HSR re-envisions its services with real-time passenger information

Hamilton Street Railway (HSR), public transit provider for Hamilton, Ontario, since 1874, launched their new HSRnow mobile app in early September. The mobile app is the latest product in a suite of trip planning tools for HSR customers, enabling access to real-time information using the channel of their choice.

HSR’s fleet includes 267 buses and is one of the greenest fleets in Canada, providing urban and suburban service to Hamilton’s 540,000 residents. The HSRnow initiative, conceived by the relatively new Customer Experience and Innovation team at HSR, represents a renewed focus on providing the best customer experience possible to Hamilton riders. Ali Sabourin, manager of Customer Experience and Innovation at HSR, said that the agency wants to re-envision itself and ultimately grow ridership as part of a 10-Year Local Transit Strategy.

“Our goal is to make transit the first choice in transportation for the residents of Hamilton,” Sabourin said. 

Developing and launching HSRnow

HSR traditionally provided real-time information by phone using an Interactive Voice Response system, through an online trip planner, and at terminal wayside signs. With City Council’s investment in the 10-Year Local Transit Strategy, and recent investments from upper levels of government through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, HSR was able to introduce more customer-facing information channels –  including a new and improved online trip planner, SMS ‘next bus’ text service, the new HSRnow mobile app, as well as detour and disruption notices on social media. 

This complete suite of real-time trip planning tools is branded HSRnow.

“We want to provide our customers with a seamless and consistent experience, no matter what channel they use to get their information,” Sabourin said. “That’s why it’s important for us to integrate these solutions under a single banner and with a common experience, so that our customers know they can expect high quality, real-time information regardless of their preferred channel.”

HSR worked with longstanding technology partner Trapeze Group on the full suite of HSRnow trip planning products.

Sabourin said the HSR team encourages a customer-centric design approach, and thus worked closely and collaboratively with Trapeze to help engage Hamilton riders in the design process of the mobile app.

“We’re excited to learn what Trapeze has in store next, as they continue to develop and enhance their trip planning products for our customers,” she said.

“HSR’s dedication and focus to delivering delightful, customer-centric experiences is not only evident, but absolutely infectious,” added Gary Lo, Product Director – Traveler Experience at Trapeze Group. “We are thrilled to be a partner in their journey to re-envision the agency.”

To promote the app, in addition to sharing a release with its media partners, HSR’s focus has been on digital communications channels, recognizing that potential app users are digitally engaged.  Now that the suite of HSRnow trip planning tools is complete with the app, HSR plans to promote the entire suite of HSRnow real-time trip planning tools as part of a comprehensive marketing effort in 2021, including at stop-level and onboard buses.

Critical real-time information

HSR was able to maintain its service during the COVID-19 crisis, providing essential trips to Hamilton’s essential workers and residents. In Hamilton, autumn was a pivotal point for COVID-19 recovery as schools reopened and more people returned to work.  The app’s launch was a key part of HSR’s strategy to welcome back more customers as part of its seasonal fall schedule.

“Throughout our response to COVID-19, HSR made significant shifts in the way we provide our service, including changes to our traditional schedules,” Sabourin said. “Getting high quality, real-time information into the hands of our customers is especially important during this time. In addition, we are looking for ways to communicate directly to our customers about service changes as we continue to reopen and respond to the evolving conditions of the pandemic.”

Enhancing the rider experience

During a comprehensive survey of thousands of customers as part of the (Re)envision the HSR initiative, HSR learned that access to real-time information is crucial to increasing customer satisfaction with transit.

The response to the launch has been positively received and Sabourin said the innovation team is already hearing from customers about additional features they would like to see in the app. HSR will closely monitor the mobile app’s adoption in the coming months as promotional activities ramp up. Sabourin said the team looks forward to further enhancing the HSRnow customer experience, as well as collaborating with Trapeze.

“We’re committed to providing high quality, real-time information to our customers across many channels,” Sabourin said. “That commitment is part of building trust and confidence with our customers, so that they continue to ride with us now and into the future. We expect that this commitment will ultimately enable us to retain existing customers and to get people out of their cars and onto our service.”