A recent article on philly.com discussed the 2014 uproar of disgruntled NJ PATCO riders, particularly those utilizing their social media voices. Angered by February’s inception of mishandled track work on the Ben Franklin Bridge, daily commuters are pissed off and want to be heard, rapid firing complaints and snarky criticisms at a seemingly meek and frazzled @RidePATCO. Interestingly, such internet chatter over broken trains, packed cars, inconvenient schedules, significant delays and the occasional car fire is not only communicating frustrations, but inadvertently leading people to get up close and personal with each other (literally and figuratively) to unite together.
The observation in the article couldn’t be more accurate. In the two and a half years I’ve ridden the usually reliable public transit system into work, I’ve had more conversations with strangers (in person and online) over the perils of PATCO than I’ve had about any other topic during my commute. I’ve watched as total strangers, normally lost in their own world of ear buds and smartphones, have struck up early morning discussions about their latest and greatest #PATCOproblems. A person (or group of people) recently started a Twitter feed, @PATCOwatchers, which already has 1,700 tweets and monitors the social media buzz around the struggling train system, communicating complaints, updates, general information or just plain old sarcasm.
So look at that – a whole community formed out of an otherwise unfortunate situation. Proof, if you will, that every cloud has its silver lining…and humans love to form groups.
PATCO is scheduled to get worse before it gets better, slotting aside 60 days this spring to shut down the entire track on the south side of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Can social media commiserating continue to save our sanity or will we finally officially snap and turn on each other like angry wolves? Time (and Twitter) will surely tell.