Taking Tweets to the Streets
Five times a day, it seems, I cross paths with the CATS buses as they rumble down Highland Rd. The thought ricochets in my brain each time. “Why aren’t I on that?”
There are plenty of reasons I come up with, of course. Kids. Time. Groceries. You name it. Finally, a couple of months ago, I came up with a plan: Convince my husband, David, to ride the bus to work. He happily agreed and, of course, I made him promise he’d blog about it on Granola Rouge. You can read all about his adventure. His entry attracted more readers than my blog had ever seen before, and several people said they were pumped to try out riding the bus after reading what David had to say about it. Of course, the very next week, on the cover of the daily newspaper, there was the very bus David had ridden in a cherry bomb of flames. That might’ve dissuaded a few folks (everyone riding that day was fine, and the bus system is investigating the incident), but the point is that once folks found out that someone they knew and respected had ridden the bus, they were more apt to try it themselves.
No longer are people looking toward celebrity endorsements to help them decide what they are going to do with their time or their money. Now, it’s neighbors and friends who do the convincing. Celebrities themselves are working hard, through the use of social media, to appear very down-to-earth. Then and only then do they tell their followers on Twitter what kind of car they are digging right now or what shoes they’ll be donning at this weekend’s festivities.
When it comes to taking advantage of public transportation, Baton Rouge’s citizens want to know they’ll be safe and that the boogeyman is not waiting at the bus stop and that the buses themselves are sturdy. Hearing that others in their social circles are relaxing during their commute in relative peace and safety helps make the case. Social stigmas, too, disappear when neighbors and friends are riding in style and chatting it up on Facebook.
Social media alone can’t pull people out of their cars and onto buses or, in the future, light rail systems. Time tables and overly circuitous routes can make even the most intrepid traveler shy away. But if mass transit is built and built well, social media can give people that little nudge that makes them try it just once. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to change a city.