Susan Sweat: Innovating to Address Rising Passenger Expectations


Passenger expectations of public transportation are rapidly evolving and changing. As a society, the experiences of Covid have led us all to re-evaluate what is important to us, and that is no different for our passengers. We have noted a marked increase in expectations people place on transit: first, for their increased health and safety during the pandemic, but now, for the convenience they expect, and the value placed on their time.

Many facets of people’s lives will not go back to “the way things were” pre-pandemic and we can clearly see increased passenger expectations for public transportation are no exception. As a result, we have placed additional focus on innovation; to find new solutions to address these rising demands.

For us, it’s been about developing solutions that anticipate the needs of our clients and passengers and then, delivering on them. All while keeping the passenger experience at the forefront.

It Always Starts with Safety First

After the initial phase of the pandemic, we needed to find new ways to regain passenger trust as people started to go back into work, medical appointments, visiting friends and more. We wanted to ensure that passengers felt confident that our buses were being cleaned and sanitized at regular intervals. And, that mask and social distancing guidelines were adhered to in accordance with national, state and local legislation. We ensured that our communication was clear, consistent and had four common areas of focus:

  1. How we were protecting interactions with passengers.
  2. How we were managing social distancing on vehicles.
  3. How we were ensuring safe and clean vehicles.
  4. How we were following strict protocols for employee health.

This was important information to communicate to passengers who were essential workers and remained on transit throughout the pandemic, and for other passengers as they slowly started to come back to public transit.

Not Business as Usual: Innovating to Address Rising Expectations

Providing passengers with a safe, reliable and positive experience remains a critical component of our promise to customers. However, as an industry, we also need to remain committed to developing innovative ways to help increase passenger satisfaction. Everyone is valuing their personal time with new eyes in this unforeseen pandemic era, and time spent waiting for and riding public transportation is now being viewed with a different lens. Passengers have higher expectations, and we are focused on delivering.

Communicating Real-time Arrival Information

As an industry, it’s been up to us to find ways to improve the rider experience. We have found a renewed interest in self-service arrival information for passengers, so they can better manage their daily travel. One way we have addressed this has been to offer passengers – particularly paratransit riders – real-time updates on the status of their vehicle trip arrival via an app. This technology also allows users to review reservations for current day or future trips. And, it provides family or caregivers with real-time pick up and drop off information for their passenger, including real-time vehicle location on a map to help them follow along and track the trip. Additionally, in locations where multiple passengers are being picked up or dropped off at the same time, such as a dialysis center or a day program for persons with disabilities, there is a specific app for the facilities to track all pick up, drop off, and other ride information from a consolidated view. This allows the center’s staff to better manage transportation logistics for the people they serve.

Soliciting and Incorporating Passenger Feedback for Continuous Improvement

Actively soliciting feedback and listening to what our passengers think of the service is the best way to learn and improve. We realized that monitoring and trending customer complaints and other feedback was an important listening mechanism, but sometimes we needed to learn more about what customers need and want from public transit. We wanted to ensure we were hearing all the feedback, and not just the items that may have elevated to a complaint. We wanted to hear general feedback and suggestions on what passengers wanted to see from their transit service. This is why we invested in passenger satisfaction surveys, regularly solicit information from rider advisory councils, and deployed our “Meet the Managers” program. Our “Meet the Managers” program is a methodical way for our managers to interact directly with passengers at visible times to thank them for riding and solicit feedback. Passengers who take the extra time to provide specific comments and suggestions truly feel listened to. At the same time, we receive lots of invaluable suggestions and ideas on what we can do to continuously improve!

Actively Managing Operational Data to Improve Passenger Service Reliability

There is undoubtedly a strong connection between ensuring we have the most current, relevant operational data to establish a consistent, real-time flow of information internally, and focusing on the reliability of service experienced by our passengers. Passengers expect their vehicle to be reliable, on-time and safe. That’s why we have prioritized the implementation and usage of a tool that aggregates key, real-time data for dispatchers from multiple tools and sources into a single, consolidated, and well-designed digital workspace. This “command console” dashboard not only allows for real-time updates on vehicle location and status, but also helps us be well-armed to identify, prioritize and solve potential issues quickly and effectively – ultimately improving performance and contributing to the passenger experience.

Our lives have forever changed over the last few years as a result of the pandemic. However, Transdev’s commitment to empowering people with the freedom every day with confidence through our safe, reliable and innovative solutions hasn’t changed. As our passengers look for more from their transit system in these evolving times, we are proud that our commitment to continuous improvement through innovation and technology continues to make a difference for our clients and our passengers, thereby creating a positive impact on the common good.


This article was originally published in Mass Transit Magazine on September, 2022. Click here to read the online version.


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