We’ll give a funny, entertaining and instructive summary of how BART is using the web to drive efficiency, transparency, accountability, participation, collaboration and new models of partnerships between the tech community and government. BART shows how a government agency can use technology to be a provider not only of services—but also of information, data and spaces for building community.
Efficiency: We use the web to provide information more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently than ever before. By building trust and authenticity, we share user-generated content that saves time and money and results in a better product: Why use a costly stock photo on your website when you can use a real photo with a story behind it?
Transparency: Opening up our schedule data to developers made BART a leader in transparency _ as cited in the Atlantic , January/February edition; How geeks are opening up government on the web We have been a leader in making open-format data available and in outreach to the developer community.
Accountability: We’re more accountable because our social web efforts (Twitter , Facebook , blog ) give us real-time connections with riders and a way to interact on a personal level. It’s really going out on a limb for a government agency because if you put yourself out there as willing to communicate and interact with people – guess what – they’ll do it! Example: A customer sent us this Twitter messaget on 04/21/09, when the Bay Area was in an uncharacteristic 90-degree heat wave:
“This BART car is hot as balls. WTF?”
BART replied with a blog post to customers explaining how the climate control system works and giving tips for dealing with the heat on transit.
Participation: Our riders are active participants in creating the conversation about news, issues and everyday anecdotes of experiences on BART. They share their photos on Flickr for reposting on our blog and website (Playa on the platform , taken with a Google Android phone, was a popular one with more than 2,000 views.) They also vie to make the “Seen & Heard on BART” roundup every week of the good, bad, weird and ugly from that week’s commutes. Our outreach takes some riders aback – as when the actress Felicia Day, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dr. Horrible” fame, was surprised to get a message welcoming her to BART after she tweeted about taking transit from the airport. She said it was her most memorable Twitter moment of 2008
Collaboration: We collaborate on the web not only with our riders, but with grassroots organizations and transit advocates to promote activities that benefit the community and the planet. Example: We partnered with the Bay Area Bike Coalition to promote Bike to Work Day with interactive, engaging activities like the BART Team Challenge.
New models of partnership between the tech community and government: We have a great partnership with our tech community, from our data-sharing with GoogleTransit to our Developer Resources outreach and app center for highlighting new applications written using BART data. It takes trust, relationship-building and a commitment to openness – which haven’t always been the hallmarks of government agencies. But at BART we’re making that happen.
Melissa Jordan has worked at BART as senior marketing representative since June 2008. Her areas of responsibility include content management for the www.bart.gov website and development of BART’s social web strategy. She produces BART’s Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/sfbart and blogs at sfbart.posterous.com. Before joining BART, she spent two decades as a reporter and editor for news organizations including The Associated Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Georgia.
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