This is an actual email/comment I just sent to SEPTA, the transportation “authority” in Philadelphia. I know that all public transportation systems in every city have their flaws, but this is what’s personal to me, and what I know.
I just can’t take it anymore. This morning, September 12, the Norristown line (among many others) was experiencing serious delays, and you failed to take any action whatsoever to communicate with your passengers regarding the situation.
I arrived at the Wissahickon station at 8:25 to catch the 8:32 inbound to Center City, train #6221. The train finally arrived at 9:05, with no intercom announcement made during that time informing anyone of what was going on. When I entered the train, it was already full, and passengers were forced to stand uncomfortably in a tightly packed area – and we still had one more VERY FULL station to get to. You should also know that there weren’t any conductors out – in the 25 minutes I was on the train, not one conductor came through the car, probably because they were hiding from customers and couldn’t give an explanation as to why we were late.
During this time, I sent multiple tweets to the @SEPTA account inquiring of the whereabouts of the train. Isn’t this what you use the account for? There were no updates at all regarding the Norristown line, although there was CLEARLY something going on. An acquaintance traveling outbound on the same line told me that her train had been canceled earlier, and the next train she could catch was delayed almost 30 minutes, and yet there was nothing said to passengers. Shouldn’t you at least update your Twitter feed or post an alert on your website informing people about this? We know by now that when one train is late or canceled, it creates a domino effect that lasts for hours on the schedule. If people had at least known about this, we could have made alternate plans for getting into work. Additionally, the useless TrainView page was not up to date, so we were left in the dark about when the train would actually arrive.
This is not the first time this has happened. I have been on trains where people are standing on the platforms in between the train cars in the dead of winter with the doors wide open. I’ve also been on a train that flew by 3 stations with no warning because it was too full to pick up anyone else. These were not special situations of weather or parades as you have listed – just normal weekdays when the system royally screwed up, and screwed customers over in the process, with no warning or effort of apology.
I understand that you are dealing with thousands of passengers daily, but is it really too much to ask for a little communication? Did you know that Southwest Airlines has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, and they have a full time person dedicated to customer service through that page, answering questions and directing customers to places for more information. They actually use their page for good, and they are one of the best examples of customer service in the travel industry.
Your Twitter page is almost stagnant, with only the occasional update of bad news, and never any interaction with customers. Do you even read your replies? Have you ever done a search on Twitter for SEPTA and seen the frustration from so many of your customers? Maybe if you could get someone on your Twitter account for even a few hours every day, it would help with customer relations. I honestly wouldn’t be as angry if there had just been some semblance of EFFORT made on your part to keep us in the loop. Do you need someone to take over your social media strategies? Because I know plenty of people who would be interested. As such a massive public serving industry, you really can’t commit to something like social media and then pick and choose how you want to use it, and ignore your customers.
While I have your attention, let’s also address some other recent happenings on my line. Last week we had the Silverliner – the “crown jewel” of the SEPTA system. Guess what? If you’re going to tout how awesome this train is, maybe you should make it be on time! On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Thursday the line was suspended), the train was at the very least 10 minutes late. No explanation was given. Every other time I’ve had the Silverliner, it has been late. Why? On Thursday the 8th, I was on the 62 bus for almost 3 hours. I understand that the traffic was not in your control, but when the bus approached the flooded Wissahickon creek near the transfer center, the bus sat there for another HOUR AND A HALF with no direction of what to do. You had at least 5 buses awaiting instruction, and yet there was nothing done. I ended up getting off and walking home and never made it into work that day, so thanks for that.
I have been on many other public transportation systems in large cities throughout the United States (and Canada) and can assure you that SEPTA is the worst by far (and one of the most expensive). I am actually embarrassed for you sometimes. You can be SURE I will be taking your survey about new fare systems and the transportation centers.