“Our procurements are good examples,” she explains. “We went out for RFP for fareboxes and the city of Bismark piggybacked on us and that happens frequently for things that we do.” She continues, “It’s just easier for them. They have small staffs and instead of reinventing the wheel, they piggyback on a procurement we’ve done before.”
They also serve as a source for training. “We’ll do training, wheelchair training for example, and the other systems will come in here and use our facility,” Van Beek says. They also serve as a location for product demonstrations. She says smaller systems will come to the Metro Transit in Fargo and companies will come to demonstrate equipment. “We can all go in one spot and they can show us their products and things.”
Marketing and Outreach
Fargo Tranist Planner Gregg Schildberger explains the recent marketing rebrand. “Matbus adopted a new unified name, logo and tagline. This has allowed the separate city transit systems to effectively unite under one name and logo.”
He says brand recognition and loyalty have increased dramatically in just a few short years and they have been better able to utilize their financial resources to promote Matbus services.
While the system takes part in many outreach events to remain connected to its passengers, on the university campuses they take part in more than 20 orientation sessions each year. This allows them to “introduce a culture of transit to each new student as they first set foot onto campus,” Schildberger says.
They initially encourage students to familiarize themselves with the university campus routes and, once the students feel comfortable, to try the system off campus, as well.
“Staff members foster strong relationships with student and university leaders, in addition to serving on advisory boards to student groups,” he says. “Matbus vehicles are a featured entrant in several parades each year and we routinely create marketing plans specifically targeting university students.”
One of the marketing plans was the “210 in 2010” campaign, which featured 210 students, staff and faculty members who were transit riders and their reasons for riding Matbus, instead of driving. The campaign won two first place AdWheel awards from the American Public Transportation Association.
Matbus has implemented a variety of strategies and innovations to reach passengers, including SMS text alerts, blogs, email alerts and outreach events. Schildberger says all of the vehicles feature on-board automatic vehicle location technologies and Matbus has deployed several kiosks in high-boarding location sites throughout the metro area. “In the next year we are looking forward to introducing real-time bus tracking abilities on our website and our passengers’ smartphones,” he says.
As part of a contract with Route-Match, Van Beek says the AVL system they’re implementing includes new resources for riders of pushing out information to smartphones, Google transit and their website. “That’s part of this contract that Moorhead has signed and that Fargo is working on the funding, to get.”
Matbus has a successful U-Pass program that began as a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant. In 2011, more than 2.1 million rides were given and 53 percent of that was university students. With the GFI Odyssey farebox, students run their ID through the magnetic stripe reader and the farebox reads and knows which university it’s from.
“As a small urban [system] with four colleges/universities, we have developed U-Pass programs specifically targeting students,” Van Beek says. “Integrating student ID cards with our current GFI farebox system makes trying transit easy and spontaneous for students, increasing the likelihood that they will ride with us.
“The fareboxes also help us track where and when passengers are riding.” She adds, “In addition, the colleges can ask us to block of ‘bad list’ a specific ID for riders that are no longer students.”
Matbus has also created how-to-ride videos to make riding easy for new passengers.
“One barrier to using Matbus is riders failing to understand how to effectively use the system, especially people with disabilities, seniors and people new to the community,” says Schildberger. “Through its mobility management program, MATBUS has developed a bus familiarization workshop series to provide travel training on a more personal level with human service providers and agencies.