Of websites, customer information and short-range transit plans

Recently, someone directed me to look the Santa Cruz Metro 2007-2008 Short Range Transit Plan.

One of its features is an evaluation of the Santa Cruz Metro website based on the results of a web-based public survey.

scmetro-website

As part of the planning process, it makes a lot of sense to evaluate websites, and other components customer information, both offline and online, and discuss how they fit into an agency’s strategic goals.  I believe customer information should be treated as an integral part of good transit service, not a separate, tacked-on component (see earlier blog post: Customer information: not a side dish but part of the main course).

The “Metro Website Evaluation” section makes some good, if obvious, recommendations on how to improve their website and online strategy: create a fast-loading, visually-pleasing, and user-friendly website; include the URL on printed materials and get partners to link to scmtd.com from their sites.

The document points out that “nearly half of passengers using the system are between the ages of 18-23” (most are likely students at UC Santa Cruz) and that a modern, full-featured website necessary to serve these customers well.  In addition, I would point out that this demographic presents some additional opportunities in the online space: College students like to have fun, so partnering with local event calendars to include transit directions, like Trillium helped make happen in Humboldt County, would make a lot of sense.  Some transit agencies are reaching out on social networks like Twitter and Facebook to recruit new riders and build rider community and brand identification.  That might make sense for SC Metro, because 85% of college students use Facebook.

Despite the inclusion of the website evaluation, online information strategy could have been better integrated in the overall document.  The on-board survey of 1902 riders conspicuously did not include questions like “Do you have access to and use the internet… at home? work? school?,”  “How often do you use the internet?”, or “What kind of mobile communications device do you carry? – [none, iPhone, Blackberry, cell phone, other, etc.]”

Aaron is the founding principal of Trillium Solutions, Inc. He brings experience that includes 12 years of web-development with 8 years in public transportation, with knowledge of fixed-route transportation, paratransit, rural transportation, and active transportation modes. Aaron is a recognized expert in developing data standards, web-application design, digital communications, and online marketing strategy. He originally developed Trillium’s GTFS Manager, and has played a key role in the development of the GTFS data specification since 2007.