create their own apps for riders.

While helpful in getting passengers to and from their destinations, the apps and web tools don’t lend themselves to being very “social” — there is little or no opportunity for customer s to offer feedback or ask questions and interact with staff. SEPTA’s Facebook page has helped by allowing customers to respond to the agency’s posts about special events, activities and construction, post questions for staff and “converse” with fellow riders.

To complement Facebook, SEPTA recently launched the @SEPTA_Social Twitter feed. Manned by a three-person “Social Media Team,” the feed is live seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Social Media Team is dedicated solely to the transit system’s social media efforts. In addition to tweeting pertinent information and responding to customers’ comments and questions, they also monitor major social media platforms for all things SEPTA related.


Ikenna Williams monitors SEPTA mentions on social media platforms.
Ikenna Williams monitors SEPTA mentions on social media platforms.


After a tweet or post is spotted, the social media specialist will respond directly or gather additional details if needed. This information is passed on to supervisors or other additional internal channels if the situation requires action or attention.

@SEPTA_Social rolled out with a soft launch, but is gaining followers through users re-tweeting responses and online mentions via other social media platforms.

“The early response to @SEPTA_Social not only demonstrates our passengers’ desire for information about SEPTA service, but also their wanting to be heard other than via traditional methods such as in person and by letter or e-mail  or phone call,” said Kim Scott Heinle, SEPTA’ s assistant GM of customer service. “As we continue to build upon our culture of customer service, we will expand upon the ways in which we socially interact with passengers.”

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "'Community involvement: Not just for the holiday season" here.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (1 Comment)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

November 7, 2017

‘Precarious’ Transit Workforce Needs Data, Research to Help Fill the Void

As experienced workers retire, the pool of people to hire away has dried up. In recent years, it has become clear that talent needs to be developed rather than poached.

October 31, 2017

Autonomous shuttles could end commuting woes

Public transit options haven't provided commuters with enough first-mile/last-mile solutions, but a driverless shuttle could be what wins drivers over.

October 31, 2017

7 Tips for Making, Saving Money for Your Transit Agency

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in thirty years about getting increased funding from your board, it’s that winners get investment. People want to invest in winners because they have already shown a propensity to get results with what they have.  

October 25, 2017

Practice is Key for Incident Response on Rail Systems

Working in subway tunnels is difficult under any circumstances and when you have to maneuver around an electrified third rail in an environment with less lighting, the task is even more daunting. Now imagine what it is like during an emergency...

September 20, 2017

The Transit Industry's Workforce Challenge is Still Real

Where are we today with the great anticipated retirement wave? It looks like it may finally be starting, if not fully underway. It seems at least a couple times each month we here of a transit CEO who is retiring, technical staff who are leaving, and the difficulty in filling maintenance and operations positions with skilled workers for those who have retired.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (1)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close