– Can social media make cities better?

Bus lane blockers! - photo by @bustration

When government agencies first started to put up web sites in the 1990s, management tended to treat them as little more than electronic brochures. Typically, no one in authority bothered to respond to e-mails. I hope that agencies today aren’t making the same mistakes with social media.

Social media is a rich source of ‘intelligence’ for consumers, business and, not least, policy-makers and implementers. There’s an extraordinarily valuable and growing pile of information out there in the ether. Public agencies and private providers should be mining it like robber barons!

I follow the tweets of bus driver, @bustration, who records the tribulations – and the occasional delights – of life on the road. She drives in Melbourne, but what she sees is bound to be true of most places. Here are some of her tweets from the driver’s seat for three days this week (16th – 18th) on the topic of cars in priority lanes:

XPZ372 THP041 SGM740 WHV378 blocking bus lanes George St

YBL657 WGT124 blocking clearway Clow St Dandy

Tow away job http://twitpic.com/4ychje

2 more bus lane parkers Dandenong http://twitpic.com/4ychw4

Catch 22 tow truck blocks clearway Clow http://twitpic.com/4ycqr4

Blocking Clow st http://twitpic.com/4yr9ea

Blocking Walker st http://twitpic.com/4yr9y2

CUD954 OCS367 WHB316 XHY707 RLY829 first 5 Blockers of dozens

Dandy BL Blockers http://twitpic.com/4z5p3t

Tow em Danno! http://twitpic.com/4z5pis

Hmmm, is @bustration simply unlucky? Perhaps she’s just a glass half-full sort of a person? Or are her observations highly suggestive evidence that there’s a very serious problem with enforcing the rules on priority lanes? It’s odd how as a society we’ll spend billions in capital but then skint on making sure it can deliver to specification.

@bustration’s frustrations are an example of how smartphones and Twitter have lowered the costs of monitoring and information collection. Perhaps right now someone is building a ‘name and shame’ web site where disgruntled travellers can share pics of priority lane parkers. Or maybe somewhere in government there’re Twitter Analysts who’re already on to it!

Here is a selection of more @bustration’s tweets from earlier in May (I’ve selected from those that relate to public transport – there’re other tweets on less gloomy topics):

Rock throwers at south morang again.

901 bus smashd again at sth morang by rock throwers. Replacement on way. 2 in a row now

Might have to warn pax of possible missile attacks when they ride thru Sth Morang

New KFC Rowville removed their outside bins. Mega Shitstrewn bus stops from Maccas + Colonel!

Atlanta teen shot after throwing rocks at passing cars http://bit.ly/kBPHaC – Kids at South Morang Skate Park please read.

Well signed Dandenong peak hour bus lanes + clearways full of cars again.

Another peak hour, another day with buslanes + clearways full of parked cars.

Bus Drivers can easily see the PID at Oakleigh Some (like me) wait a few minutes if they see train is “NOW” or about to arrived.

URS-511 Small 4WD shining laser into bus driver’s eyes McDonalds Rd Sth Morang.

Chromers on bus making me sick

PT Problem of the Day: who makes sure it’s just buses in the bus lanes? No one. It is an ongoing problem.

sigh so jealous http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/usingroads/buses/buslane_cameras.html

bus driver assaulted this morning, sent home, Ops having trouble replacing him.

Changeover driver AWOL !

Man defecating at bus stop. Loaded pax + drove off before he got his strides up!

Doesn’t look like life out on the streets is always pleasant. Hopefully intelligence about rock throwers is instantly passed onto police and acted on urgently. The sort of information in these tweets has strategic value, ranging across public security, coordination of modes and the integrity of priority lanes. If the experiences of bus drivers – and possibly other select groups – could be collected routinely with some semblance of scientific rigour it could be very useful information for government agencies and private operators.

3 Comments on “– Can social media make cities better?”

  1. Oz says:

    Very creative! Maybe social media use can discourage the heavy truck curfew breakers in Footscray.

  2. wilful says:

    I hope she tweets safely, i.e. not while driving!

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