New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, also known as the literal bug hell for which New Yorkers pay $116.50 every month, wants to spend more money in a perplexing way. Over the next four years, it seeks to spend an eye-watering $9 million on social media alone, according to its latest proposed budget. This is absurd as it sounds, and I’m still trying to figure out how it’s justified.
The next four years also hold the gilded promise of two four percent fare increases and a deficit of $319 million, but the social media budget item was originally spotted in the MTA’s latest budget docs by Second Avenue Sagas:
In that document there’s just a vague description of why this is being requested: “24/7 Social Media ($9 million): Significantly enhance ability to inform and interact with customers in timelier and comprehensive fashion.”
The goal of 24/7 coverage is completely unnecessary, as one can safely assume that no matter what time of day it is, your train will not be there when you need it. The best way for the MTA to use social media does not cost $2.25 million per year. In fact, the New York City subway’s Twitter account is already pretty active, and it appears to be staffed by harried customer service agents frantically apologizing on an individual basis to every single hate-filled tweet directed against it.
But even without that personal touch, it’s simple to create a system that doesn’t cost nine million fucking dollars. Each line should have an auto-updating Twitter account using the language used for apps like NextStop, or even their own app. There are very few reasons, beyond the occasional fecal apocalypse, why the MTA accounts should be responding to riders’ individual tweets.
If your train is delayed, a canned response from the L Train Twitter account won’t really make a difference. Though it is funnier and more cathartic when you know you can make an actual human being at the MTA feel a sliver of an ounce of the suffering you feel every day, through your tweets. (Just kidding, your tweets are worse.)
Here’s my imaginary breakdown that would staff “necessary” subway and rail accounts. Let’s say they hire eight social media people with marketing experience at $60,000 each (for days/nights/weekends), then throw in some sort of team leader at $100,000 and a $220,000 marketing budget.
That’s $800,000. Let’s generously pad those salaries and marketing budgets and round it up to a nice, even million bucks—it’s still a fraction of the cost of the proposed plan.
Nine million dollars is small potatoes compared to the millions and millions the MTA plans to spend in the coming years, but man, would I love to see a line-by-line breakdown of this social media budget.