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Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation (2022)

Chapter:Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26451.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26451.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26451.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26451.
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4 Background Social media platforms include various web-based applications that are accessible via the Internet using a web browser or smartphone apps. People use these social media platforms to interact with one another online. Many transportation agencies have begun to integrate social media use into their marketing and communications strategies. While the goals vary, the agen- cies generally use social media to reach out to potential riders, communicate with current riders, strengthen community connections, and promote the agency’s branding and messaging. Some agencies also use social media to assist with customer service and gather feedback about pro- grams and services from stakeholders. The previous synthesis report, TCRP Synthesis 99: Uses of Social Media in Public Transpor- tation, provided valuable insights but is a decade old (Bregman 2012). There have been many changes in the social media platforms since the publication of the previous synthesis. For example, some older social media platforms (e.g., Klout) were shut down, and there has been an emergence of many new platforms (e.g., TikTok, WeChat, and Telegram). Additionally, there has been rapid growth of smartphone ownership in recent years. Because there have been drastic changes in the social media landscape, this synthesis aims to determine the current impact of social media uses by transit agencies. Objective and Scope The goal of this synthesis study is to provide relevant information about the current state of the practice in transit agencies to explore social media interaction. This report summarizes the reasons why agencies use social media, including public education and awareness, public engagement, quick updates, and crisis information; support of and influence on organiza- tional goals; and promotion of transit. The synthesis report also explores the following: which social media platforms are used and how; the applications and metrics used by agencies; measurements of social media effectiveness; guidance on policies, procedures, and processes for social media interactions and usage; strategies and tactics used to reach audiences; agency branding; and the resources allocated to agencies’ social media efforts. Technical Approach to Project Study The study was conducted in three major phases: a literature review of existing research and transit agency examples related to social media usage patterns, an online survey targeted toward transit agencies, and in-depth case examples of selected transit agencies that responded to the survey. C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

Introduction 5   Literature Review First, the study team conducted a review of the relevant literature, including previous research and transit agency examples of active social media usage. The study team focused on social media platforms, usage patterns, public education and engagement, and information collection to improve transit services. The scan searched through academic sources and reports as well as regular search engines using keywords relevant to the study topics. Survey of North American Transit Agencies Second, the study team developed a list of North American transit agencies with the relevant information found in the literature review on social media usage. The study team developed a survey questionnaire to learn more about agency practices in social media usage. The survey was structured into the following sections: social media platforms, agency considerations, challenges and barriers, lessons learned, and future needs. This survey had conditional logic built in to allow agencies to skip over nonapplicable questions. Appendix B of this report contains the final survey questionnaire. The study team developed a list of 75 transit agencies as the potential survey participants. The request to complete the survey was sent to the selected transit agencies. Out of the acquired 60 responses, 13 responses were discarded because of incomplete submission. For the final survey analysis, 47 complete responses (from 46 transit agencies) were used. Figure 1 provides a map of the transit agencies (Halifax, Canada, is not shown) that completed the survey and participated in the case examples. Case examples Participating agencies Figure 1. Locations of survey respondent agencies except for Halifax, Canada.

6 Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation Case Examples After the survey was complete, seven agencies were selected as case examples. The primary selection was based on the agency size, geographic locations, and different perspectives of social media usage as well as their responses about unique practices. The final selection was made after consulting with the panel members. Out of seven case examples, three case examples consisted of guided interviews with agency staff to gather further details from the survey responses. Table 1 lists the case example participant agencies. The case example details are included in Chapter 4. Organization of the Report This synthesis report includes five main chapters, back matter, and four appendices: • Chapter 1: Introduction provides an overview of the report, a brief summary of the study approach and tasks, and an outline of the structure of the synthesis report. • Chapter 2: Literature Review contains the findings of the relevant literature search. • Chapter 3: Survey provides a brief overview of the conducted survey. The survey questions are related to the usability of different social media platforms, the current state of the practice, barriers, and future needs. • Chapter 4: Case Examples includes seven case examples. Case examples contain information on social media usage, motivations, and efforts related to customer engagement, information sharing, and crisis management. The case examples also highlight notable practices at the transit agencies with a particular focus on agency type, use of social media platforms, inno- vative practices, and relationships needed for success. • Chapter 5: Conclusions summarizes the information of this synthesis in the form of key find- ings, barriers and challenges, and unique practices. The chapter also discusses potential areas No. Agency City State Service Area Principal Mode Annual Ridership U.S. Agencies 1 San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District Oakland CA Large urbanized area (population over 200,000) Heavy rail/ subway 14,990,092 2 Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) Miami FL Large urbanized area (population over 200,000) Bus, light rail, heavy rail/ subway, paratransit services 81,600,000 3 CyRide Ames IA Small urbanized area (population 50,000–200,000) Bus 4,577,482 4 Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) Fort Wright KY Small urbanized area (population 50,000–200,000) Bus 2,482,528 5 Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (the COMET) Columbia SC Both rural and urbanized areas are served Bus, streetcars and trolleys, vanpool, paratransit services 2,300,000 6 Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) Austin TX Large urbanized area (population over 200,000) Bus, light rail, heavy rail/ subway, paratransit services 22,798,913 Canadian Agency 7 Halifax Transit Halifax NS Large urbanized area (population over 200,000) Bus, paratransit services 30,400,000 Table 1. Case example agencies.

Introduction 7   identified for further study needed on customer engagement via social media platforms used by transit agencies. • Glossary of Terms is provided because social-media-related studies contain many new and innovative terms and platforms. • References provides a list of sources cited. • Abbreviations and Acronyms is a list to orient the reader to abbreviations and acronyms used in the report. • In the appendices, Appendix A lists the name and relevant information of the participant agencies. Appendix B provides the survey questionnaire. Appendix C provides the responses of all survey questions in the form of tables and figures, and Appendix D documents useful social media metrics for the case example transit agencies.

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A high percentage of transit agencies believe social media is important for increasing ridership, improving customer satisfaction, and improving agency image.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Synthesis 156: Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation updates 2012's TCRP Synthesis 99: Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation and again explores the use of social media among transit agencies. It documents innovative and effective practices in the United States and Canada.

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