Meet speakers from Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. They all operate from different parts of their organizational structure – marketing, public affairs and information technology – and have taken different paths along the way to driving change within their agencies.
BART began its Gov 2.0 initiatives within marketing, but found allies in media, operations, IT, HR and customer services to extend its reach. We’ll talk about efforts to create guidelines, to train and support others in the organization, and to stake out a place for open data/social web that is aligned with the overall strategic goals of the company. How does BART reconcile the freewheeling and conversational aspects of web communications with the official and serious tone of a safety-sensitive government agency? It has been about developing trust, which creates opportunities for casual conversation, for fun, for empathy and emotion. You are putting a human face on your agency and that has value; your customers are more likely to give your agency the benefit of the doubt in a bad experience if they have had good personal interactions as well.
In 2008, CTA was already well on its way to implementing one of the largest real-time transit information services in the country with Bus Tracker. Once rolled out system-wide, it would provide live service information, including arrival predictions, for a system with over 2,000 buses, serving 1.2 million riders on a typical weekday. Already looking for ways to make this service available to as many people as possible, an enthusiastic local development community began, independently, to find ways to pull information from Bus Tracker and put it into new contexts. A year later, the agency was not only exposing stable, well-documented APIs into the Bus Tracker system, but also releasing other sets of data, and working both with independent developers, community organizations and institutions to get real-time and base transit information out to riders anywhere and everywhere possible. Tony was one of the people behind this shift toward open data sharing, and can talk about the overall strategy and enthusiasm it’s generated at CTA.
MassDOT’s Developer initiative was launched in response to a simple question: Why is it so easy to find weather information but so hard to find transit information? We concluded that an information deficit existed for transit riders because our agency made it difficult to find transit information. In July 2009, MassDOT decided to launch a Developers Page , which hosts transportation data that can be used by third-party software developers to build websites, mobile applications, and other applications that deliver customer information more efficiently and effectively to users of the Commonwealth’s transportation system. By November, more than six innovative transit planning applications had been developed using out data. Recognizing the value of opening out data, MassDOT launched a real-time feed of bus locations and arrival predictions for five bus lines. In just a few months more than a dozen applications had been developed including smartphone applications, a text message service, phone service, simple websites, and even an LED sign. As a result of this success, MassDOT has changed its approach to getting real-time information to riders shifting the focus to opening information first before creating out own service. As a first step, MassDOT plans on launching real-time location for all MBTA buses this summer.
Melissa Jordan has worked at BART as senior marketing representative since June 2008. Her areas of responsibility include content management for the www.bart.gov website and development of BART’s social web strategy. She produces BART’s Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/sfbart and blogs at http://sfbart.posterous.com/. Before joining BART, she spent two decades as a reporter and editor for news organizations including The Associated Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Georgia.
Tony manages and produces the CTA’s Web site, as well as working on ways to help the agency better communicate meaningful information to its customers. This includes initiatives to get timely and relevant information for transit users anywhere and everywhere.
Joshua Robin is the Director of Innovation and Special Projects at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. In this role, he leads the MassDOT’s award-winning Developers Initiative and other initiatives focused on getting drivers and riders more information through 3rd parties. Through the Developers initiative, MassDOT has opened data on public transportation routes, schedules, and real-time information on some routes. Thanks to the work of MassDOT’s Developer community more than a dozen applications have been built in just a few months showcasing the power of opening data. You can follow the Developers Initiative on Twitter @massdotdev.
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