Complaining about public transportation is almost a national pastime. While not quite cocktail party chatter, transit often comes up in conversations “around the water cooler” and invariably the discussion descends into who has had the worst experience. And also invariably the conversations end with at least one “why don’t they just…” Unfortunately, water cooler conversations rarely move beyond just that. But what if they could?
My audacious idea is that we provide the conduit for collecting those ideas and immediately directing them to the entities that have the responsibility, authority, and wherewithal to convert those ideas into solutions. If we can focus and direct people’s feedback we can create a powerful force: a public with high expectations for public transportation service.
In market research, people in the Central Maryland region have indicated broad support for the statement that an excellent public transportation system is critical to a thriving region. But people doubt that investing in our public transportation services will get us there. That low expectation must be addressed if we as a region are going to compete in terms of quality of life, a healthy environment and economic opportunities.
At the Transportation Alliance we have converted that water cooler into a cell phone. We have created the Rate Your Ride campaign to engage people who ride public transportation to help improve it. By texting the word “ride” to 30802 any rider with a cell phone triggers a brief survey about their ride experience. The Transportation Alliance, an independent advocacy organization, will compile the responses and push for service improvements. The Maryland Transit Administration and City Schools are partners in the campaign.
We are particularly encouraging public schools students to participate in Rate Your Ride. To the extent we can ensure that transit gets them to school consistently and on time, we improve their chances of performing well in school. Rate Your Ride puts a tool in their hands and enlists them in a campaign to make sure that happens.
If riders complain, that’s a good thing. Let their complaints be heard! We want an excellent transportation system and that requires sound investments, accountability, and excellent customer service—things we will not get unless the public demands them.