STO turns to social media to help commuters

The public transit service in the Outaouais region has turned to social media to give commuters an easier way to find out about delays and changes to their bus schedules.

Last fall, the Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) hired two travel and social media information officers. One of the key parts of their job is to manage the STO's Twitter account to update riders on changes to their commute. 

"We work with the regulators, who are in contact with the drivers and inspectors in the field," said André-Philippe Sauriol, one of the two information officers, in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

"When there are cancellations, mechanical breakdowns, they transmit information to us and we can transmit it to customers." 

Radio-Canada

The system is similar to one used by OC Transpo in Ottawa, which has had a notification system in place since 2011. 

During both the weekday morning and afternoon rush hours, Sauriol and his colleague, Joël Fitzgerald, work in the STO control centre. They're among the first to hear about bus delays, and then pass those details on to commuters as quickly as possible.

"As soon as we have the information...we distribute it,"said Sauriol.

In addition to checking Twitter, commuters can also sign up for transit notifications for their specific bus routes.

"If you are a regular on the 200 bus line and there's a problem, you will receive a notification," said Fitzgerald. 

The notifications are also available on the STO website and Twitter page. 

Radio-Canada

The pair's job can be especially hectic during bad weather. 

"There is always something going on," said Fitzgerald. 

"Not too long ago, we had a detour to Ottawa on Waller Street and we had a temporary stop. We learned at 3:30 p.m. that the temporary stop was removed and that we were returning to the normal route," he said. 

"Several people use this stop. We had the information first, we pushed the information." 

Radio-Canada

They also hear from commuters when there are problems. 

"People want to have information," Fitzgerald said.

"If the transit app doesn't seem to be working well, they tell us about it. The public helps us at the same time in our work. It's a collaboration."