Crowdsourcing and Commuting: Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
Two great tastes that go great together: Crowdsourcing and commuting

There is an old series of commercials promoting Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that described peanut butter and chocolate as “two great tastes that go great together.”

A new report from the New Cities Foundation‘s Connected Commuting Task Force finds that crowdsourced information from social networks makes the daily commute better — whether via public transit or driving a car.

The study conducted a sentiment analysis on more than 15,000 social media comments near San Jose, California. And the researchers hosted several focus groups.

They found that sharing information over social media helped reduce commuter stress. And, the sharing of such information, might even serve as an important source of mobility information for people who are riding the bus, taking the train or driving to work.

There are several recommendations and findings in the study, that is definitely worth reading. But it is most interesting to me that researchers are studying the power of the crowd to help us move through our communities more efficiently.

We hosted a panel discussion last month at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh that tackled this very issue. The session included presentations from Jules Flynn of the MTA New York City Transit; John Lisle of the District Department of Transportation; and Aaron Steinfeld of the Tiaramisu project at Carnegie Mellon University discussing ways that each organization is leverage crowdsourced information. It was a robust conversation that found, generally, what the folks at the New Cities Foundation have found — that the advent of mobile technology has created the potential for massive amounts of data to be shared in real time.

The question no longer is whether social information sharing (crowdsourcing) and commuting go great together. The question now is how best do we leverage it?

State DOTs Use of Social Media Evolving

“We’re seeing a slow steady gain in Twitter and Facebook followers. We’re seeing more and more people asking questions, sharing comments and airing concerns via these two mediums.” – State DOT survey respondent

An interesting thing has happened during the past year since the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) conducted its annual survey of state DOTs’ use of social media. What had been novel, new and uncertain has now become a standard part of how state transportation agencies communicate with their stakeholders. (Full disclosure: AASHTO is my employer and I work regularly and closely with state DOT communication staffs on a variety of topics and issues, including social media.) Continue reading “State DOTs Use of Social Media Evolving”

Growing Your Twitter Followers, As Easy As 1-2-3

Accessible Twitter website icon
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You finally leaped over the legal team, juked past the IT group and came up with the perfect Twitter handle. Your transportation agency is now part of the mobile/social web. Your agency has a Twitter feed.  Congratulations!

Now, all you need are people to know you exist.

We can argue at length about the best Twitter metrics, but for most in our business, “followers” matter. And we all need them.

Continue reading “Growing Your Twitter Followers, As Easy As 1-2-3”

Pinterest as a transportation tool – Useful or just interesting?

The office bulletin board
The bulletin board in my office is a literal Pinterest.

There has been quite a bit of talk about Pinterest recently. Several friends and colleagues have asked why this social media site is so popular (what do I do there!) and how it might be useful for transportation communication programs.

First, Pinterest is like a series of bulletin boards that you might have hanging in your office or  kitchen. Things posted on the cork bulletin board in my office include photos of my son, an old article I wrote for a magazine, a demo cover for an AASHTO report and the steps for posting an AASHTO news release online. Continue reading “Pinterest as a transportation tool – Useful or just interesting?”