Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rebranding OC Transpo

Recent history has been hard on the OC Transpo brand, and it's not going to be easy for the transit utility to shake the negative associations that sometimes can follow the mention of its name. With that in mind, the city issued a Request for Qualifications to the public for consultants with ideas on how to "revitalize" the OC Transpo brand, as reported on 580 CFRA.

The process won't be an easy one, and really, revitalizing the brand starts and ends with improving the service. But even when (if?) service is improved significantly, the negative reputation built up will likely follow OC Transpo for a generation or more. So the question is: How do you counter that?

It's unlikely there will be a change to the name OC Transpo or the 'look and feel' of the brand. Too much investment has already gone into it, and the custom paint jobs on all the buses would be too much to change in the short-term.

The answer might just lie in the incoming LRT 'spine' to the transit system. It's obviously a ways off, but distancing the LRT system from the flawed brand of the OC Transpo bus system might be the best way to move forward with a revitalized transit brand for the city. Once the train--whether it's branded as an O-Train, or the DOTT Line, or the Capital Train, or some colourful name reminiscent of other cities' systems is hardly relevant; getting a new brand to build up with positive momentum would be all that is needed for the process. After that's taken care of, the decision of whether to expanding that brand into the bus system or completely severing the two from one another in terms of their brand can be made.


gawp said...

their reputation is deservedly poor and no amount of spending on "branding" is going to change that without quality improvement first.

How about using that money to improve service and transparency about the real quality of service i.e. live tracking of buses visible to anyone.

Then if they hit some publicly stated and externally verified targets then they can try to rebrand based on that improvement

"OC Transpo; not quite so unreliable anymore"

Anonymous said...

It's more that people in Ottawa are whiny and entitled. Many have completely unrealistic expectations of transit.

We actually have a pretty good transit system on the whole. Above average for North-America, anyway.

Modal split is significantly higher than other cities of the same size in North-America, ridership is climbing at a healthy rate, the fleet is now very new, the network speed is above average, coverage is extensive. Service hours and frequency are average to above average for a city this size. According to outsiders, drivers are more courteous than elsewhere. Our fleet is nearly 100% accessible. Fares are in the bottom half in Canada (when you take all fare media into account).

The main problems are the "express bus" model of service delivery which is expensive, inefficient and unreliable, quality control with the schedules and a refusal to adopt a non-confrontational relationship with front-line workers.

Management hasn't gotten the message to only promise what can be realistically delivered, ie. don't promise a bus will be there if it won't be on a regular basis, reasonable running time for routes, not promising that buses will be right on time at each and every stop. Passengers should only be provided with times at certain points on the route and these time points should be strictly enforced with drivers, at least until some type of real time system is set up.

People from outside Ottawa are usually quite impressed with our transit system, it just needs some tweaking.

People will always complain about transit no matter the branding. There is no possible way pleasing all the people all the time, unless, of course, you can provide hover buses that don't pick up any slow moving or undesirable passengers, that stop right in front of everyone's house on demand and go directly to where they want to go without stopping.