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Metro's Erasable Line: Calculating Employee Ridership Equals PR Debacle

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It's a good question: "What percentage of Metro employees go Metro to work?"

Facebook user Traci Cummings wanted to know, and so on August 2 she posted the query on Metro's Facebook page, and waited for an answer. The one that was provided, however, revealed a statistic that some felt was a bit appalling; Metro's "official" reply on the thread was that just over 1% of their employees used Metro for their workday commute.

The Bus Bench blog took the 1.6% figure to task in a post, calling it a "lie of omission" and mocking Metro's "Why I Ride" publicity campaign involving employees--presumably the 155 out of 9200 who do use Metro--writing blog posts about their Metro riding habits.

Then that comment thread on Facebook...disappeared.

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Neon Tommy has been chronicling the debacle, and found out from Metro that they deleted "its own comment because the comment was not specific enough." A media relations rep from Metro explained that the comment was taken down because "It did not give the entire picture of the people who work for Metro that do use public transit."

Back on the Bus Bench, the deletion wasn't taken sitting down: "You can’t erase the 'Interweb' Metro LA," began their new post, lambasting Metro for not only their low employee ridership, but what seemed to be their wish to get rid of information that did not paint them favorably.

Metro spokesman Marc Littman told Neon Tommy the deletion was "a mistake," and attributes the fumble to being sourced from within their marketing department (as opposed to the Public Relations department he runs), the folks who run that Facebook page that Littman isn't really attuned with. "I'm not involved with that Facebook stuff," he said.

Littman also questioned the accuracy of the 1.6% figure given regarding their employee ridership, and "said that more than 50 percent of the 1300 employees working at their Downtown headquarters ride public transportation, but not necessarily Metro." That figure includes himself, and Metro CEO Art Leahy. Littman followed-up with a post on Metro's blog The Source in a statement about how the number has been "taken out of context" by the media and some blogs.

In case you wanted to read up on Littman's Metro commute, his "Why I Ride" piece went up online on August 9--one week after the Facebook incident.