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June 23, 2009

WMATA breakdown?


WMATA's message breakdown on Twitter


The public affairs office at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration appears to have had a systemic breakdown in the wake of Monday's fatal crash.

At 9:30 a.m. WMATA general manager John Catoe told the Washington Post the death toll in the crash was up to nine. But as of 11:20 a.m., WMATA's web site was still at six and hadn't been updated in hours. Meanwhile, WMATA's use of Twitter has been staggeringly ineffective and not up with the news.

Meanwhile, its press releases are giving the media more spin than background on Metro's safety history.  I can understand that folks there are exhausted, but the media affairs shop is not exactly stepping up in a time of crisis.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:15 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: WMATA/D.C. Metro


So what if their techno-info was not keeping pace. There were far more pressing issues then worrying about who knew how many people died. Get off your butt and do some old school reporting.

Twitter is not the Emergency Broadcasting system. It's Twitter.

WMATA also sent emails out citing just "mechanical difficulties," about the crash so it wasn't just Twitter. The problem is that we commuters did not know the severity of the situation for HOURS and had people known in a timely fashion, we would have known to find alternate ways home (ride w/ friend, bus, cab, etc...). Commuters are upset because we were left completely in the dark about the severity. We were stuck in dark tunnels, excruciating hot train stations, extremely crowded platforms, etc...for HOURS.

While we realize our temporary discomfort is nothing compared to the lives lost (which again we had no idea about that at the time), the point is WMATA could have - at the very least - said there was an "accident" and not "mechanical difficulties" which, by the way they use that term nearly every day describing an incident on one line or another, and which are usually cleared up quickly. Obviously this incident was so much more and it just would have been nice to know in a timely fashion.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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