The Power of Blogs and Social Media in Transportation Policy

Bike bloggers got a nice win when GM pulled an ad mocking cyclists a few weeks ago.

All you need to be a transit advocate these days is a Twitter account. Photo: ##http://hothardware.com/News/Does-Texting-Ruin-Your-Ability-To-Communicate-WHU-KNWZ-LOL/##Hot Hardware##

Bike Portland was the first to call out GM. The League of American Bicyclists followed suit. Tweets started pouring in from all over the country. The next day — boom — GM promised to pull the ad and issued an apology.

In the scheme of things, it was a small victory. But hardly the only one.

Speaking to Streetsblog in July, attorney David Savoy gave bloggers credit for the granting of a retrial to his client, Raquel Nelson, who was charged with vehicular homicide after her four-year-old son was hit by a car as they attempted to cross a dangerous arterial road on foot. “I’ve never understood the power of the blogosphere,” Savoy said, “and now I’m humbled.”

Bloggers Curt Ailes of Urban Indy and David Alpert and Matt Johnson of Greater Greater Washington had a chance to discuss this phenomenon at the recent Rail~Volution conference.

From Johnson’s recap of the discussion:

As Curt explained, the urban conversation in Indianapolis hasn’t come as far as it has here [in Washington]. As a result, Urban Indy plays a large role in introducing Indianans to planning concepts. Curt recounted an instance where the print media came to him about a bike path. He was able to help the reporter (and the readers) to get the terminology right and understand what was at stake.

And that’s really how I see the role of Greater Greater Washington. Not as a way of bringing people over to our opinion, but as a way to give people the tools they need to be a productive participant in the conversation.

Now transit agencies themselves are harnessing these tools, Johnson reports.

[The Utah Transit Agency]’s representative, Tauni Everett, also talked about using Twitter to engage the public. A recent spate of hearings about a fare hike drew less than 20 attendees to the 7 meetings held in the six-county UTA service area. But an online public hearing using Twitter generated hundreds of comments, all of which were counted in the public record.

How far can social media and blogs take transportation reform? It’s hard to say, but clearly, they’re already linking decision makers more closely to constituents who care about sustainable transportation and livable streets.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland looks at how rising transit fares and service cuts might affect bike ridership. Transit Miami upbraids city planners for investing millions in a new ballpark but making no effort to make it transit accessible. And Say Yes to the Honolulu Rail System shares the story of Norfolk, Virginia’s new Tide rail system, which is outpacing ridership projections by 74 percent in the first weeks following its opening.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Nice Try, GM

|
GM pulled its offensive ad that tried to depict biking as uncool in response to complaints from bicycling advocates, but they’re still running this ad, showing what a drag it can be as a pedestrian because cars will ruin your day. (Best just to get your own car and ruin someone else’s day.) A GM […]

Raquel Nelson Likely to Opt For a New Trial, Her Lawyer Says

|
UPDATE 7/27: Raquel Nelson has, in fact, chosen the option of a new trial. The last thing the jury heard from Raquel Nelson’s defense lawyer, before they convicted her, was the tape of her frantic 911 call after her son, A.J., was hit by a car. “1-2-3-4-5-6, doing chest compressions on her son, screaming,” recalls […]

GM Claims a 230 MPG Volt — Is it For Real?

|
General Motors made a media splash this morning by announcing that its Chevy Volt would get 230 miles per gallon in city driving, but the claim quickly began proving little more than a broad estimate. The stage for GM’s announcement today. (Photo: CNN) GM based its Volt claim on draft rules from the Environmental Protection […]

Today’s Headlines

|
LaHood Hasn’t Yet Told Obama of Plans to Leave After First Term (WSJ, WaPo) Dems Say Record Ridership Shows Folly of Amtrak Privatization Plan (The Hill) Senate Republicans Offer Jobs Plan: Lower Taxes, Less Regulation, Deficit Neutral (WaPo, WaPo) LaHood Expects Congressional Action on Infrastructure Spending By Year End (JOC, The Hill) Ohio Republicans Slam USDOT For Withdrawing Funds […]

Hey, Wanna Buy a Minicar?

|
General Motors would like you to like them. No, really. That’s why, at the New York International Auto Show yesterday, they revealed three new concept minicars aimed at the urban market. Called the Groove, the Beat and the Trax, they’re new skins for the same basic guts found in a Chevy Spark or Daewoo Matiz […]