The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 7th Annual Shorty Awards

January 2014 Arctic Blast Snow Storm

Entered in Travel


The Bi-State Development Agency proudly operates the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis, Missouri region, and we record nearly a million boardings a week on our transit system. We are committed 365 days a year, 21 hours a day, to safely getting our passengers to their important destinations like work and school as well as letting them know about major service disruptions. During a big winter storm that brought more than a foot of snow and bitter cold temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero in January 2014, we worked long hours to make sure our customers received up-to-the minute service updates during and after the snow storm through our Facebook and Twitter social media accounts. Our riders let us know on social media just how much they appreciated the timely service updates we posted through social media. They also let us know they appreciated how Metro employees went above and beyond the call of duty to get them where they needed to go during the big winter storm.

Strategy and Execution

The safety of our Metro transit passengers and operators is our top priority every day of the year. We operate MetroBus, MetroLink (light rail) and Metro Call-A-Ride in the St. Louis region and are recognized as a national transit leader for safety, reliability and operational efficiencies. We communicate daily about good news, special event details as well as important service changes and planned and unplanned service delays to our riders via our social media accounts because it is the most immediate and direct link to our customers. Our communication with our passengers is not one-sided. We listen to our customers and try to answer their questions.

On January 5 and January 6, the St. Louis region was hit with a major snow storm and brutally cold weather. Our team shined as we overcame the special weather challenges, road conditions and extraordinary obstacles to communicate with our customers and get them safely transported to where they needed to go. As more than a foot of snow piled up and wind chills dropped to 30 degrees below zero, communicating up-to-the-minute information about service delays and MetroBus reroutes was critical as transit riders waited in the bitter cold for their buses and light rail trains. Through it all, our buses just kept going and the majority of our 75 routes and our Metro Call-A-Ride van trips did not experience any delays, while other vehicles were crawling in traffic along the snow packed roads and streets. Extraordinary efforts on the part of our employees kept our MetroLink trains running on 46 miles of light rail tracks despite rail switches freezing and refreezing. Our aggressive social media style kept our customers and the media informed every step of the way. Members of the media follow our social media accounts and were excellent about re-tweeting, reposting and announcing the transit service updates on the air within in a couple of minutes of our information being posted. They watched for new information to be posted so they could pass on the latest public transit information to their viewers, listeners and readers.

The transit operation, which saw more than 48 million boardings in Fiscal Year 2014, made the necessary steps to be fully-prepared for the major storm. The Communications Department worked with transit operations and customer service before, during and after the storm to pass along new information to our customers, emergency management partners, and the media through Facebook, Twitter, live and taped interviews, news advisories and releases, and emails. Because our social media manager position was unfilled at the time of the winter storm, and communicating to our customers via social media was vital, various members of our Communications Department handled the social media postings and responses around the clock in addition to their other regular responsibilities. The Vice President of Marketing and Communications and other team members pitched in and helped so other team members could rest or get something to eat during the weather crisis.

Our round-the-clock social media updates during this major weather event included up-to-date information about bus routes, light rail operations, and station platform conditions. Other messaging included winter travel tips, suggestions to use other services such as our real-time Trip Planner itinerary service. We worked closely to coordinate updates with Customer Service to guarantee the Rider Alerts, bus reroute information and MetroLink delays were posted around the clock to our main website. The constant Rider Alert updates were extremely helpful for those who had no choice but to go work during the storm.

We received dozens of responses from customers on our Facebook and Twitter accounts during and after the winter storm. "Appreciate the updates," one customer posted on Facebook during the winter storm. "Also appreciate all the drivers and support people getting us where we need to go. Of course I appreciate the day in day out service. Just really grateful that you all work together in extreme circumstances like we have experienced the last couple of days. Thanks. And be careful out there."

The mixture of traditional and social media worked. It offered important, reliable and timely information in a variety of ways, providing customers with peace of mind at a very hectic time. We also kept their trust, and at the same time, we grew our social media audience.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Bi-State Development Agency/Metro


Entry Credits