Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

DDOT: Running a solid Facebook page, and getting punished for it

August 20, 2010 - 11:55 AM
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(D.C. Department of Transportation)

By the standard set by most local government agencies, the D.C. Department of Transportation runs an excellent Facebook page. It's updated pretty much daily. It shows off some fascinating photos from D.C. past. It shares little bits of city news important to transit-minded residents. And it even posts interesting transportation news from other cities in the U.S. and around the world. We here at On Foot are avid followers. The page is just one of several reasons why the department is considered forward-thinking alongside its peers in other jurisdictions around here.

But some of the agency's more than 900 followers come off as less than grateful. For a select few, the page is merely a place to lodge complaints or have trivial questions answered. Imagine, reader, if many of your own “friends” only stopped by your Facebook page when they thought you could help them out, or, worse yet, when they had a bone to pick with you.

Consider Martin, who, a couple of weeks ago, jumped in beneath a DDOT post about China's 3D Express Coach, a futuristic-looking bus that will be able to drive over cars:

Inappropriate, Martin. Your complaint about bus climate control is a valid one. But it's not your place to hijack a thread about super-cool buses being developed in Asia. You can call DDOT directly with your concerns or email them to ddot@dc.gov. And what exactly does "sharpie the donut" mean?

Then there's Matt. The other day Matt discovered that the traffic-light pattern on Florida Avenue NW north of Dupont Circle had apparently changed. Naturally, he headed over to Facebook:

We didn't expand the full quote, but you get the drift: Matt liked the old pattern a lot better. (“Please change it back!”) Again, as with Martin, this is a reasonable issue to raise with DDOT. We just wonder if this is the appropriate forum. Are you trying to publicly shame DDOT into reverting back to the old pattern, Matt? Are you hoping other “fans” will jump into the fray and get your back? And ask yourself: Would you write on a friend's Facebook page in such a tone?

Here's Bob. Bob has a question about metered parking at the Georgetown waterfront:

After some internal debate, we've decided Bob is being reasonable here. We hate to think of a public-information officer at DDOT having to run down this trivial query, but as far as we can tell there's no map of metered spaces on the DDOT website. We called DDOT to see how easily such information could be obtained over the phone, and after two transfers we wound up at an answering machine. So Bob is on solid ground.

But get a load of John. DDOT duly posts their findings on Water Street meter spaces for Bob the very next day, and John, amazingly, takes it as an opportunity to gripe about the Circulator running late:

Look, John. DDOT is clearly at a loss, so let us explain. It's a Circulator. It circulates. If you think you missed it by a few minutes, just sit tight. Another one should be coming along any minute now...

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