By Guest Blogger, Natalie Wardel from the Metropolitan Transit System*
I think it’s safe to assume that no one likes to be stuck in traffic. I also think it’s safe to assume that not very many of us like change- especially when it comes to our morning commute.
When leaders from the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) decided to launch the $620 million “Trolley Renewal Project” to revive the 30 year-old rails from San Ysidro to Old Town, they knew strong communication was key to their success.
We knew that clear and succinct messaging about how the renovation was going to benefit commuters and what changes they could expect to their commute wasn’t just a critical component. It was the only way to gain a favorable perception among riders and tax payers. They also knew that the messaging needed to reach nearly 20,000 commuters of all ages.
There were two main messages. First, the renovation will introduce new features to commuters, some of which included, low-floor trolleys, station amenities, closed circuit television and enhanced lighting. The second, and probably most important, is the temporary change to hours of operation of trolley stations during construction.
The objective was clear. Communicate ongoing, and sometimes daily, changes to tens of thousands of weekend commuters who are less likely to be regular riders, and also to the weekday riders who are dependent on MTS to arrive to work on time.
To achieve this, we devised an integrated marketing plan to include not only traditional marketing tools (outreach to community groups, direct mail to schools and churches, public relations, advertising, etc.) but newer platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Here’s how it went:
Two months before construction started, MTS made presentations to more than two dozen community organizations. A month before closures, signs were displayed at stations, and the information was available online. To spread the word even more, MTS and SANDAG hosted a news conference which garnered almost 30 mentions over five days from media including KGTV and the San Diego Union-Tribune. To support the education component we posted real time reminders and updates on Facebook and Twitter to remind people of station closures.
One month into the Trolley Renewal project, construction is running smoothly and MTS hasn’t received any known complaints. Passengers have communicated their appreciation for the renovation and the lengths the two agencies have gone to keep them informed of changes in order to minimize inconveniences.
It’s become apparent to us that using more than one marketing tool to reach different audiences is important, and real time information is key when it comes to customer service and satisfaction. This is just one example of how a service which is used by so many San Diegans has integrated these tools into a cohesive plan.
Have you been impacted by the Trolley Renewal Project? How well do you think MTS and SANDAG are communicating? We’d love to hear your thoughts.