Why the poll?
As government enters — at times slowly — the 21st Century and its rich mix of social media, government is also learning new ways to talk to the taxpaying public. It’s no longer a one-way conversation, people.
Many of our riders already know that our service alerts tend to focus on service impacts rather than the cause of the impacts. To some degree, that’s going to change. We’re presently trying to develop some basic descriptions to better explain what’s happening on our system and the accompanying impacts to riders.
As we do this, we want to know what’s important for riders. Thus, the above poll. We want to know what you think before we make any changes.
Admittedly, speaking in plain English has been a struggle at times. Here are a couple of recent examples from Metro’s primary Twitter feed:
What these tweets don’t say is that a blind man had fallen on the tracks. He was lucky not to be hit by the train and was being extricated by emergency personnel, thus the understandable delays to subway service. He was called a trespasser because that’s Metro’s existing protocol: anyone on the tracks who shouldn’t be there is considered by the agency to be trespassing.
I am well aware that riders have chafed at times at Metro’s service alerts and the information included and, equally important, not included. Especially now that other government agencies — i.e. the LAFD, LASD and LAPD — and media and riders are often posting info on social media in real time about incidents involving Metro.
Why do agencies withhold some information and have trouble, at times, speaking in plain English? It’s a good question.
I don’t think there is a precise answer, nor do I think Metro is the only agency to struggle with what to say — and what not to say. Rather, I think there has been a mix of issues that boils down to two things: a reluctance to broadcast information that is incomplete, can’t be 100 percent verified, unfairly places blame for an incident or is insensitive to serious, perhaps deadly incidents. And, to be honest, I think there is a natural reluctance at many agencies, including this one, to say anything that might make an agency look bad.
Sometimes, too, there are other more complicated reasons. An agency may not want to give a troubled soul a bad idea — thus the reason we are extremely reluctant to discuss suicide-by-train on Metro’s blog or social media even when media is reporting it. The same goes with security issues: when it comes to rider safety, policing and system security, we often follow the ‘do no harm’ rule and say only what is absolutely necessary.
Thank you for taking the poll and for providing any feedback via comments or social media. I think you’ll be seeing some changes soon that will hopefully be for the better.