© 2010 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Learning from Customers
and Community
Besides facilitating better connections between transportation orga-
nizations and their constituents, social media can help agencies work
with users to make a system better, evaluate system use, and analyze
customer opinions and perspectives. Social media analysis tools are
pushing transportation agencies into a new age in which frequent and
occasional customers can have a greater say and more positive impact on
the transportation system.
In this chapter, researchers from four universities share details about
their work on the forefront of transportation-related social media research.
The rst section was written by Aaron Steinfeld, John Zimmerman, and
Anthony Tomasic, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who cre-
ated the Tiramisu mobile application. Here they explain the concept of
social computing, often called crowdsourcing or human computation. In
the next section, Stacey Bricka, Debbie Spillane, and Tina Geiselbrecht,
all from the Texas Transportation Institute, and Tom Wall of Georgia
Tech explain how transportation surveys are evolving to include social
media as a means to reach respondents and understand social networks.
Finally, Satish Ukkusuri, Samiul Hasan, and Xianyuan Zhan of Purdue
University discuss data analysis techniques as social media move into the
future with methods such as data mining for user perception and activity
pattern recognition.
© 2010 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Aaron Steinfeld, John Zimmerman, and Anthony Tomasic
The development and rapid expansion of high-speed residential connec-
tivity, online social networking services, and most recently smartphones
have changed the world and given birth to social computing, a new kind
of computing in which large groups of people and computer systems do
things in collaboration that neither can do alone. Interestingly, this rapid
change in communication technology has led government agencies to
reconsider how they might communicate and engage with the public.
Examples of exciting new services include transit agencies that provide
up-to-the-minute information via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and consumer-
friendly mobile GIS tools. This section focuses on this new technology
and includes some denitions, a review of trends, and a case study show-
ing what citizens can do in collaboration with their transit agency.
Social Computing and Needs for Public Services
Urban planning has a long history of considering the needs of citi-
zens when designing and altering local environments (Brabham 2009).
Planners most often use surveys, focus groups, and community meetings
to achieve some measure of citizen participation. However, planners note
that these traditional methods can be slow, expensive, and often engage
only a tiny fraction of citizens.
Recently, planners have begun to investigate the use of social com-
puting to improve the efciency and effectiveness of citizen participa-
tion (Brabham 2009). Community participation approaches to the use of
social computing can be divided into two categories: general-purpose
and domain-specic. The use of general-purpose social media for com-
munity engagement is explored earlier in this book, and later sections of
this chapter discuss the evolving uses of social media in surveys and data
mining in greater depth.
General-purpose social media services such as Twitter and Facebook
can tap large numbers of participants due to their huge popularity.
However, they often lack features that meet specic data needs, such as
the ability to connect information to specic places and pieces of infra-
structure. Domain-specic approaches can more easily collect specic

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