The HSR’s social media position is posted to the City’s jobs webpage this morning and it differs from David Dixon’s plan for the position as it outlined to the Amalgamated Transit Union and The Public Record in May.
A big change from the plan is that the HSR social media coordinator is no longer part of the HSR operations group, and will instead be part of the HSR’s bureaucracy housed within “Transit Strategy and Infrastructure” – the same group bringing us lipstick on a pigHSR+” this fall.
This indicates that City Hall overruled Dixon prior to his departure, or acting transit director Gerry Davis changed the plan after Dixon left.
There’s a big difference between Transit Operations – where Dixon planned to place the position – and Transit Strategy.
Ops is where the new HSR is, the one Dixon was building before finally giving up fighting City Hall. Operations puts the buses on the road, manages the detours, and decides when to short-turn buses which are running late. Operations is what matters to riders and where the HSR needs to be communicating to the public.
Strategy, they’re the people that brought us the MacNab Transit Terminal and the promised since 2013 new B-Line and A-Line bus shelters. Strategy is the old “good enough for the likes of you” management who claim the HSR is one of North America’s best managed transit systems.
Will the position prioritize marketing and paper pushing over day-to-day real-time transit information such as detours and bus delay updates that we actually need?
The position will not be based at the Downtown Transit Terminal has was envisioned – the HSR has an operations centre (currently dormant) on the second level of the MacNab Street building with all the infrastructure for transit operations control and monitoring.
Being at the MacNab terminal would’ve seen the social media coordinator able to monitor and update on delays to the HSR system and ensure they were regularly communicating with drivers and passengers.
Instead, as part of the HSR bureaucracy, the position will be based at the Mountain Transit Centre near the airport. This also means the person will likely join the HSR bureaucracy in using city-issued cars instead of public transit to move around the city.
(Seriously, HSR bureaucrats drive city vehicles to meetings at City Hall instead of riding the HSR. Dixon tried to force bureaucrats to ride the bus without much success.)
The position is also outside of the union, reflecting that it is not an operational position.
This means the person hired will not have union protection if, while bringing the HSR into the modern age, they ruffle a few City Hall feathers by actually engaging in proper social media communications similar to what we see from the TTC in Toronto.

The Interesting

The job description says nothing about the person training HSR operations on-road supervisors in social media. Dixon planned to have on-road supervisors trained to post social media updates for detours and significant delays outside of City Hall’s 8:30-4:30 (with an hour lunch break) social media hours.
Not everything can be in the job description, but this was a huge part of Dixon’s plan. Dixon was promoting bus drivers to the unionized supervisors positions using the criteria of customer service and willingness to learn social media as key touchstones.

The Good

Firstly, the City didn’t put its usual requirement that the person have a drivers license.
The pay is above average – compared to the private sector – for the work. That’s in keeping with the City’s practice of compensating HSR managers well. Hopefully, this will attract strong candidates with a private sector mindset and initiative.
The hiring will be done quickly, the job is only open to public applications for seven days.
The position needs to be in place and fully operational by the middle of August. This is very important, once Labour Day arrives, HSR returns to regular schedules, fares increase, and – if Dixon’s plan wasn’t cancelled – some bus routes will change to reflect where people are travelling to and from.
Until September, we are left to wonder and speculated what the first tweet will be? We’ll quickly learn ‘What is an HSR social media’?
(I know, don’t quit my day job.)