muni_driver.jpgMuni has launched a pilot experiment with a new technology known as “Twitter” that may, for the first time, allow the organization to communicate with its customers.

Visit http://twitter.com/sfmta_muni to read official communiques from the agency. Currently, they’re offering a free fast pass to anyone who can guess how much money the agency has lost in the last 3 years.

There have been plenty of almost-Munis on Twitter: @munialerts scrapes data from 511’s transit feed; @munifail is a companion account to the website of the same name; and @central_subway is run by Muni’s parent agency but exists in a separate bubble.

Muni’s brand new official feed confesses, “Not quite there on tweeting Muni service alerts.” That’s a shame! But like many problems at Muni, it’s down to budgetary constraints imposed by politicians like Gavin and Schwarzenegger. We’ve been told that Muni is so cash-strapped, employees lack reliable access to computer terminals and the Internet; so prompt Tweets simply aren’t an option.

Contests for passes are fun, but I think we all know what would be useful, and that’s an authoritative feed on how fucked up your ride will be todayIt was MTA spokesperson Judson True who drew our attention to the new account, even as he gracefully deflected our questions on if Muni drivers can be suspended for taking mid route breaks, as this guy was. Judson! WE WILL NOT BE DISTRACTED BY YOUR TWEETING! But, still, welcome to 2006!

We asked True where the MTA found the resources to tweet — the last time this issue came up, after all, we were told that the MTA was too shortstaffed to manage an account — and who in the organization would be responsible for the account. Whoever you are: get ready for a lot of @ing. Do you know what you’re in for? Your @s are going to make @Comcastcares look like look like, um, what’s a company that everyone loves? You know what we mean.

True says that “Communications is responsible for managing the profile. Initially that will be me and Kristen (Holland), though we hope to broaden the participation to others in the Agency.” Good luck, y’all! You’re gonna need it!

Another thing we asked Judson is if this feed is truly going to be for Muni, as one might assume by how “muni” is in the name of the account, or for the entire MTA, as is indicated by the account description: “the official SFMTA Twitter feed: managing Muni, bicycles, pedestrian travel, parking, traffic and taxis for a sustainable city.” If this is a feed covering ALL of those issues, it seems like its usefulness will be sort of limited — it’s fun to know about all that stuff, sure, but from a utility perspective, wouldn’t separate feeds managing different aspects of our sustainable city be preferable?

However, True responds “All SFMTA, including Muni. Not everyone knows what the SFMTA is, so Muni is in the name too. Everyone knows Muni.”

Related to that, we also asked when service alerts would “be there” in terms of tweeting service alerts — contests for passes are fun, but I think we all know what would be useful, and that’s an authoritative feed on how fucked up your ride will be today.

True responds “I don’t have a date for service alerts. We need to continue some internal discussions about how to manage those.”

We asked Mike Monteiro, collaborator in Muni Fail (@munifail, the folks who brought you a fun, fast and easy way to let the Mayor know your frustration with Muni if the MTA’s embrace of tech would change the way the let folks broadcast their Muni frustration. “It’s great that I can talk to them on twitter” Mike said. “I tried taking the bus to their office and it never showed up.”

“For now, Muni Fail will continue to address our messages to the mayor” he continued “since we feel it’s his lack of leadership that’s led us to the precipice of failure. Talking directly to MUNI at this point would be like saying goodbye to someone at their wake.”

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  • Jackson West

    “[E]mployees lack reliable access to computer terminals and the Internet.” I hear Twitter even lets you update the service from your phone! With location data if it has GPS enabled! Also, I love how Nat Ford can’t just buy a $200 netbook and an EVDO subscription for Judson True. We get updates, and True get the latest and greatest in mobile porn surfing media communications technology with which to keep in touch. It’s not like Ford isn’t the highest-paid city employee or anything, not that he suggested cutting his own salary as even a token effort when presenting the new SFMTA budget.

    Who would pitch in a couple of bucks for a refurbished netbook for Muni? Maybe do a Kickstarter project? I’d happily install a free, open source operating system on it so Gavin Newsom could take credit for the idea at a press conference, and everybody wins!

  • Jackson West

    “[E]mployees lack reliable access to computer terminals and the Internet.” I hear Twitter even lets you update the service from your phone! With location data if it has GPS enabled! Also, I love how Nat Ford can’t just buy a $200 netbook and an EVDO subscription for Judson True. We get updates, and True get the latest and greatest in mobile porn surfing media communications technology with which to keep in touch. It’s not like Ford isn’t the highest-paid city employee or anything, not that he suggested cutting his own salary as even a token effort when presenting the new SFMTA budget.

    Who would pitch in a couple of bucks for a refurbished netbook for Muni? Maybe do a Kickstarter project? I’d happily install a free, open source operating system on it so Gavin Newsom could take credit for the idea at a press conference, and everybody wins!