HSR to get Twitter and Facebook accounts, finally

Years after other transit services hit Twitter and Facebook, the city finally plans to hire someone to be the digital face of HSR.

Other transit services took to Twitter and Facebook years ago

The city plans to hire a social media co-ordinator to be the digital face of HSR. City council will ratify it next Wednesday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

It's been years, but at long last, HSR is getting a social media presence.

City councillors approved hiring a social media co-ordinator for Hamilton's transit system on Monday. It's converting one of its vacant ticket-agent positions and adding a few thousand extra to the operating budget to pay for the new role.

There were several things we needed to act upon. This was one of them.- David Dixon, head of Hamilton transit

Right now, HSR is not on Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of social media. When David Dixon, outgoing head of transit, arrived in 2014, that surprised him.

"There were several things we needed to act upon," he said. "This was one of them."

The new co-ordinator will be hired as soon as possible, Dixon said. He or she will finally take HSR to Twitter and Facebook, acting as a much-needed digital face when it comes to Hamilton transit.

The new role will include apprising people on delays and other relevant in-the-moment information, as well as overall policy changes, Dixon said. It will also get feedback from people.

There are times where I've thought, 'Why am I doing this?'- Jason Nason , @ HSRTransit

Toronto's TTC has been on Twitter for seven years. GO Transit has been there for almost as long. Ditto for the transit systems in Brampton, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

In Dixon's former job with the TTV, he said, "we used it extensively."

Until now, the only HSR-related presence has been @HSRTransit, which Jason Nason runs. He's a Hamilton resident and transit enthusiast with no official HSR affiliation. He just tweets, blogs and posts using his own knowledge of the transit system.

Better informed about service

"There are times where I've thought, 'Why am I doing this?'" he said. "I always felt like the city didn't appreciate what I was doing, or like what I was doing."

People send compliments and complaints on the service to Nason. Sometimes they think his account is official, even though it's labeled otherwise. Sometimes they just want to vent. Nason gives them contact info for the real HSR.

An HSR social media presence will endear people to the service, he said.

"You can make someone feel better about what's going on if their bus is late, but you can say 'here's the reason why.'"

Nason said he'll probably keep his social media accounts because he enjoys doing it. But he may not do it as often.

City council will cast a final vote next Wednesday.

The city is also in the midst of a larger exercise to rebrand and change attitudes toward HSR.

Entro Communications Inc. is creating a $410,000 marketing plan, which will be presented in the fall. One of its suggestions is to rename HSR "HSR+."