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Friday, February 17, 2017

Communications strategy needed for Halifax Transit’s Moving Forward Together plan

City hall asks for help promoting the redesign, and educating riders about route changes.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:07 PM

click to enlarge Next stop: Corner of confusion and who-the-hell knows. - DANIELLE CAMERON
  • Danielle Cameron
  • Next stop: Corner of confusion and who-the-hell knows.

Think of it as a municipality-wide bus announcement system.

A request for proposals sent out Friday morning by Halifax asks for a communication and marketing strategy to help Halifax Transit inform the public of upcoming service changes caused by Moving Forward Together.

According to the RFP, the goal of the communication plan is to educate the public about route changes—and the reasons for those changes—as well as “promote positive change taking place across the network.”

All of that work will happen under a “single communications umbrella,” which HRM suggests could involve interactive elements and individualized marketing to try and help passengers understand how the bus system they travel is being modified.

So far the minor changes already implemented from MFT have been well received, says spokesperson Tiffany Chase, but communicating all the major upgrades planned for in the gargantuan transit document will be more challenging.

“When we have instances going forward when every route in the neighbourhood is changing, we want to increase our ability to help people understand how the changes affect them, and how their new trips would work,” writes Chase in an email.

Regional council approved the Moving Forward Together redesign in April, 2016. The expansive plan will alter or impact nearly every single bus route in the city over the next few years, though many of those changes will be minor adjustments to route maps and bus numbering.

While those tweaks aren't as drastic as original plans to blow up HRM's transit network and start over from scratch, Bedford–Wentworth councillor Tim Outhit says it’s still vital to communicate that info to the public.

“It is sort of nitty-gritty, down-in-the-weeds information that is very important to riders,” says Outhit. “I think it’s only fair to try and get the word out to people on something that impacts them.”

According to Chase, a “timely, effective” delivery of the communication strategy meant looking at external partners, instead of putting it all together in-house at city hall. The spokesperson says HRM's corporate communications team will still be “closely involved in developing and delivering” the final work, though.

The successful bidder’s marketing strategy will be used on expected route changes happening later this year—pending council approval. A six-month pilot project rerouting Porters Lake express 370 to Mic Mac Mall begins in May, but most of the MFT's adjustments will happen later in August and November of this year, and February, 2018.

Which route changes happen at which times is all still subject to change, says Chase, with some being tied to the completion of the Big Lift. The success of the outside communication strategy on route adjustments this year will be reviewed before HRM approves its use on the rest of MFT's four-year implementation.

A separate exterior consultant’s report due back at the end of the year will look at further refinements to Moving Forward Together’s corridor routes changes, and will incorporate the upcoming Integrated Mobility Plan, commuter rail and real-time ridership into the transit strategy.

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