When it comes to dealing with CTA customer service complaints, there could a method to the madness.
Purdue University researchers say they've devised a system that would allow the CTA to measure rider satisfaction in real-time.
The scientists used analysis software to assess CTA rider sentiment on Twitter over a few days last summer and found that riders tend to tweet about negative experiences more than positive ones.
The researchers say instead of just relying on tweets and e-mails sent to them, the CTA could use this analysis to cull comments on Twitter and get a more complete picture of how riders are feeling. They also could respond to these complaints immediately.
The study authors presented their conclusions last week in Washington at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences' Transportation Research Board, devoted to promoting innovation in transportation.
"This is something that should be on [the CTA] radar screen," said Satish Ukkusuri, Purdue associate professor in civil engineering, who worked on the study. The researchers worked independently of the CTA but said they would be willing to help the agency with the tool.
The researchers studied tweets over seven days in July, including July 4, a popular day for CTA travel because of holiday events downtown. They gathered the data by searching for CTA keywords on Twitter such as the "Red Line." They weeded out non-relevant tweets. One about the movie "The Thin Red Line," for example, would be tossed out.
Numerical values were assigned to the tweets. Those with positive sentiments received positive numbers while the messages with negative sentiments received negative numbers.
They were then able to create word clouds with popular terms in the tweets. For example, during the study, there was a fire near Fullerton Avenue, which created delays on the Blue Line. The researchers noted high frequency of the words "fire," "delay" and "blue."
The CTA could use this word cloud to respond to Blue Line rider concerns, the researchers say.
"It's a graphic way of looking at a particular problem," Ukkusuri said. "CTA can do an analysis line by line, get the information and react to it in real time."
A CTA spokeswoman told Going Public the agency continuously monitors social media sites for customer feedback. They created Twitter and Facebook accounts last year.
"CTA uses all feedback—both positive and negative—to improve operations, address maintenance needs and enhance customer communications. It has quickly become an important component of our customer-service efforts," the CTA said in an e-mail.
The CTA is holding two meetings next week about the project to modernize the Purple Line and Red Line north of the Belmont stop. The first meeting will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. Monday at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. A second meeting will be from 5-7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway.
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A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Rosemont Blue Line
There's a hole lot of love at the Rosemont Blue Line stop, which has not one, but two,Dunkin' Donutsoutlets. There is a traditionalDunkin' Donutsinside the station and a smaller "express" version outside the station near the bus pick-up area that is open 4-11 a.m., on weekdays. At this rate, if another snowpocalyspe hits the city, the Blue Line could run on Dunkin'.
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