The National Academies

TCRP Synthesis J-07/Topic SB-33 [Active (Synthesis)]

Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 5/1/2020 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Research Agency: Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Principal Investigator: Subasish Das
Effective Date: 10/2/2020
Fiscal Year: 2020

Final Scope

During the past twenty years, social media has provided transit agencies with an unparalleled opportunity to connect with their customers. Because of that, TCRP commissioned Synthesis 99 Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation, which was published in 2012. This document is one of the most downloaded Synthesis on the TCRP Synthesis library.

The current synthesis topic will update Synthesis 99 and will again explore the use of social media within transit agencies. Additionally, it will document innovative and effective practices in the United States and Canada. The objective of the study is to analyze the way transit agencies communicate with their audiences by using social media. Important audiences to consider include (but are not limited to) existing and potential riders, media, stakeholders, elected officials, community influencers, minority populations, and voters.

It will also synthesize the reasons why agencies use social media including (but not limited to):

  • Timely updates and crisis information: Transit organizations use social media to share real-time service information and advisories with the public.  
  • Public education and awareness: Transit organizations use social media to provide the public with information about services, fares, and planning projects.   
  • Public engagement: Transit organizations utilize aspects of social media to connect with their customers and to collect feedback and sentiment from riders.
  • Transit promotion: Transit organizations use social media as a means of increasing transit ridership and promoting transit services.  
  • Support and influence organizational goals: Transit organizations use social media to collect data that can be integrated into operations, strategies, projects and plans.            

Analysis of the above information should include (but not be limited to):

  • Types of social media platforms and how they are used (including audience by platform);
  • Metrics and applications used by agency (e.g., sentiment analysis, ROI);
  • How agencies measure effectiveness; 
  • Policies, procedures and/or processes guiding social media interactions and usage (formal and informal);
  • Strategies and tactics used to reach audiences (geotargeting, geofencing, paid boosts, etc.);
  • Use and maintenance of branding and voice;
  • Level of resources allocated to social media efforts (budget, staffing, etc.).

Information will be gathered through a literature review, an online survey of transit agencies, and at least six case examples [two each from small, medium, and large transit systems as defined by American Public Transportation Association (APTA)] that highlight innovative and effective practices used by transit systems.  A discussion of gaps of information and suggestions for future research shall also be included in the report.

Information Sources:

TCRP Synthesis 99 Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation

TRB Staff 
Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Phone: 202-334-2361
Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: October 2, 2020
Teleconference with Consultant: October 29, 2020
Second Panel: June 17, 2020

Topic Panel

      Pamela Bynoe-Reed, Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The COMET)

      Krisite Cox, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

      Carolina del Busto, Miami Dade Transit

      Steve Gladstone, Maryland Transit Administration

      Christian Kent, Christian T. Kent, Transit Management Consulting, LLC

      Martin Munguia, Community Transit

      Elisabeth Rood, KFH Group, Inc.

      Tom Williams, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District

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