Transportation

Wondering Where Your Bus Is? Ask The Social Media Team

Metro’s social media team communicates with thousands of riders every day. Online they’re known only by their first initials.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on September 29, 2016

To meet Metro’s social media team, we head into the bowels of Houston’s traffic control hub, a darkened room lit almost entirely by screens and filled with the crackle of two-way radios. And we’re here to put a face with the letter.

We meet team member Brent Taylor. He signs his tweets “B.”

Taylor shows us around the control room floor at Houston Transtar. “We are communicating here between all these different agencies to figure out what’s going on on the streets and how we can alleviate any problems that come up,” says Taylor.

And what are they hoping to do for riders?

“The idea really I think is just to empower them with information, so if you’re waiting for your bus, you have the information about the route that you’re preparing to use so you can plan for extra time, or make any other accommodations you made need to.”

We also meet Ramonica Jones, who signs her tweets “R.” She takes us through a typical day.  

“One minute you’re bombarded with tweets and emails and questions and phone calls. And one minute it’s kind of slow and steady,” says Jones. “And everything may be weather-related as far as the delays or the questions or the complaints or the concerns or the compliments that we get. So it just varies day to day.”

And since it is social media, the team doesn’t just give information. Jones says they spend a lot of time getting to know the riders on Twitter and Facebook

“We have this one rider who loves to interact with us,” says Jones. “He’ll tell us, ‘Hey you guys, I’m so nervous about this talent show that I’m in.’ And then we’ll just try to encourage him and say, ‘Hey you’re going to do great. Thanks for choosing Metro to participate in this exciting event in your life.’ So we get everything. We’re right there, we’re ready, and we’re immediate with our responses.”

Also at the social media desk is Alicia Lynch, who’s known on Twitter as “A.” Lynch works the early morning shift, so if a bus is running late she’s probably going to hear about it.

“Actually Houstonians, the majority are very nice,” says Lynch. “That’s just a culture thing and it’s replicated in their tweets. Most of them start with a ‘good morning’ even though they’re angry sometimes or they’re just tired waiting. They start and they say, ‘I’m just querying about a particular route, where’s my bus’ and they don’t always come at you in an aggressive tone. I actually really appreciate that.”   

The Metro social media team estimates it sends out 1,000-1,500 tweets a month, more if the weather is bad. Brent Taylor says when you need to communicate on an immediate basis, you have to have a team that’s completely dedicated to the task.

“It’s such a constantly changing and evolving landscape that you need someone who’s focused and locked into it, who can really kind of foresee the trends and figure out the easiest way that people are communicating, the best way to reach the passengers in the most real time,” explains Taylor.

Metro says it’s planning more outreach in the months to come, to get riders involved with its social media efforts. And that does include taking selfies on your favorite route.

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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