on June 16, 2022 Customer Loyalty Loyalty Strategy Transit

How Transit Authorities Can Build Public Transit Ridership

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Change can be a good thing. While no one anticipated the massive changes that would happen to the transit agency going into 2020, transit authorities across the country and globe rose to the challenge and took the chance to implement beneficial changes to their process and their services. As ridership is slowly but steadily returning to normal levels, these changes present  opportunities for transit authorities to continue building ridership in new ways; not just winning back former riders, but acquiring new riders as well. Here are some ideas for how agencies can build public transit ridership moving forward.

Incorporate Technology That Makes It Easier Than Ever For Riders To Use Public Transit

A good portion of what influences customer behavior comes down to convenience. Convenience is a major driver, which is why the use of delivery apps, pick-up options like BOPIS, and subscription services have skyrocketed. Similarly, making public transit more convenient is what can draw more people into its use. According to a 2018 research report from Masabi, convenience can trump price, time, and necessity for individuals when making the decisions to ride public transit or not. 

Implementing mobile apps and new technology can help make trip planning and riding public transit easier and more convenient for new and existing riders. They can also make various nuances of public transit easier to handle as well, such as:

  • Only having to input payment information once;
  • Being able to buy and store tickets or rides in advance;
  • Automatically add on fare discounts or special pricing to your account;
  • Purchase tickets for additional passengers;

...and more. Having dedicated sites or mobile apps is also beneficial for customers who might not be as familiar with public transit procedures, train/bus routes, ticketing options, etc. This gives them a resource center they can use to find the information they need and better plan their trips. 

Explore & Market To New Ridership Segments

One of the major losses for transit companies during COVID-19 was the daily 9-to-5 commuters. While a good portion of transit ridership are still work-day commuters such as essential workers, hybrid work and flex work options are becoming the norm. Instead of merely trying to win back daily commuters, transit authorities should explore the motivations and buying factors of different types of rider groups to grow ridership among other customer segments. These can include groups like:

  • Students - partnering with colleges or trade schools to offer special rates or incentives for students. Using public transit in college can carry on into later work life.  
  • Families - Incentivizing families to use public transit for family outings or events by offering special rates or promotional days, such as Metrolink’s Kids Ride Free weekends
  • Event attendees or tourists - With more public events such as sports, concerts, conferences, and international competitions (like the Olympics) resuming their normal operations, public transit has a major opportunity to establish itself as an attractive option for customers attending these events. As mentioned earlier, convenience is a big motivator for people who choose public transit. Making it as easy as possible for event attendees or out-of-town visitors to access and use public transit services can be a boost in ridership.

Promote The Monetary Benefits Of Using Transit

Public transit can be a more economical and sustainable way to travel, and providing additional monetary value through a loyalty or rewards program can amplify the economic benefits. Loyalty and reward programs have a positive influence on attracting and retaining customers, and for driving valuable customer actions and behaviors. Transit loyalty or reward programs offer additional incentivizes for riders to utilize public transit due to the value they receive in return, such as:

  • Discounted fares or special ticket bundles for loyalty members 
  • Earning points that can be redeemed for physical or digital items, or rewards like free rides 
  • Partnership Programs - partner programs are when transit agencies work alongside local businesses at transit stops, along routes, or in the wider city area to provide loyalty program members with special offers, deals, or rewards. Partner programs have two key benefits: they help boost economic growth on a local level and they provide riders with additional monetary value for using public transit. 

Ensure Fare Pricing And Pass Options Are Easy To Understand

More transit authorities are experimenting with different payment schemes to bring back riders and attract new ones. Fare structures like going fare-free on specific days or for specific rider segments (like children), implementing off-peak pricing, and fare-capping are attractive options to riders because they offer more flexibility and accessibility. 

Fare capping especially is beneficial because it allows passengers to get free rides after they meet the fare equivalent of a daily, weekly or monthly pass. This means riders who have to or prefer to pay for single-ride tickets get the same benefits as riders who buy passes or ride cards in advance. It saves riders from having to determine upfront which type of ticket or pass is the best option for their needs, with the added benefit that they won’t have to worry about paying more than they should. 

Promoting and marketing accessible fare options and new rates can help bring back riders who are looking for that level of flexibility in their travel planning. 


If you're a transit agency wanting to boost your ridership levels and grow rider loyalty, we can help! Get in touch with us today to learn more about our strategic loyalty solutions.