Take our poll: What do you want/need from Metro's service alerts?

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.

8 replies

    You are mixing up terminology with purposely stating something that is false. Anytime a person is found to be at a unauthorized location it’s considered a trespass as a means to classify it. There are terms that those in non operation departments misinterpret. As a example” two buses running upside down.” It only means the two buses on a line running on each others schedules. Swamp seats does not mean physically moving the drivers seat from one bus to another. It means the two buses meet going opposite directions and the drivers take over the other bus. Both of these examples are used to put assignment back on time. Does it really matter how the blind man ended on the tracks. The big issue is he was not severely injured. And what difference does it make if you don’t understand MTA lingo.

  2. I want to be able to customize my notifications. I don’t care about what happens on the Blue Line. All I want to know in real-time is: are the elevators in the stations I care about working, is there a system-wide delay on the Red Line due to (some incident).

  3. Make Torrance Transit Buses and Long Beach Transit Buses accept TAP Cards as fare also. That would be more convenient for passengers and LACMTA the greatest. Thank you!

  4. If a person is involved in a incident on the bus or rail initial observations may be incorrect such as the type of injury or it’s extent.

  5. , I think this is an interesting topic. I’d love to find out after the fact if possible, but jeopardizing ones safety or investigation is the key. I think the alerts as is is cool, but maybe a followup somehow either on the blog, through twitter/facebook, would be cool. You don’t want to say too much until it is over. I’m sure some of the tresspass notices were truly someone running in the tunnels, but we truly don’t want to have something happen where an investigation may be in trouble. While a service like incidentpage.net is helpful at times, we don’t know for sure what really is happening, they have reported some accidents with blue line, one guy hit on the red line, shots fired at the Hollywood station where that caused a delay, but they don’t cover everything, and Metro should try to balance what is fair. Seems as though there have more disabled trains, although i was never on one. It was stopped for a few minutes, but it was never truly disabled for more than a few minutes. Hi folks

  6. I’m sorry, but there’s more to this.

    Times are changing. We’re moving away from the “limited, restricted, and biased flow of information” of traditional news media to unrestricted social media.

    Our law enforcement agencies’ public opinion is at an all time low these days ever since the trigger happy officers riddled the wrong truck with hundreds of bullets during the Dorner manhunt. The verdicts of the Kelley Thomas case didn’t do much good for public opinion of cops either. And all the Youtube videos popping up these days where cops all over the nation are violating civil rights of Americans left and right aren’t doing much help as well.

    Public mistrust in government and law enforcement is growing in America these days. Unless they all start to change their attitude to understand and realize what it means to be a “public servant” instead of being authoritative and cocky government bureaucrats, public mistrust is only going to get worse.

    To put it into perspective – you, Metro, can say that a trespasser was on the tracks. Another person who was there at the time who witnessed what really happened, can also instantaneously tweet with a Metro hashtag that a blind person fell off the tracks. See the problem?

    So, in the end, when the truth is discovered, how will the public view this? Metro, a government agency, is going to be viewed as the suppressor of information, yet another lying government agency trying to saving their own rear-end, versus the common individual exercising his/her freedom of speech and freedom of press rights from a instantaneous tweet on his/her own smartphone.

    Public discontent and mistrust is only going to get worse if things are kept the way they are. The truth is going to get known sooner or later. And Metro isn’t the only one capable of tweeting information – anyone could from their smartphones.

    So, just cut the crap and be truthful about it from the start.

  7. If you don’t want to share details that is fine but you should LINK to credible media or official sources of information, as often LAPD, LASD, the Times or the TV stations will post information. Police will readily tell the media the cause of the issue in most instances, i.e. bomb scare, suspicious package, person on tracks, etc. so if they do, then there is no reason not to report it or link to this information if it is not appropriate to share it within 140 characters.

    Metrolink of course takes this to an absurd extent with “verifying an operational procedure” which is meaningless. Often this means that a signal wasn’t called out by the conductor, or the train display monitors are on the fritz so the train has to slow down, but “verifying an operational procedure” means less than zero.

  8. I think we need some clarity on what the delay times mean. If I’m waiting for a Red Line train that’s supposed to come every 10 minutes and there is a stated “20 minute delay,” does that just mean my train will probably come at the same time but it will be the physical train that was supposed to be here earlier?

    Or does that mean that all service is stopped for 20 minutes and then resuming?

    Or does that mean that I should expect my trip to take 20 minutes longer than usual?

    I think there’s a lack of clarity in what the delay actually means to riders. What if the Expo Line has 15 minute delays? It’s scheduled on 12 minute frequencies, so how does a 15 minute delay actually affect riders?