Through the use of social media the Verkehrsverbund (transport association) - in its function as planner and provider of public transport - disposes of more reliable information as to the actual mobility requirements of the transport users than in the past. The aim is the development of sustainable customer relations, where customers are no longer only providers of information but are actually involved in the planning process. Such a participative planning process is put to the test by using the example of pupil transportation in a selected area with the objective of determining the chances and limitations of public participation in this field.
In its function as planner and provider of public transport the transport association – in this case “VOR – Verkehrsverbund Ost-Region” – continuously focuses on adjusting its offering to the actual demand and at the same time on increasing attractiveness. Main issue is the fact that the data basement was not only poor for years but is actually even reduced in the scope of pupil transport: until today the applications of the pupils for free riding were basis of traffic planning, as they contained the desired traffic connection between their place to live and their schools. Nowadays there are highly attractive youth-tickets, which allow riding all lines of the transport association for the whole year – which leads to a decline of the applications.
Therefore the association misses its essential planning basis, which mostly means that planning is reduced to action after complaints. Goal of this project is to go against this trend with new approaches and for this reason to lift the quality of planning to a higher level. Using social media providing public transport shall be planned in best and flexible manner, focused on the real needs of the existing (and potential) customers! Last but not least is shall be tried if civic participation is useful in context of public transport and where are the limitations.
In Phase I the VOR-Rider Community shall be established for about 200 selected pupils, which need to be involved and informed. A Facebook fan page “VOR-Rider” will be set as major point of contact for information and dialog regarding the project. Using a weekly comicstory common problems, experiences and opportunities will be set to front. User will have the chance to affect the plot by involving theirselves.
In Phase II a planning dialog with the pupils will be set online. Using a specific App they can inform about their future class or school even before summer holidays. This is the way the transport association can gather important details for planning. After the holidays the dialog is continued and as soon as the class-schedules are online or is changed the kids can post their wishes or needs; additionally they can give information about quality of their public transport, which again is basis for attempts to raise the planning-level.
Phase III is focused on monitoring customer satisfaction. Using an incentive schema the pupils are motivated to keep posting special experiances, troubles and even to record their tracks! These data can be forwarded to the complaint management office; the track records can be used to analyse traffic patterns and to prove, if it is reasonable to use crowd-sourcing for fine-tuning of the public transport offering.
An intense evaluation of the project is accompanying these phases – it needs to be proved if the findings can be transmitted to all pupils of the transport-associations´ region and even on other targets like commuters or holiday traffic.