Insights

An inside look at Canadian public transit on Twitter

By Michele Austin
Wednesday, 28 August 2019

There are more than 2 billion public transit trips taken annually in Canada, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association (@canadiantransit).

The real-time nature of social media, and Twitter specifically, has transformed public transit in our country where schedules, service alerts and other important details are now made available to riders 24/7. Twitter has become essential to millions of Canadians who rely on public transit every day and a peek into the data shows that public transit providers are amongst the most invested and most active organizations in the Canadian Twitter landscape.

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Here is a snapshot of how public transit providers in Canada’s 20 largest municipalities are using Twitter to inform and interact with riders. For our study, this covers 29 different accounts as many public transit providers will have multiple accounts to cover different lines, alerts and topics. Data was gathered on August 12, 2019.

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The service alerts account created by the Toronto Transit Commission (@TTCnotices) the most followed public transit account in Canada with more than 400,000 Twitter followers. The account has been live for over a decade (it was created in January 2009) and has grown steadily ever since. In the past three years alone, @TTCnotices has more than doubled its Twitter following. 

Several other Canadian transit providers also celebrated 10+ years on Twitter in 2019. This includes providers in Calgary (@calgarytransit), Laval (@stlsynchro), Montreal (@stminfo), Vancouver (@TransLink) and Winnipeg (@winnipegtransit). 

These are the five Canadian public transit accounts with the most followers on Twitter

  1. Toronto Transit Commission - TTC (@TTCnotices)
  2. Société de transport de Montréal - STM (@stminfo)
  3. Translink - Vancouver and region (@TransLink)
  4. Société de transport de Montréal - STM (@stm_nouvelles)
  5. Calgary Transit (@calgarytransit)
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With more than 416,000 total Tweets sent over the past decade, @TransLink has been the most active public transit Twitter account within our sample. The account was created in July 2009 and has averaged 3,400+ Tweets sent monthly in the past 10+ years. 

These are the five Canadian public transit accounts with the most Tweets sent over their history

  1. TransLink - Vancouver and region (@TransLink)
  2. Toronto Transit Commission - TTC (@TTCHelps)
  3. Calgary Transit (@calgarytransit)
  4. Toronto Transit Commission - TTC (@TTCnotices)
  5. OC Transpo - Ottawa (@OCTranspoLive)
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Customer service is another important element of the public transit experience on Twitter with many providers sharing hours of operation directly on their Twitter profile. 

Furthermore, of the accounts in our sample size, 62% left their DMs open which allows followers to reach out to ask questions, gather information and offer feedback.

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Canadians also tend to turn to Twitter for public transit information most often during winter months. We looked at combined 2019 account mentions for the 29 accounts in our study with January and February emerging as the months with the most mentions. May was the month with the fewest account mentions.

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@_MicheleAustin

Michele Austin

‎@_MicheleAustin‎

Head of Government, Public Policy and Philanthropy

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