You’d have to be lying if you’ve never had at least one unsavory thought about your regular public transportation system.
Unexpected construction on your route? Your local train starts to run express for no reason? Dirty stations? Whatever the complaint may be, public transit agencies have probably heard it all, and probably through Twitter: the Journal of the American Planning Association has found that these agencies receive the most hateful tweets than any other private or personal institution. According to The Atlantic’s CityLab, these tweets are also categorized as some of the most “racist, classist, sexist, and altogether discriminatory tweets.”
The Atlantic’s article goes on to question where these angry tweets lie in the perspective of transit authorities: are they genuine issues to reply to carefully, or to ignore? These transit authorities already have a social media presence in the form of their own Twitter and Facebook accounts – but mainly to update on the delays and route changes.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Studio 34: Yoga | Healing | Arts
Would a personal response to these angry tweets make the frustrations of commuting a little less hellish? SEPTA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s transit authority, certainly thinks so. They have an entirely separate Twitter account (@SEPTA_social) dedicated to reaching out to their riders to improve their relationship.
I’m not entirely sure if this system works; if I angrily tweeted at the MTA in Manhattan, I’m not sure I would want someone to send me a funny tweet to placate me. However, this could be one small step towards making the whole attitude towards commuting change; the unbearable sense of dread when facing the G train in Brooklyn had to come from somewhere. And if there is someone reading each individual angry tweet about its lack of service and consistency, maybe one day there will be improvements. For now, a personal response is a really nice touch – but it’s sure not going to make my train come any faster.
This got me thinking: since moving to Prague, I’ve had nothing but mainly good experiences with the tram and metro system. They are clean, are clearly marked, and run on schedule (for the most part). I took to Twitter to see if the DPP (Prague’s public transit authority) received the same kind of hate that our American public transit lines get on a daily basis.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Honza Bartoš
I only searched #dpp (with the “near me only” option enabled) and had poor google translations of the tweets, but even just the lack of Twitter attention the DPP receives is stark in comparison to the tweets directed at the MTA. The DPP doesn’t even have a Twitter account; if you go to the official website, their only social media account is on Facebook. The hashtag receives about two tweets a month, and yes, they are usually complaints. But even then (again, with poor translation), these tweets are by no means personally aggressive.
The obvious reason is that, on a whole, the DPP is better than, say, the MTA. At the same time, the cities they service are completely different in landscape and in size. However, there might be other factors at hand. One of which is the popularity of Twitter in the Czech Republic, and the popularity of hashtag usage. According to Passport to Trade, “Twitter is not yet popular in the Czech Republic, but the overall usage seems to be trending upwards.”
To be honest, I would not be at all surprised to find out that this aggressive Twitter trend is just the fault of a loud, brash American culture. Until the day when I have to return to all of those angry New Yorkers, I think I’m going to like the hate-less transit system here quite a bit.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user m01229.