Riding the bus is no bed of roses. And Twitter users across the nation have made it be known that their hometown buses and light-rail systems suck.
A team led by Lisa Schweitzer, associate professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy, analyzed 64,000 tweets to come up with a look at how well public transportation ranks with the social media generation. The results were published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
The bad news: The Washington, D.C. Metro, Boston (MBTA), Philadelphia (SEPTA) and Chicago (CTA) public transit systems got dismal tweets. A few of these systems ranked lower on Twitter than the IRS, according to USC's analysis.
"Negative and racist comments about transit patrons are a larger part of the negative comments about transit, much more so than parks, airlines or other services," Schweitzer said. "Otherwise, commenters appear on balance to say equally happy and unhappy things about public transit and airline service."
Researchers looked for key words and phrases associated with tweets about bus and train systems. Examples: "brokedown, wtf, late, wait, waiting, delay, delayed, offl ine, scam, closed, epicfail, weirdo, pervy, crowd, crowded, jammed, skeevy, breakdown, ghetto, transitfail, and unsuck."
This example of a negative Los Angeles Metro tweet was cited in the paper: "Two people stabbed on Red Line this morning. This is the third stabbing on #metrolosangeles rail in recent months."
The good news is the L.A. Metro was one of the least hated among the hated public transportation operators.
The systems of L.A., New York and San Francisco received "slightly less negative commentary on Twitter ... and [ranked] just ahead of the Internal Revenue Service ... ," the school says in a statement.
Public transportation in Vancouver, Portland and Toronto was rated the best, respectively, according to the study.
Researchers used Twitter remarks about celebrities, villains, police departments and parks for comparison. Interestingly, the Los Angeles Police Department is the sixth most-maligned target of Twitter users among the "control" groups studied. Osama Bin Laden was the number one benchmark for hatred.
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Schweitzer says that transportation systems that engage with customers on social media will ultimately inspire more positive comments online:
The analysis suggests that transit agencies can influence the tone of the discussion by interacting with patrons online. It gives people something to respond to, and it reminds people that somebody is listening.