Sorry MTA: Transit Agencies Suffer More Twitter Abuse Than Other Public Services

February 17, 2015 | Nicholas Rohaidy

It came as no surprise when straphangers trapped on the 7 train for hours took to Twitter to complain, rant, and even ask for help. But according to a new study from the Journal of American Planning Association, this scene is happening more than you might think.

According to the study, the feeds of public transit agencies get more racist, sexist, and classist comments than other public services:

In this study, I examine social media content about public transit from a large sample of Twitter comments, finding that they reflect more negative sentiments about public transit than do the comments about most other public services, and include more negative material about transit patrons.

To combat this, many public transportation entities have used Twitter as a sort of no-call customer support, responding to angry and concerned tweets when they can in an attempt to relieve some of the rider frustration. This helps:

Transit agencies that respond directly to questions, concerns, and comments of other social media users, as opposed to merely “blasting” announcements, have more positive statements about all aspects of services and fewer slurs directed at patrons, independent of actual service quality. The interaction does not have to be customer oriented. Agencies using Twitter to chat with users about their experiences or new service also have statistically significantly more positive sentiments expressed about them on social media.

How does NYC stack up? According to this graph, not well. The D-score in the chart below measures overall Twitter interaction, a ratio of conversations with the agency versus the agency’s own broadcasts on Twitter. A score below 30% is considered low. NYC comes in at 0%:

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Despite the lack of interaction, New Yorkers have seen helpful responses from the MTA. Let’s hope for more of these.

(Photo: Emmanuel Nicolas)