Customer information: not a side dish but part of the main course
Since the fundamental purpose of a transit agency seems to be putting transit vehicles on the street, it’s easy to assume that basic service provision is a much more important than providing information about that service.
Inspired by More Riders, I would argue that service provision and providing customer information are equally fundamental to serving a community and providing mobility options. “Customer information” is the term transit agencies use for their public-facing information — route & system maps, timetables, etc.
Even if an agency offers a great system from a planning and operations perspective — frequent, on-time service on a dense network of well-connected routes — if their customer information doesn’t do the job of helping people use and benefit from this system easily, then the system is under performing its potential in crucial ways — in rider satisfaction and the number of passengers transported to jobs and services, for example.
Consider software as an analogy. Even if you offer powerful, feature-rich software, if it’s difficult to use most people won’t benefit much from it. With software and with transit, ease-of-use is crucial to overall usefulness.
2 thoughts on “Customer information: not a side dish but part of the main course”
OK, don’t laugh: I took the bus today for the very first time. I’m not gonna lie, I had a little difficulty using the “plan a trip” function on the local transit agency web site. Then again, I was feeling a little impatient, so I didn’t feel like trying to figure it out. Next I decided to looked at a map on the back of a bus shelter. All I could make out where letters and numbers and lines and acckkk! HELP!!! Whatever the case, I made it to my appointment only 10 minutes late. Thanks to the kindness of the bus driver and some fellow passengers I probably would not have made it at all.
I’m an avid transit user. In fact, I’m a Transit Tourist and look forward to using new transit systems whenever I travel. Boarding point transit information seems universally awful. I found this blog in a web search to try to find solutions for boarding point information dissemination. There really doesn’t seem to be anyone doing it well. What I like to see at a stop are maps of routes that serve the stop and times the bus is expected. Sometimes even frequency information is helpful. System operators like passengers to have their fare in hand when boarding – how about a sign saying what that fare is?
Phone apps showing bus locations are sexy but basically unnecessary unless your system is consistently & wildly off schedule. The benefit might be that Smartphone users might try the bus because they paid for a bunch of app capacity and need to justfy their phone bills! I’ve boarded transit more than 2,000 times in the last couple of years and I have yet to have a fellow passenger at the stop announce “My phone says the bus is three minutes late!”
I’d frankly prefer simple printed schedules posted at stops and technology put to work so transfers between routes don’t result in extra half hour long bus stop waits.