When electrical problems caused delays along the Bay Area Rapid Transit system this week, riders flocked to Twitter en masse to voice their ire and frustration: Delays, they complained, had become far too routine for the aging transit agency.
But what was definitely not routine was how BART responded to the social media onslaught.
In a series of brutally honest tweets, the agency explained that the booming Bay Area had vastly outgrown the system's planned capacity. The delays, it warned, would not disappear anytime soon.
Here's how some of the conversation went down:
For some, BART's frank and unapologetic delivery was refreshing.
“BART team is rewriting the book on striking just the right tone,” transportation planner Sarah Fine wrote on Twitter. “Acknowledge riders' frustration, but also educate about root causes.”
Much of the credit, it turns out, goes to a 27-year-old Texan who moved to the Bay Area just a year ago.
“It has been pretty overwhelming,” said Taylor Huckaby, the BART spokesman who wrote the tweets for the transit agency. “I never thought when I responded to the one person that it would create such attention. Infrastructure is such not a sexy topic. It’s really great as an infrastructure nerd to be starting that national conversation.”
Huckaby's tweets not only won attention from media outlets across the country, officials at Caltrain on Friday credited them with kick-starting a national conversation about infrastructure, referencing BART's use of the hashtag #ThisIsOurReality.
Huckaby, who is from Arlington, Texas, earned a degree in political communication from Louisiana State University. He moved to the Bay Area a year ago and is working on his master’s degree in public transit administration at San Jose State.
On Friday, he told The Times that government agencies should be more responsive to residents online.
“As a communications professional, I respond to people at a depth they deserve,” Huckaby said. “My attitude is that BART is always on your side, never condescending, cool and collected.”
On his personal Twitter account Huckaby describes himself as a “professional apologist for America's crumbling infrastructure.”
While some on Twitter have lampooned the BART account and hashtag online, he said the feedback has been mostly positive, especially from inside the transit agency. The general manager of BART called recently and commended him for a job well done.
Indeed, Huckaby even provoked this tweet of solidarity from tLos Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.