On election day November 2, 2009, many Philadelphians found themselves in a pickle. SEPTA workers, Transport Workers Union Local 243, had gone on strike. This action created a challenge for nearly half a million public transit riders of buses, subway, and trolley service in the Philadelphia - as well as the Frontier Division buses in Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counties.
As during previous challenges in America, however, the citizens used technology to aid and inform those in need. Twitter posts were ablaze with the "SEPTA" trending topic. Soon twitter users realized that this time the effects the strike would be different. They now had an open and free medium for communicating transportation needs with one another. Riders did not need to feel abandoned.
Drivers who had an available seat in their vehicle would post on Twitter which area of the city they were coming from, which area they were going to and the time they were traveling to let riders in need gain an opportunity for a ride. If the driver was leaving 52nd & Market Streets at 9:00 a.m. going to Germantown they would simply post "@9:00 a.m., D: 52nd & Market Streets A: Germantown, Seats Available: 2 #havearide". "D" indicating departure and "A" indicating arrival.
Conversely, if a riders needed transportation from Chestnut Hill to Broad and Olney at 10:30 a.m., the rider would post: "@10:30 a.m., D: Broad & Olney A: Chestnut Hill, Seats needed: 1 #needaride"
By connecting those in need of a ride with those who had available seats, Twitter users made the SEPTA workers strike less of a hardship for innocent riders who were left stranded.
Once again, social media brings social solutions.
Contact staff writer JC Lamkin at @JCLamkin