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Making Transit Sexy

March 4, 2012

Last week I promised a series of posts on selling transit. First, let’s talk about the easy things, like reaching out to current riders and engaging with them. People love to talk about transit, and generally, they talk when things go wrong. I’m sitting on Amtrak currently, nearly five hours behind my scheduled arrival in DC because we hit a truck on the tracks. I’ve been tweeting about it for the last fifteen hours. And Facebook. And I’ll blog about it soon. Point is, riders are talking about the service whether the agency is there to hear them or not, so they might as well be there and start a conversation back.

Sure, MARTA has a Twitter account, like many other systems, but all they ever talk about is single tracking. In fact, it was so dry, I took their feed off of our main page. Other systems, like St. Louis, interact with riders, asking questions while giving out pertinent info. Some systems have gone out on full fledged social media campaigns, but weren’t consistent and were razed by riders. WMATA, I’m looking at you. Fact is, riders complain because they want people to commiserate with them, and nothing is more gratifying than having the system itself respond back and answer questions or apologize.

It’s as simple as searching the #MARTA hash tag, or your transit agency of choice, and seeing what people are saying. I do this regularly, which gives me the opportunity to respond as a transit advocate since MARTA is silent. I’m able to educate people of issues like funding, safety, even how to use the system, while gaining new followers and Klout and all that jazz, in one simple blow. And riders thank me, all the time. It’s the simplest, cheapest, win-win outreach strategy ever.

To keep people talking, and to encourage them to talk positively, it’s also important to engage them, respond when they have funny stories, or prompt them. I gave a talk recently at Transportation Camp about ways of engaging folks on Twitter with things like transit haikus and pick-up lines. And as silly as they seem, these sorts of things took off and went viral, with even US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joining in wih his own haiku. In a down economy, these are one of the best, free ways, of reaching out and creating good will among riders. And happy riders, who are proud of their system, will encourage their friends to ride.

For giggles, below are some of my favorite transit pickup lines. Enjoy!

❤ There's priority seating for you in my lap.

❤ Just call me MARTA and ride me until you get off.

❤ I mind the gap between us.

❤ Single Occupancy Vehicles do it alone.

❤ Our smart growth plan just got fast tracked, I'm your TIGER.

❤ Why don't you pull your train into my station?

❤ Is this a hot car or is it just you?

❤ Why don't you come back to my Gallery Place and I'll show you my Foggy Bottom.

❤ Baby you keep my third rail hot and electrified.

❤ If you tap on with me, I'll make sure we tap off together.

❤ I can tell you this contactless system is not smart. Let's punch a farecard.

❤ Why don't you open your gates to me?

❤ Let's not single track any longer, I'll be at the peak of my peak.

❤ I only want to lay track with you.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Deanna permalink
    March 27, 2012 4:56 pm

    MARTA does a decent job with its Facebook account. While their posts are the same dull, operational stuff that it sounds like makes it to their Twitter feed, they are surprisingly responsive if you ask questions or make comments. That makes me think that they are open to better use of social media; they just need someone to show them how to do it.

  2. April 1, 2012 11:32 am

    Awesome, but getting MARTA to “talk” to the patrons will require one huge thing: changing the people at the top who work at MARTA. They are not tech or social savvy, and unfortunately it shows.

    What you are asking for is very simple, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. I’m sure someone there (i.e. all of them) have personal Facebook accounts and maybe even Twitter accounts. They can take an hour a day and take that same time and effort they place in their personal social media to make it work for Atlanta as a whole.

    And when things like the T-SPLOST come up and they want the public’s support, they would already be halfway there because they have actually engaged with them. Instead of waiting until they are in dire need and always begging for assistance.

    By the way, LOVE the pickup lines! 🙂

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