Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tweets and Blasts, Fans and Friends

During an unusually difficult winter snow season, the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) kept its passengers informed not only with traditional means – notices to the print and electronic media, recorded ‘phone messages and web site alerts – but through social networking methods: Twitter and Facebook.

Last year, the Authority established a presence on Twitter (LANTALV at http://twitter.com/) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Allentown-PA/LANTA-Lehigh-Valley-Metro/129767331032?ref=mf) and ‘joined’ the two media so that a posting, or Tweet, on Twitter appeared on the Facebook fan page. The message also appears simultaneously on LANTA Web log (http://movinglantaforward.blogspot.com/). All the social networking sites are listed at the bottom of the pages of LANTA’s website (www.lantabus.com).

“While obviously a wide information reach is attained through traditional media outlets, we are now reaching out more directly to interested individuals through online, social media outlets,” notes Denis Meyers, LANTA’s Assistant Executive Director for Development. “The print media, which is gaining more and more of an online presence locally, even linked routinely to our social media outlets to keep the public informed of the status of the transit system. LANTA’s messages became the media messages with a single click.”

Meyers notes that the messages also go to smart phones and PDA devices subsctibers.

“We’ve provided PDA and cellular phone access to our static schedules for several years now, but it is very satisfying to raise the contact level to this interactive state to give high interest residents instant messages about the transit operations.” Meyers points out.

It was particularly important to get information out this year due to the extreme severity of the weather conditions in this mid-eastern Pennsylvania community with a service area population of just over 390,000.

“For the first time in two decades, LANTA Metro had to cancel services due to severe snow conditions,” Meyers reports. “It was vital that we reached our passenger base before they ventured out into the winter storm to catch their morning bus.”

Feedback on the new communications system has been positive. And LANTA believes that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of interactive information systems available for customers.

“We are in the midst of a year-long project to implement real-time passenger information within our system,” notes Meyers. “By the Winter of 2010-2011, passengers will be able to get real-time schedule updates on the transit system through a variety of means: Internet, signs at major transfer hubs, cellular ‘phone and PDA.”

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