By now, you might have noticed that the The Talking Transportation blog has been silent for a couple of years. I sincerely apologize for being away.
Honestly a few things conspired to sap my enthusiasm for this project. First, my son was nearing the end of his high school years. He was active in school sports, choir and other extracurricular activities. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Second, a close family member was diagnosed with cancer and quite a bit of mental and spiritual energy went into support during the past few years. And, finally, I decided to take my passion for endurance sports to a new level, completing three Ironman races since 2017.
Needless to say, my schedule has been busy.
But, while the blog has been dormant, the transportation industry has continued to pursue transparency and accountability through good communications with the traveling public. There truly is a renaissance underway as transportation leaders increasingly embrace new tools and tactics that refocus outreach on the users of the transportation system.
My goal in the coming weeks and months is to highlight those innovations, and the creative strategies and tactics being put into practice.
I hope to show good work, discuss the challenges associated with that work, and, ultimately, give you a reason to come back to the Talking Transportation blog.
There is a common tendency among most transportation agency communication teams to overlook one of their most important audiences – the agency employees.
Internal communications is tough, whether it is done for a major corporation or a transportation agency. The organization is generally spread across a large geographic area. Employees in different work groups and geographic areas might have different access to, and comfort with, different communication technologies. And, at the end of the day, the communication team kudos for a job well done most often come from external communications with media or the general public. Continue reading “New CEO Video Series Targets ADOT Employees”
It was not much of a surprise to the people who work to make the nation’s transportation system safer when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released preliminary numbers showing traffic deaths had increased nearly 8 percent in 2015 to 35,200.
According to the official NHTSA news release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior, and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on.” Continue reading “Reversing the Trend: How Will U.S. Reduce, Eliminate Fatal Traffic Crashes”
Transportation organizations have important information to share with the traveling public. That’s especially true during natural disasters when maintenance crews and first responders are often the first people surveying damage and assessing the status of infrastructure leading to people’s homes and businesses.
The White House is there. Departments of health have accounts. Even departments of wildlife and interior have created Snapchat accounts. But state DOTs are still not embracing the fast-growing social medium popular with teens and young adults.
The exception is Mississippi DOT, which in April partnered with a local Mississippi-based creative firm Godwin Group to engage youth and their parents at a safety fair in Jackson.
The use of humor in social media spaces has for some time been an acknowledged strategy for building an audience. And, most people would agree that it is hard to build excitement or interest in dry lectures about best practices.
The Washington State Department of Transportation last month decided to leverage the holiday season to make a few points about driver behavior by crafting their messages under the guise of celebrating Festivus, the fictional holiday featured in the Seinfeld comedy series of the 1990s. Part of the “traditional” Festivus celebrations includes the “airing of grievances,” along with displaying feats of strength.
[Full disclosure: I formerly worked for WSDOT and as a former state resident generally follow their social media channels.]
So WSDOT took to Twitter Dec. 23, 2015 and announced it was celebrating Festivus 2015 by airing a few grievances. Jeremy Bertrand, WSDOT’s digital and social media guru, reported that the “grievance” airing went well and that from WSDOT’s perspective the public enjoyed the messages, and in some cases joined in by airing grievances of their own.
By using the Festivus theme WSDOT was able to highlight risky behaviors, bad habits and other actions that typical motorists sometimes use that contribute to safety concerns and maintenance issues. This is not the first time a state DOT has talked about these issues, but using humor and connecting with a pop culture event like Festivus helped communicate the messages in a more acceptable way.
It’s common throughout the transportation industry to make data available for private use. And, that data often end up presented in mobile apps. No surprise, if a department of transportation or local transit agency has rapidly, or even regularly updated data that includes route conditions, a mobile public wants to know.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority not only makes its data available to those who build apps, it went a step further and asked its customers which app they find most useful. Then, based on the customer feedback, established a handy summary chart, that not only lists the most popular apps, but where people use the app and the features that customers find most helpful.
Not only does MBTA seem as if it’s listening, it also is providing an additional service for its customers. Which, by the way, beats the alternative.