A "Quick Links" box has been added to the home page to make navigation easier.
Metro debuted its redesigned web page in February with a fresh new aesthetic and a completely reengineered back-end. That back-end stuff is important because it changed Metro’s website from a rather bloated collection of thousands of static HTML pages that were difficult to update and manage to a modern Content Management System (CMS) based site that can be easily and dynamically updated by Metro staff. What this means for the end user is that Metro’s website now has fresher content that’s easier to find – especially for users coming in from outside the site through a search engine like Google.
In fact, since the website launched in February, traffic to the website from search engines has more than doubled. This is great since most people tend to hit up Google first when looking for info and Metro’s prevalence on the search engine means more people are getting the Metro info they need. And it shows – overall visits to Metro.net are up, way up.
Customers have had some complaints about the placement of certain information – namely the trip planner, probably the most popular feature on the site. Customers felt that the trip planner was too far down on the page, often getting lost “below the fold” (meaning users would have to scroll down to find it) and therefore making it an inconvenience to find this most wanted feature. Well, Metro’s web team has responded and now users will find Metro’s trip planner and Google’s trip planner well above the fold and just beneath another great new feature that’s been added recently – Quick Links. Continue reading
Point your browser to the Regional Connector’s Ustream channel (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/regional-connector-community-update-meeting) today at noon to watch today’s Community Update Meeting via a live stream.
The meeting – which goes until 1:30 p.m. – covers the latest progress on the Draft EIS/R for the project which now includes a fully grade-separated alternative.
If you prefer to attend the meeting in person, get yourself to the Central Library (630 W. 5th St.) by noon. Metro will leave a copy of the recording at the site for stakeholders to view at their leisure.
Both the Regional Connector and Westside Subway have community meetings coming up – but this time you don’t actually have to be there in person to follow the action. Metro will be making use of new social media technologies – Ustream and Twitter – to connect the community to the meetings.
The Westside Subway team has set up a Twitter account and will live-tweet all five of their meetings which each begin at 6:00 PM. You can follow them at: http://www.twitter.com/WestsideSubway.
For those who prefer to kick it old school, you can find the locations and times for the meetings after the jump. Continue reading
Last December, Metro launched its official Facebook page in an attempt to better communicate with customers and taxpayers using the ubiquitous social networking tool. By the end of 2009 Metro had a few hundred fans on Facebook.
This past weekend Metro’s Facebook page topped 2,000 fans and the number keeps growing.
Metro’s 2,000+ fans can easily stay up to date with what’s going on with the agency without leaving the comfort of their favorite social network. Updates from Metro – including stories from The Source and service updates – are listed on fans news feeds and can be “Liked”, commented on or shared just like anything else on Facebook. This is actually a great way to let us know what you think of our stories here on The Source – I check the page every day to see what stories are getting a lot of “Likes” and which ones are sparking discussion on Facebook.
Of course, well over a million people board Metro buses and trains every day and L.A. County has a population that exceeds nine million people – so 2,000 fans is just a drop in the bucket. So if you’re not already a fan, become one. And if you are, make sure to tell your friends to become fans. It’s really the best way to stay in touch with – and keep a watchful eye on – this massive tax-payer funded agency that is working to keep L.A. moving.
The URL for Metro’s Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/losangelesmetro
Check out some of Metro’s other Facebook pages, after the jump. Continue reading
Vancouver's Buzzer Blog is an example of a transit agency doing great work in online outreach.
Next up in our series of essential transportation links on the web: other transit agencies that are blogging.
Although agency blogging is still in its infancy, Metro is not alone in the endeavor. In fact, some of the blogs here served as inspiration for The Source and continue to do so as we move forward. Peruse these blogs not just to see how they compare to The Source (let us know if you see something you’d like us to be doing, just remember our “no comments” policy is not likely to budge anytime soon) but also to get an idea of what other cities and agencies are dealing with and how they are going about addressing the challenges of transportation in the 21st century.
- The Buzzer Blog (Vancouver TransLink) – http://buzzer.translink.ca
Vancouver’s TransLink runs one of the most robust agency blogs of them all. Started in 2008 as a companion to the popular Buzzer newsletter, a print publication that has been part of Vancouver public transit since 1916, the blog has taken on a life of its own. Jhenifer Pabilano, a car-free writer and designer, is the main blogger for The Buzzer Blog and she updates daily with transit news, links, history, service alerts, surveys and more. Posts are peppered with great photographs and smartly designed charts and graphics which make the blog a pleasure to look at. What’s more, The Buzzer Blog lets readers comment on every post and Jhenifer is always quick to respond. All of this makes for a very informative agency blog that actively engages readers.
- Next Stop STL (Metro St. Louis) – http://www.nextstopstl.org
Metro St. Louis runs a great agency blog that has been around since June of 2009. The blog is run by a team of employees from different departments in the agency, each offering their unique perspectives on transit issues. Postings fall under seven categories: Alternative Transporation, Funding Transit, Inside Metro, Metro Riders, Moving Transit Forward, Transit Benefits, and Transit Lifestyle. Multiple posts every week keep the content fresh. Public comments are welcome but are moderated under guidelines set out in a comments policy.
- Capital MetroBlog (Austin Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority) – http://capmetroblog.com/
Austin’s Capital MetroBlog is frequently updated, sometimes multiple times a day, with fresh news on what’s happening with the agency along with lifestyle stories about riders and events. Austin has just opened its first light rail line and the coverage has been heavily focused on that – and understandably so. The blog also features a vibrant commenting community.
Five more agencies that blog, including two in Southern California, after the jump. Continue reading
Google Maps now offers directions for bicyclists.
Google announced today that it’s offering yet another transportation mode to its robust Google Maps tool set. Now bicyclists will be able to get turn-by-turn directions in the familiar Google style that drivers, pedestrians and transit users have grown accustomed to. In addition, a new graphical layer has been added that overlays bike trails, lanes and recommended roads onto the map.
A quick glance at the new bicycling overlay really drives home L.A.’s lack of bicycle infrastructure, especially in central L.A. There’s no legend on the map, but Google’s blog informs us that dark green lines indicate a dedicated bike trail (like the Venice Bike Path), light green lines indicate dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines indicate streets that are preferred for biking but lack dedicated lanes. Sad but true: L.A.’s got a whole lot of roads without any sort of green line.
The algorithm Google uses to figure out bicycling directions takes into account these different preferred bike paths and goes out if its way to make sure bicyclists avoid busy roads and intersections as well as steep uphill and downhill slopes. Nifty.
Of course, Google is clear to point out that bike directions are still in beta, so don’t expect the perfect route every time. It should serve as a good guide, especially when combined with the overlay layer. Things I’d love to see Google implement in the future? Bike parking locations and directions that combine bicycling and public transit.
The Westside Subway Extension launched a new Facebook page last week — a good way for Facebookers to easily get information about the project mixed in with status updates from friends and others.
Think of it this way: At the same time it’s possible to learn your best buddy just took out the garbage, it’s also possible to get short, digestible funding and planning updates from the subway project.
The subway project has been a pioneer when it comes to social networking — its Facebook group has more than 2,300 members and was one of the first transit projects to use Facebook to get the word out. Many others have since followed, finding its easier to reach people through Facebook rather than expect people to frequently visit a static website that may be hard to locate.
So why the new page? A couple of reasons. Facebook pages are better developed than they were a couple of years ago and the new page should also allow those interested in the subway to better interact. The Facebook group is still being maintained but subway officials would like fans to transition to the new page. More than 750 people have already done so.
Several other Metro projects have Facebook projects. These include the Crenshaw Line, the Eastside Extension of the Gold Line phase 2, the 405 Sepulveda Pass widening project, the Downtown Regional Connector and the South Bay Green Line Extension. There is also a general Metro page.
The URL for the new Westside Subway Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/WestsideSubwayExtension
Just to follow-up Monday’s post: I’m not the only one using a Mac computer who has problems opening links that appear on Metro Board of Director agendas.
In fact, half the people who emailed me had problems opening the links — which connect to Metro staff reports — either some of the time or all of the time. In addition, two of my Metro colleagues reported similar issues.
The staff reports contain valuable public information that Board members use before they vote on policies that impact Metro customers and other taxpayers. In my view, these reports should be accessible via the internet to the vast majority of computer users with decent equipment. No one should have to fiddle with their settings or become a tech expert to access something that belongs to them in the first place.
My understanding is that this is a problem that crosses a couple of different departments and also involves some old software. An ideal solution would involve posting the agendas in easy-to-load HTMLwith links to pdf board reports.
I haven’t been able to open links from Metro agendas using my Mac computer. I know of others who have the same problem with Macs. But we don’t know if this is a problem limited to a few of us with Macs or it’s a more widespread issue.
So I need help from Mac users. First, follow this link to open a PDF file of last week’s Metro Board agenda. Then try opening some of the links provided on the agenda.
If it works, great. If not, not-so-great — because this is a very useful feature that allows the public to access reports from Metro staff. Either way, please let me know how it goes by emailing me at email@example.com. Thanks!
Culver City recently released an iPhone application that lets residents report city issues – potholes, graffiti, noise – directly to City officials. Users can simply snap a photo of the issue, choose which category it fits in, GPS location data is automatically included and with the click of a button the report is off to City Hall. Of course, this could be the equivalent of flushing your complaint down the toilet if there wasn’t a way to track the issue, but thankfully the app has that feature. This allows residents to see a problem through to completion – without the hassle of multiple phone calls or trips to City Hall.
The GORequest application is the product of a collaboration with a 3rd party called Government Outreach that provides technology products to government agencies with the goal of improving customer service and increasing efficiency. In addition to Culver City, Government Outreach currently works with sixteen California cities including Santa Monica and Santa Clarita.
Government Outreach has no transit agencies on its client list — it’s all city governments for now. But the possibilities are certainly intriguing: imagine a Metro iPhone application that allowed riders to report problems on the fly and track the progress as Metro staff works to solve them. Also, in these times of dwindling budgets, software like this could increase efficiency and service while reducing personnel costs to the agency.
Metro staff tells me that as a public agency, and in the name of fairness, Metro can only work with companies like Government Outreach if they register as vendors and bid for projects such as the GORequest iPhone app.