Yorkshire transport providers collaborate on new passenger information portal
At Trapeze we like to highlight our customers’ successes, so we were delighted when South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) Service Information Manager, Richard Mason, agreed to tell us about the new journey planner that is improving delivery of public transport information to the people of Yorkshire.
The journey planner project was co-funded by a Yorkshire Partnership, made up of transport providers from South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, York, Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire, who work together to develop and deliver projects that maximise the benefit to their local communities.
As Richard explains, the new journey planner is a drastic step change away from its predecessor which was first launched across the Yorkshire Partnership in 2002, and updated by single partners from 2006 onwards: “We’ve had an online journey planner for a number of years now, and while there have been enhancements in this time, its development was limited,” Richard says. “We didn’t just want to evolve what we already had – we felt it was time for a real step change, which is why we decided to move to Trapeze’s NOVUS platform.”
Richard says a shift towards digital technology was central to this decision: “Our key customer channels have changed over the years and we have seen an increase in customers using our websites to plan journeys, together with reducing demand for printed materials.”
Although the demand for printed timetables in Yorkshire has reduced, Richard says customers who prefer printed timetables are still catered for with the new journey planner: “As part of the new journey planner, we’re able to offer our customers access to specifically designed printer-friendly timetables. We’ve included these timetables as, although the journey planner is essentially a personalised timetable, we know that some customers still prefer to have hard copies.”
Incorporating printer-friendly timetables in to the new journey planner was key for SYPTE in particular, who stopped producing printed timetables in 2015 as a direct result of reductions to South Yorkshire’s public transport budget. This change was not undertaken lightly; an impact assessment and market research were undertaken, which discovered that customers had alternative ways of finding information.
The move not only tied in with SYPTE’s drive to be more efficient, there was another benefit: it enabled greater focus on improved digital forms of information.
Passengers on the move
Improving digital information meant greater focus on passengers on the move. At Trapeze we are increasingly seeing passenger information take a ‘mobile first’ approach, and Yorkshire is no different: “A large proportion of visitors to the Yorkshire journey planners are using mobile devices, in fact over half of visitors to SYPTE’s customer facing website, Travel South Yorkshire, are using mobile devices,” says Richard.
It was therefore essential to choose a responsive website design (RWD) platform for the journey planner: “Because it's responsive, the experience is optimised for all users. Previously, some members of the Yorkshire Partnership had separate mobile and desktop sites, which meant that whenever we made a change to the journey planner each site needed updating,” says Richard.
“With a responsive site, we make one change which is seen by all visitors across Yorkshire. It’s not only better for users, but it will also deliver cost savings over the longer term.”
Another benefit of the new platform was the ability to deliver personalised information for users: “We can now tailor information so people can choose preferences such as willingness to change, whether they want the fastest route, walking speed and accessibility choices; we then present journeys that meet their requirements,” Richard explains. Users can also save and rename favourite journeys and preferences to their browser for future use, thereby saving time and effort.
Mapping is another important factor in delivery of information to passengers on the move. With the older journey planner starting to look dated, Richard, and the rest of the Yorkshire partnership, was keen to move to Google maps to take advantage of functionality such as integrated walking instructions. The new site also allows passengers to choose to plan journeys by using a location on the map (as well as by typing an address).
Of course, with a project delivered to multiple organisations, consistency of information is critical. “Previously some organisations within the Yorkshire partnership had their own implementations,” says Richard. “Now we all have our own information portals, each encased in our own branding, but with a consistent flow of information across all sites.”
“It means there is consistency of data, but also consistencies of look and feel, so all visitors across Yorkshire receive the same high quality experience.”
At the same time, Richard also reviewed how journey planning information could be delivered through Travel South Yorkshire’s homepage: “Rather than take people away from the homepage, we implemented a journey planning widget within the page,” he explains.
“This maximises the audience because the homepage is the most visited page, and passengers don’t have to navigate away to do a journey plan; they just enter the details and hit ‘go’. The results they see are exactly the same as if they had visited the actual journey planner page.”
A platform to build
As exciting as the new journey planner is, perhaps even more so is what it means for the future. “We now have a solid platform on which to build. All the regions are on same starting page, so now we can look at how we invest, build and work smarter together,” says Richard.
“We want to start offering passengers more choice, integrating tools that are currently isolated: things like disruption information, real-time and fares. We want to bring these tools together to provide a one-stop shop for all Yorkshire passengers,” Richard concludes.
It sounds thrilling. We look forward to the next development.