Study gives A+ grade to TransLink's Twitter operators

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      A respected trade publication has issued new findings that might surprise a few bus and SkyTrain riders in Vancouver.

      According to a study published by the Journal of the American Planning Association, the Lower Mainland is served by the best public transit system in North America, at least as far as Twitter users are concerned.

      The article in the magazine’s latest edition presents the findings of Lisa Schweizter, an associate professor at University of South California’s school of public policy. She analyzed more than 60,000 messages posted on Twitter from 2010 to 2014.

      Schweizter then developed a “D-score”, which she defines as “the ratio of conversation moments to the agency’s total content broadcast via Twitter to everyone”. Among the 10 agencies included in her analysis, the one that scored the highest is TransLink.

      Twitter users employed by Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority earned a D-score of 0.86. For comparison’s sake, the Toronto Transit Commission ranked second with a 0.77, and Portland’s TriMet operator came in third with 0.40.

      The study notes a D-score places a heavy emphasis on social media interactions over the simple broadcasting of information. This largely explains Vancouver’s high score.

      “Translink is by far the most active Twitter user among the transit agencies that I studied,” Schweizter wrote. “They tweet often, on average about 90 times per day, while most other agencies tweet between 10 and 30 times a day. Translink interacts a great deal in conversation with other Twitter users, and they also follow others more than other transit agencies.” 

      The good news comes at a welcome time for TransLink.

      On February 11, the organization announced its CEO of five years, Ian Jarvis, has “stepped aside” in order to “restore public confidence”.

      Not going far in that regard, a modicum of good will that came in response to news of Jarvis’ resignation dissipated as quickly as it appeared. The news cycle once again shifted against TransLink when it was revealed the agency would go forward paying two CEOs’ wages instead of one. Jarvis will continue to collect his salary ($422,407 in 2013) while he remains with TransLink as an advisor, and Doug Allen, who TransLink appointed interim CEO, will now take home $35,000 a month for his work in that role.

      Jarvis steps down barely one month ahead of nonbinding plebiscite on TransLink’s 10-year transportation plan, which is scheduled to occur via mail-in ballot from March 16 to May 29. The region is voting on a proposed 0.5-percent sales-tax increase that would be used to fund regional infrastructure including a Broadway subway line, a new Pattullo Bridge, and other transportation projects.