The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced today that it has established a presence on popular web-based social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Blogger. These sites will allow for wider dissemination of news releases, traffic alerts and other important messages to motorists.
These websites are popular among younger drivers who favor the Internet over traditional forms of media such as television, radio and newspapers for news and information. However, they are becoming increasingly popular among all users of the Internet. Government agencies, including several other state transportation departments, are using new media such as social networking sites to enhance their efforts to provide information to the public.
These sites function differently than standard web pages and feature the consolidation of different information sources onto one page, often with information “pushed” to them. The sites generally require individuals to register and select sources they wish to “follow” with updates flowing to their social networking pages automatically.
“We hope this new initiative will provide another venue so that we can better serve the motoring public,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “The Department hopes to broaden its reach to the public by staying abreast of changes in information technology and this will complement the traditional methods of informing the public of important changes with Rhode Island’s transportation infrastructure.”
These pages will be updated at the same time RIDOT issues press releases, traffic advisories or other news. Among the automated information updates available to those who chose to follow these sites are regular traffic alerts on Twitter from RIDOT’s Transportation Management Center. These alerts provide brief statements about time and location of crashes, disabled vehicles or other problems that might block travel lanes or otherwise slow down traffic.
The sites RIDOT will now be providing updates to include:
This is sometimes called a micro-blog in that it provides short updates of 140 characters or less. Anyone can view the page directly at http://twitter.com/RIDOTnews. By registering with Twitter, users can establish their own pages and choose which sources to follow and thus receive information as soon as it is posted. The site even has tools to allow users to receive updates, commonly called “tweets” by text message on their cell phones. RIDOT strongly discourages motorists from accessing Twitter or any of these websites on their cell phone while driving.
This service is more like a traditional web page but takes the form of a journal, known in Internet terminology as a “blog.” The RIDOT blog can be found at http://ridotnews.blogspot.com/. The page will be home to press releases and other announcements, and will feature slideshows of active RIDOT projects and videos. It also will host RIDOT’s video podcast series created in October 2007 to explain how the Iway will be built and its impact on Providence.
This webpage is more of a closed network than Blogger and requires visitors to register for the service. It often requires visitors to request to be added to a group of individuals who can access the page, but the RIDOT page will be publicly accessible. The site is popular place to share information, pictures and videos with friends and family. The Department will use the site much like Blogger for listing of news and traffic advisories and graphics, videos and pictures, although it is more graphics-oriented than Blogger. To view RIDOT’s Facebook page, type Rhode Island Department of Transportation into the search field. If you chose to follow the group, you will receive updates from the Department.
MySpace is similar to Facebook and involves a process of people choosing to be “friends” with a source and therefore having greater access to features the site offers. The page will host news and traffic information as well as graphics, videos and pictures. The RIDOT MySpace page is located at http://www.myspace.com/ridotnews.
RIDOT will continue to use its main website, www.dot.ri.gov, to provide a wide range of information related to the Department and its activities. This includes access to traffic cameras, traffic congestion information and other real-time information.
RIDOT also will continue to use its in-the-field tools for alerting motorists to important information through the use of electronic variable message boards, 511 and the Highway Advisory Radio system at 1630 AM. Additionally, RIDOT’s Customer Service office remains available at 401-222-2450 on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Contact: Charles St. Martin 401-222-1362 x4007