'Connect the Dots' promotional banner

Recently, Metro began a destination marketing scheme called ‘Connect the Dots’ specific to Route 245 on the Eastside.  The scheme emphasizes access and corridor destinations over generic coverage.  In addition to marketing and promotion, Metro also plans for various other improvements, ranging from bus stop branding to new bike rack installation.  From Metro spokesperson, Rochelle Ogershok:

The promotional campaign is designed to increase awareness and trial of the Route 245.   The campaign includes public events at key areas served by the 245, employer outreach, and residential mailings.

This is not really a new type of marketing effort for Metro.  We have done several route specific promotions in the past.  We target routes that have extra capacity — either on the buses and/or at the park and ride lots and focus our efforts on ways to get more people on the bus.  Those can be new people that have never ridden, or existing riders who we would like to ride more.

According to Ogershok, the promotional campaign is funded by grants specific to the 245 and will last into early 2011.  You can take a look at the ‘Connect the Dots’ brochure here (PDF).  Some general thoughts below the jump.

While there are no plans for actual service changes to the 245, it’s refreshing to see how Metro is improving its map-based marketing.  We’ve opined in the past about Metro’s rather confusing maps.  Outside of actual service and operations, branding and marketing are extraordinarily useful and cost-effective measures to increasing ridership and transit attractiveness.   Visually, the map is a tremendous improvement over its predecessors (compare to traditional 245 map).

Figure-ground/Contrast: The use of colors is a refreshing improvement over Metro’s traditional black/white/red scheme.  Contrast is generally an excellent measure in bringing out the important elements (i.e., symbolizing the route as a thick solid red against a lighter more opaque background).

Symbolization: The use of various symbols is important so map-readers don’t get confused over what’s what.  There’s ample contrast between the symbol shapes, sizes, and hues.  For example, while all points are symbolized as circles with heavy outlines, the map distinguishes between major neighborhood stops along the line (larger with dark green outline) and other area destinations off the line (smaller with gray outline).

Visual simplicity: Unlike Metro’s conventional route maps, which are a heap of dashes, numbers, and arrows, the 245 map simplifies the actual route path to a solid line.  By establishing a geographic base layer map of Bellevue in the background, riders have a much better context of where they might be going.   Furthermore, this eliminates the necessity to clutter street numbers along the line.

Destination marketing: While it’s obvious Metro can’t replicate this for every route map, the listing of major destinations off to the side of the map helps avoid cluttering while providing information that might be useful to 245 riders.

If Metro is unable to market every bus route in the same manner, at least upgrading the maps to this kind of quality would be a tremendous improvement.  And of course, a frequent network map is always on our wish list as well.

25 Replies to “Metro Begins Route-Specific Marketing for 245”

  1. Hmmm… Looking at the brochure

    It lists Redmond as a destination, including Redmond City Hall, Redmond Transit Center, and Redmond Central Business District…. except the 245 doesn’t go to any of these destinations

    Overlake is a destination, but under Crossroads it lists a connection for the “Overlake Medical District” (haven’t heard that name before) which of course isn’t in Overlake at all. It doesn’t tell you which connecting bus to use to get there, and for Crossroads it doesn’t show route 253 as a connection at all (route 253 is a 7-day all-day route which goes to the “Overlake Medical District”), but it does show the 229 and 272, which are 5-day peak-only routes.

    It doesn’t give the hours or frequency of service.

    I would rate this flyer a C-. It would more useful to improve the maps in the schedule brochure and provide that instead.

    1. I would grade the brochure a bit higher. I think it could be improved by adding a table of additional major destinations you can get to with a transfer to an all-day route. E.g., for Auburn/Kent transfer to 566 at Overlake TC; for Issaquah, transfer to 554 at Eastgate freeway station; for Downtown Seattle, transfer to 554 at Eastgate or 545 at Overlake TC or 255 at Kirkland TC.

      1. I agree about this. The flyer should give more information about connections. Saying that you can connect to the 217 is completely useless for a mid-day rider.

    2. There are a few problems in the brochure itself, but the map is a step up from stuff we’ve previously seen from Metro. But it does have frequency and service information under ‘Convenient’ and ‘There For You.’ I agree some of the destination literature is off. The biggest mistake is naming the hospital district ‘Overlake’ after the medical center.

  2. I actually don’t find the traditional map for this route all that bad. In my opinion the traditional map is better then the connect the dots map because you can actually tell where it goes. The connecting the dots map is great for getting a general idea for where it goes but beyond that its really not all that useful. Its maps like this that metro actually needs to be improving.

    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cftemplates/show_map.cfm?BUS_ROUTE=106&DAY_NAV=WSU

    1. The 106 map fails because it combines multiple routes, uses limited colors, and has too many overlapping symbols. For its map stock, Metro could learn something from CT.

      1. CT’s maps deal with combining multiple routes by putting them in different colors, something that, as was pointed out to me during the Unclear Metro Maps series, Metro can’t do because they put out too many timetables (as opposed to CT’s single book) and the cost of printing skyrockets with more than one true color. That limits a LOT of the improvements they can make, although the 106 map could take a cue from the map in the 245 brochure when it comes to marking multiple routes on the same map.

        (And the biggest problem with the 106 map is that it doesn’t make clear that the 102 follows the same route as the 101.)

  3. Wow, an Eastside crosstown route with 15-minute frequency weekdays and 30 minutes evenings/weekends. And it’s right where (on the N-S portion) I recommended a streetcar. And you can transfer at Overlake to Redmond with the same frequency.

    The big circles on the map might have a psychological effect beyond just identifying the locations. In Seattle, a significant percentage of riders are traveling between “big circle” locations, and a few routes are designed for them (41, 71/72/73 express, 101), which draw at least half the ridership on the corridor (compared to the 66, 43/49/70, 106). People look for these point-to-point routes and take them. The Eastside has never had this. But the map shows that you “can” go between these points by frequent bus (or at least what Metro considers frequent), which will plant the possibility in people’s mind. (“I don’t need it now but maybe someday I will.”) That could help encourage the Eastside to become more of a transit-riding population, and to value living near bus stops rather than having the largest out-of-the-way house.

  4. The ’90s called. They want their color scheme and un-antialiased fonts back. Personally I think Metro did a pretty terrible job on this: the content and idea is good, but the design is awful.

    1. The design still bests the old map– but I’d agree it’s not the best. At least it’s a step in the right direction. Imagine if it were the same map content but on the traditional design scheme.

  5. Color me confused. Route 255 isn’t a new route, is it? If the route is underperforming, why send good money (on route marketing) after arguably bad (on the underperfoming route itself). How’s about cutting back frequency or span of hours and then reprogramming the saved hours to another route that’s a proven workhorse but overcrowded?

    1. Because that would leave all of east Bellevue without a good north-south route. If you want to build up ridership, you have to provide the service, and it may take years as people decide one by one to take the bus. This is in the best route location for eastern Bellevue; it covers the college, three shopping centers (Factoria, Crossroads, Overlake), the highest-density/lowest-rent apartment district on the Eastside (Crossroads), and the only other neighborhood center in the area (Lake Hills).

      Perhaps the Overlake-Kirkland section could be modified; I could see taking service hours from there to bolster the 230, which is the most natural route from Bellevue to Kirkland. After all, it goes “almost” to Redmond but not quite, and NE 70th Street is pretty low density.

      1. Well, just for sake of clarity, I certainly didn’t mean to suggest leaving “all of east Bellevue without a good north-south route.” I didn’t and don’t propose eliminating the route.

        If the route has existed for a long time (it has) and has been underperforming at current headways and span of hours (sounds like it has), I’m suggesting reducing headways and/or reducing span of hours. This isn’t a science experiment, it’s a practical decision about how to program scarce – and ever scarcer – resources. There are plenty of transit markets that today are not only screaming for more service but would actually benefit from programming of additional service.

      2. My point is that Route 255 is already not a “good” route if “good” means it has a appropriate balance between (a) allocated system resources and (b) long-term, demonstrated ridership demand.

        Your definition of “good” is tautological. You say it’s a good route so therefore the route’s headways and/or span of service shouldn’t be cut. Why? Because it’s a good route.

      3. Ridership increases as the frequency increases and the service day expands, because more people are willing to go to the bus stop rather than (A) driving, (B) not making the trip, (C) going at another time. 15 minutes is the minimum optimal frequency where people don’t worry, “What if I have to wait a long time? What if I miss the bus? What if the bus breaks down and I have to wait till the next one? Gosh, it’s raining outside.” The Eastside needs a few strategic corridors with frequent service. NE 8th, Bellevue Way, and 148th/156th seem like the most natural locations. No, I don’t expect 15-minute service full-time anytime soon; the Eastside hasn’t even reached universal half-hour service yet. But to build ridership over time, you need to keep the service consistent, not go adding or cutting because the ridership isn’t there yet. The issue is whether it’s a strategic corridor: it is. The ridership will build only if the buses are there first: then the presence of the bus will affect where people choose to live. (Those who want to ride will live near the route, but if you then reduce the service, it demoralizes them.)

      4. If a relatively inexpensive marketing campaign can increase awareness of the route, increase ridership and improve productivity, I’d say it’s money well spent. It’s probably cheaper overall than messing with the schedule.

        On the other hand, if it’s a target for cuts anyway because of budget shortfalls…

  6. Its an improvment, but only because the bar is set so unbelievably low.

    At a glance, I like to know:
    1. Where does it go (check)
    2. How fast does it go (no check – give me some indication of stop spacing)
    3. When does it go (half a check. they buried this info on the back flap. put it on the cover!)
    4. How frequently does it go (half a check. again, buried on the back flap).
    And maybe, if youve accomplished that
    5. What routes does it connect to that are important to me? (half a check. most connections listed are useless).

    If you think #5 is hard, its not. Highlight connections to other core, frequent service. 221 at the Overlake TC is a good example – it doesnt run every 15 (but very few eastside routes do), but it is a core all day route with 1/2 hour frequency. The 225, 229, 244, 247 and 256 are all peak only routes that are completely useless connections. Listing them gets in the way of higligihting connections that could actually serve a purpose and promote an understanding of the geography of your local, reliable transit netowrk. By highligthing these useless peak routes, you’ve obscured useful all-day connections like the 221, 545, 566, 249, etcetera.

    Speaking of getting in the way of useful information, what is with the paragraph headings? They force the usful information into the body of the text. The “There for you!” heading makes me read the paragraph to figure out what they heck they are talking about. The heading should be:
    “Runs 6AM to Midnight!”
    And then mention the slightly later weekend start times in the body of the paragraph.

    1. “How fast does it go” could be achieved with a mini-timetable, or stick an actual timetable inside the brochure that can be used to save space in the brochure itself (the consensus seems to be that the timetable map is one of Metro’s better ones).

  7. Several years ago, I tried to get Metro to be destination-oriented by having stops for its #358 at N. 50th (for the Woodland Park Zoo), to divert to N. 5th on weekends (for the Seattle Center) and to consider extending to the stadiums on game days. They rejected the idea of destination-orientation, only offering that folks could get to the zoo from N. 45th, to which I replied something like yes, if they walk over to Greenwood, then either walk the 5+ blocks to the zoo entrance or hope to get lucky and catch the #5 going there (it’s a tight transfer). Not much solace even for the abled-bodied…those with walking difficulties or wheelchairs are out of luck.

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