Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Your CEO is your Talent: Delivering the Service Change Message

By Karen Johnson, Video & Design Supervisor

“Joyce, please do that line over again and pause after the word ‘customers.’”

The talent, Joyce Eleanor, is our CEO. The video team - two of her employees from Customer Relation’s Marketing Division - create the concept, draft the script, produce, direct and edit the production, and then post it to the website. The topic is the upcoming February 2012 Service Change.

Joyce is a passionate and effective communicator. As the face of our agency, she speaks from her heart. Her message is authentic because she’s talking about the agency she leads, and the employees - her employees - who have lost their jobs. She has listened to the riders who are deeply impacted by the service cuts. Any other spokesperson would be unacceptable.

Producing a video to deliver information about service changes is just one way we use video on our website as a tool for our customers. We have also developed How to Ride videos in several languages for our customers, as well as another to become familiar with Swift bus rapid transit. Community Transit riders and civic leaders also contributed their own video storytelling testimonials in their own words.

Community Transit’s training division uses our videos during employee orientation to acquaint new staff with policies and agency culture. Plans for 2012 include instructional video shorts – brief, simple videos that demonstrate how to use our Trip Planner, how to use Swift, and a variety of other useful services. We recently created an online Video Gallery that contains all the videos we’ve produced.

Videos provide the opportunity for broad messaging in a timely manner to our many audiences.
And because we produce the videos entirely in-house, we are able to be responsive and accurate, at no cost to the agency other than staff resources.

“Cut! Great job, Joyce. But I need you to do that line one more time.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

ORCA Reaches Operational Milestone

The multi-party agreement that created the ORCA smart card project was signed in 2003. Community Transit was the first agency to sign on and has been a regional leader in transitioning riders to the ORCA card. Currently, more than 70 percent of all Community Transit bus riders use the ORCA card; the percentage is even higher on commuter service to UW and downtown Seattle.

Although the ORCA system went live more than two years ago, the project just received Full System Acceptance (FSA) last week. That milestone means that ORCA is no longer a “project” for the partner agencies, but is simply the basic fare system.

Nothing changes for the public or our employees with FSA, but it begins a new phase for ORCA. Vix, the company formerly known as ERG which manages the system, begins a contract to operate the system for the next 10 years. All new changes to the system will be charged (up until now changes that made the system work correctly were considered part of the project contract). Most importantly, additions to the system can be made, whether it be new agencies coming on board, new products offered or new functionality for the ORCA cards.

The Joint Board, which is made up of CEOs and general managers from the seven partner agencies, will take time in considering what changes to make to ORCA. The system still has some operational kinks, but the program is a big success. Of the nearly 500,000 people who ride transit daily in the Puget Sound Region, about 300,000 of them use ORCA cards to pay their fare. A big percentage of those are workers and students whose employer or school provides an ORCA card. The number of business institutions has gone up since ORCA replaced the PugetPass system.

Tell us what your experience with ORCA has been, good, bad or in between.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Buying Local Can Help Spark the Economy

About this time last year, Community Transit launched the Buy Local for Transit campaign. The point is to encourage our bus riders and the general public to shop within our Snohomish County service area to generate revenues for our agency through sales tax (9 cents of every $10 taxable purchase goes to Community Transit). In addition to preventing future service cuts, that business activity also helps local businesses, local cities and the local economy.

If you have read our draft six-year Transit Development Plan, you know that our forecasts project very modest economic growth over the next six years. With that, there are no plans to increase transit service. Unless the economy rebounds.

It would be hard to measure the success of this campaign since any increase in sales tax revenue can be attributed to many factors, but we know the premise is sound. Increased spending in our service district helps our bottom line.

Community Transit has put Buy Local for Transit decals on our all our buses, created a webpage for the program and we describe our efforts in boilerplate language at the end of all our press releases that we send to local media.

A few of our buses have a larger Buy Local for Transit wrap that prominently touts the program everywhere they travel.

We know this is a good message because it is positive, economically upbeat and is a call to action. The idea came from rider suggestions when we held our community meetings for the 2010 service cuts. Concerned riders asked what could they do to help our agency. As we considered what riders could do we came up with this solution: buy local, generate sales tax.

As the holiday season approaches and many of our riders and their families and friends are out shopping, the message is more important than ever. Buy local, support your community and support Community Transit.