Madrid’s Metro strike and crisis management fail by other transportation services

Picture from El País

Madrid is living the worst Metro strike I can remember, since the trade union has taken the service down to 0% going against the minimum service laws. This strike is showing the dependence of the city on the Metro, but also the lack of the other transportation services facing the crisis and managing their communications.

I’m talking about the fact that neither the websites of the public urban buses services (the EMT) nor the consortium of public transportation of the region of Madrid (CTM-Madrid) are working. On Tuesday, the first day without any Metro service, both were down during the whole day; and on Wednesday the EMT site stopped working at midday while the CTM-Madrid site was struggling and working really slow. These two issues made it almost impossible for Madrid citizens to find their way to work, class or even the airport through the public transportation alternatives to Metro.

The problem is quite simple: when there is no Metro the are 2 million users who cannot take their transport of preference are consequently browsing in masses the itineraries and alternatives to get everywhere. It’s not rare that the websites crash facing this sudden increase in traffic, but the real issue here is the incompetence of both companies in getting their websites back to work the days we need them most, to which we have to add the lack of information and solutions provided.

It’s totally understandable that the first hours after the announcement of the Metro’s “wild strike” (as some media started to name it) the communication teams and technicians were overloaded, especially considering their priority should be to make the transportation work before informing about them. But after a few hours things should have been fixed. Let’s look at some points:

First of all, this is not the first time a website crashes because of a huge amount of traffic. Therefore the solutions are already known, at least to be able to post a message with information about the problem and other resources to know which bus to take from the place A to the place B.

Second, where are those other resources? The first thoughts that come to my mind are setting up basic websites in other servers, sending people to the main stations to inform the users about the strike and the alternatives, giving free maps and brochures with the buses lines and other transports… Of course there are call centers too, but do we call Madrid’s regional information number? Is there any call center from EMT or CTM-Madrid? These actions could have been perfectly accompanied by urgent press releases to all media, trying to reach as many Metro users as possible.

And last but not least, assuming that the communication managers of such big institutions (Government of Madrid Region, Madrid’s City Hall and the public transportation companies) have heard about social media and have followed, as many of us, the strike through Twitter and Eskup (social network created by El País newspaper), is it possible that no-one thought about setting up an information service through social tools?

Just think about it: official profiles from the companies giving constant information about the strike, linking to resources and quotes from all the media covering it, a team of people ready to reply to all those tweets asking on how to get somewhere, and a small communication strategy on how to answer rough questions and complaints. I don’t think it’s that difficult, that expensive or so rare that none of these communication departments has thought about it and set it up as soon as possible.

What I do think is that the incompetence of these institutions is damaging us citizens as much as the strike itself.

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