Bus

Utah turns to Twitter to talk fare hikes

Posted on March 28, 2011 by METRO Staff

Photo Courtesy UTA
Photo Courtesy UTA
In what is thought to be a first, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) used the social networking tool Twitter to conduct a public meeting to discuss the agency's proposed fare hike which, if approved, would go into effect in May 2011.

During the event, which took place in mid-February, UTA GM Michael Allegra presided over a team posting from the @rideuta account, using the hashtag #utafare, as they responded to comments during the hour-long chat.

An estimated 50 people tweeted 247 comments that were recorded and entered as part of the official public record on the UTA's current fare proposal.

Allegra and staff from UTA's fare collection department answered nearly 100 questions, ranging from the fare proposal to electronic fare collection and service.

The event generated a lot of interest, not only from the local community, but from around the world. People from as far away as London and Australia "listened" in, said Tauni Everitt, UTA's public relations officer.

When asked what prompted the UTA to take this step, Everitt said Allegra wants to focus on transparency and more open public communications, as well as take advantage of new forms of communication to reach out directly to customers without having to go through a third party. "What more public forum than Twitter to conduct a meeting of this nature," she said.

In addition to the Twitter chat, the UTA held seven public hearings on proposed fare increases, with the Twitter chat eliciting more participation than all the meetings combined, according to Everitt.

Attracting participation in traditional public hearings has been challenging for the UTA, something with which many transit systems can agree. At the most well-attended of these meetings 12 people showed up, while, at others, sometimes only one person was in attendance or, none at all.

"We have a very large service area...so we're traveling pretty far to go to these meetings, and when you go out and spend three or four hours with staff and court reporters, etc., it's a pricey endeavor for the agency," Everitt said. "So, we are exploring new ways to reach out to the public as public interests in these types of issues changes and public interaction with communication, in general, changes."

Before holding the Twitter chat forum, the UTA laid some ground rules, which they posted on their blog. They asked participants to focus on the set topic - the proposed fare hike — and stated that additional questions may not be answered during the course of the chat. The latter rule didn't come into play, as Allegra and his staff were able to answer all questions during the allotted time.

Once the chat concluded, the UTA asked participants for their feedback regarding the nature of the event and received all positive responses. Comments ranged from, "'Great chat, thanks for answering all my questions,' to 'I found it incredibly helpful,'" said Everitt.

Although the chat went smoothly, UTA staffers did see potential challenges and compiled a best-practices list to help with future Tweetings. "What happens when the number of people interested in the topic doubles? You can only have so many people involved without doubling up and answering the same question twice," Everitt said. The staffers also found it was important to have prepared messaging ready to post when there is a lull in the "conversation." "We never had a point where we weren't typing something, but it would be nice to put more information out to steer the conversation ...and use it to spark discussion," she said.

Due to the success with the initial Twitter chat, the agency held a second one in March to discuss another hefty issue — proposed service cuts.

 

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

Transportation's future, electric vehicles hot topics at BusCon 2017

The show featured nearly 135 exhibitors and close to 60 vehicles, ranging from transit buses to motorcoaches and cutaways to vans, as well as some of the latest technologies available to operators on the market today.

METRO Magazine launching new transit bus event

TBX is designed to connect an influential group of public transportation bus operators with a select group of product and service suppliers for an exchange of information, ideas, and solutions.

N.C.'s CATS adds 9 new MCI Commuter Coaches

The latest MCI additions to CATS fleet feature the newest clean-diesel engine technology for near-zero emissions and improved fuel economy.

Proterra bus sets world record, drives 1K-plus miles on single charge

The 40-foot Catalyst E2 max traveled 1,101.2 miles this month with 660 kWh of energy storage capacity at the Navistar Proving Grounds in New Carlisle, Ind.

S.C.'s The COMET adds 31 new vehicles

The COMET has a total of 50 fixed-route vehicles and all but eight will have been replaced within the last three years.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

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