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March 2011

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Rail industry data and trends from Progressive Railroading March 2011


As we reported in our January cover story, transit agencies are stepping up their use of social media to communicate with riders and the public. Two more recent examples: Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), which used social media in February to seek public input on agency proposals. On Feb. 17, UTA used its @rideuta Twitter account to ask riders to tweet their opinions about UTA's proposed changes to its fare system in which some fares will increase and others will decrease in cost. UTA General Manager Michael Allegra led the team of tweeters responding to comments and questions during the hour-long chat, as 47 individuals offered a combined total of 224 tweets, all of which were recorded as official public record. The Twitter event was a first for UTA, Allegra said.

Meanwhile, in late February, LACMTA officials kicked off "SR-710 Conversations," a series of 18 community meetings that will run through spring to solicit the public's ideas for alleviating congestion along the SR-710 corridor. LACMTA officials offered the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets for people unable to attend a meeting in person.

Also in February, Amtrak launched its YouTube channel, which will feature videos on safety and security programs, Trails & Rails and Amtrak's vision for high-speed rail. Eventually, Amtrak plans to post travel tips and features. YouTube offers Amtrak yet another way to reach new audiences, said Darlene Abubakar, Amtrak's director of national advertising.

Streetcar Talk

Speaking of social media, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's official blog noted in two separate February postings the wave of streetcar projects under way across the United States, including the January opening of the TECO Streetcar line extension, a $5.3 million project built in downtown Tampa. TECO received U.S. Department of Transportaton grants, as have streetcar projects in Dallas, New Orleans and Salt Lake City. In early February, USDOT signed off on a $63 million TIGER grant agreement for Tucson, Ariz.'s proposed 3.9-mile streetcar project.


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