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Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation


This report explores the use of social media among transit agencies and documents successful practices in the U.S. and Canada. Thirty-four of 39 transit agencies in large metro, small urban, and rural areas responded to a survey, and six of those participated in phone interviews to develop case examples.




Reasons to use social media include:

  • Providing realtime service information/advisories
  • Providing general information (services, fares, projects)
  • Connecting with customers informally (citizen engagement)
  • Recognizing and recruiting employees
  • Entertainment (songs, videos, contests)

Despite these advantages/benefits, there are also concerns with social networking’s use: resource requirements, managing employee access, responding to online criticism, accessibility, security, archiving and records retention, use privacy, and adapting to the changing social media landscape.

Key lessons learned include:

  • Keep social media in perspective (users still represent a relatively small number of riders)
  • Consider the organizational impacts
  • Identify the real costs (especially staffing)
  • Find the right voice (avoid jargon, don’t sound impersonal, acknowledging mistakes)
  • Listen to feedback to learn what the agency is doing right or wrong
  • Respect social media’s strengths (e.g. applicability of Twitter vs. blogs)
  • Have fun (to build stronger relationships with riders/community)
  • Just get started (it’s worth trying no matter the approach)

Finally, the research identified gaps in knowledge:

  • Identify elements of social media policy (only about ¼ of the agencies had adopted one, although more than half had one in development)
  • Apply social media metrics (effectiveness is not well understood)
  • Recommend internet security protocols
  • Identify features to improve accessibility for the disabled
  • Understand multicultural/demographic usage to ensure fair access
  • Integrate social media with other information platforms
  • Identify revenue opportunities from location-based technology and social-buying services

The report’s findings are likely applicable to a broad range of transportation agencies, not just the transit sector surveyed.

Source Organization Location


Operations Area of Practice

    Communicating Reliability Information

Organizational Capability Element

    Outreach & Marketing

Content Type

State-of-the Practice

Role in Organization

Transportation Planner
Manager / First Line Supervisor
Director / Program Manager
Senior Manager
Transit Professional
Media / PIO

Publishing Organization


Document Downloads

Prime Contractor
Oak Square Resources
Susan Bregman
Issue Date
Publication Number
TCRP Synthesis 99
ISBN Number