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

August 26, 2015

The Fight to Reduce Bus Operator Assaults

Transit authority operators nationwide have been victims of sometimes brutally violent acts, but in Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has had a decrease in bus operator assaults by almost 60% since 2011. How did they do that?

August 19, 2015

How to Reduce Copper Theft and Incidents on Rail Lines

The cost of copper was around $2.50 a pound in mid-June. While that might not sound like a lot of money, when you have hundreds of feet of copper wire, you’re talking about thousands of dollars or more. Transit systems, which utilize copper in wiring, are the latest target for thieves looking to make some easy cash.

July 22, 2015

Challenges of Positive Train Control Implementation

While PTC may have just recently entered the consciousness of the public at-large, it has been an issue for freight and commuter rail systems since Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) (P.L. 110-432) in 2008 following the collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Los Angeles. Since that time, rail organizations have been working toward meeting the federally-mandated PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2015. With less than six months to go, several commuter rail systems have said that, not only will they not meet the deadline, they will need several more years before having full PTC implementation on their trains.

June 30, 2015

Technology and the Transformation of Urban Transportation: 2015 U.S. Conference of Mayors

Disruptive technologies and the new era of information sharing are helping to evolve and advance public transportation in our nation’s greatest cities. Nearly 300 mayors and government officials convened in San Francisco June 19-22 for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 83rd Annual Meeting, featuring remarks from President Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  I was invited to speak  in front of these influential government leaders to discuss “Technology and the Transformation of Urban Transportation.” This article will give readers an inside look at the conversation.

June 24, 2015

[Blog] Keeping the Rails Running in Time of Tragedy

In times of disaster or tragedy, public transit agencies are frequently called upon to assist their communities and other transportation organizations. In case of fire, evacuation or accident, buses may be used to shelter or transport the displaced or injured, or serve as a respite site for first responders.

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 resource for managers of class 1-7 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