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CTA Twitter Account Welcomes Your Gripes and Tolerates Your F-Bombs

By Kyla Gardner | July 1, 2013 6:43am
 The CTA is glad riders use Twitter to let them know about frustrations, said Tony Coppoletta, social media manager.
The CTA is glad riders use Twitter to let them know about frustrations, said Tony Coppoletta, social media manager.
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Twitter/Tony Coppoletta and DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner

CHICAGO — Riders are much more likely to slam Chicago Transit Authority service online than tweet its praises, a 2012 Purdue University study revealed.

That's not a surprise to the man behind @cta, the transit authority's official Twitter account.

"Good service doesn't necessarily elicit as much emotion," said Tony Coppoletta, CTA's manager of external electronic communications. "People don't jump to Twitter to say, 'Hey, I had a completely uneventful commute today.' "

But they do jump to Twitter to write, "Dear @cta, please fix the f----ing Spaulding Brown Line entrance when you have a minute."

Sarcasm, F-bombs and general nastiness don't scare away the CTA.

"We've got a tough skin about that stuff," CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said. "That's not a deterrent for us. The platform is there [for people] to say what they want. We want people to say what’s on their minds."

Ryan Smith, who created an account to collect those uncensored thoughts — "CTA Fails" — said "angry CTA Tweets" are a way for people to let off steam, even if they aren't seeking a response.

"Sometimes I find it therapeutic," he said. "I think it's definitely helpful."

When the CTA does respond to riders, it can be a bit of a surprise.

Lucas Hammer, 28, admitted he was "just venting" when he tweeted his frustration with the "f----ing" Spaulding Avenue entrance to the Kedzie Brown Line Station.

The Albany Park resident said he was pleasantly surprised when he got a response — and apologetic.

"Could you tell us what is broken about it so we can make sure the appropriate dept. is aware?" the @cta account responded, and then, "No worries. This is helpful!" when Hammer was remorseful about his angry tweet.

"Whoever was responding to me, it wasn’t their fault. I was just pissed off in general," Hammer said.

Some riders don't realize their @cta Tweets go to an actual person, Lukidis said.

"Often, people have a sense that large organizations tend not to really care or not have an interest in giving a response," Lukidis said. "Your complaints aren't going out into the ether. There's somebody behind the curtain listening to that."

Coppoletta said he tries to respond to as many people as possible during regular business hours, but he can't get to them all.

"The volume of things going through our Twitter is very great," Coppoletta said. "We keep an eye on what's going on all day and respond to as much as we can."

On a day with little service disruption, Coppoletta might see five to 10 tweets directed at @cta that aren't Foursquare check-ins. When something major goes wrong, he might see 40 or 50 tweets about just one incident, he said.

Coppoletta advises riders to give him as much detail as they can about a problem  — the line or route, bus or train number and time it happened. That way, he can pass the information to the department responsible for fixing the problem. Or, if a situation deserves more than 140 characters, he might direct them to other feedback channels.

But many riders prefer the instantaneous nature of Twitter.

Lincoln Square resident Adam Kashuba — who also had a Brown Line station entrance problem — said he's found it easier to reach an actual person through Twitter when "you can't get through to a human being somewhere else."

"It's nice not to go through a whole rigmarole," he said.