A Missed Opportunity for City of Melbourne?

This week I read an intriguing case study on Société de Transport de Montreal  which outlined how Montreal’s public transport operator used a combination of convenience, personalised deals and fun to increase customer satisfaction and numbers on their buses and trains.

Their app uses GPS, user entered preferences and real-time travel information from transit cards to better understand the habits of their customers. This information should not be difficult for a functional public transport provider to attain; however, it is how they used this information that enabled them to go beyond simply updating them on service disruptions – which is primarily a negative communication.

Naturally, I turned to the Public Transport Victoria app for a comparison and, coming from a tourism background myself, I wondered if perhaps the World’s Most Liveable City is missing a golden opportunity to engage with visitors (and locals) via one of their most heavily utilised institutions. Surely a city as renowned for their creativity, spontaneity and sense of fun as Melbourne would not miss such a chance to create a very special visitor experience that would undoubtedly be shared with friends and family back home?

A quick peruse of the PTV app revealed an app that is functional, clear, and very focused on communicating disruptions… boring! Now, we all know that Metro has a hard time just running their core business, but perhaps a little creativity and thinking outside of the square would enable them to approach public transport from the perspective of the customer, rather than the operator, and shed a little light on this space. Perhaps Metro could place a little less emphasis on fare evasion and the risk of falling off the platform, and more energy could be put into communicating the benefits of public transport for a modern city? Perhaps this new approach to business could reward public transport users for doing their bit to relieve the pressure on Melbourne’s roads and, more importantly, the environment?

The PTV app is an opportunity for Melbourne’s train, tram and bus operators to positively engage with consumers and build a relationship with them that is less of an us-versus-them mentality, and more of a team approach to efficiently moving large numbers of commuters around the network. However, if we think beyond public transport the PTV app presents an opportunity for Visit Victoria or City of Melbourne to engage with visitors to the city, to create a memorable and special visitor  experience that will set our city apart from other large global capitals.

Over 200,000 people use public transport in Melbourne every day, surely these are 200,000 potential brand ambassadors for Melbourne? Imagine if your Myki was linked to the PTV app, and it was an app in which you could opt-in for updates and deals, based on your personal interests. Imagine if, when you receive a message to say that your train has been delayed on a drizzly Melbourne eve, you also received a message suggesting the most suitable alternative route home? Or even better, a message encouraging you to make lemonade from your lemons – why not visit one of several cosy wine bars, late night shops or cheap eateries around the corner? Or make a night of it and check out the Melbourne International Film Festival or any one of the endless number of events that are taking place in the CBD on any given day? Because, at the end of the day, what is the point of living in the World’s Most Liveable City if you’re merely existing?

6 thoughts on “A Missed Opportunity for City of Melbourne?

  1. Very interesting considering the massive success of Dumb Ways to Die. They obviously came up with some great creative for that campaign based around safety so you would have thought they could have taken a similar approach to highlighting the benefits of using Metro and creating a positive brand community. As you point out, with over 200,000 people using public transport in Melbourne everyday you wouldn’t need to convert a lot of them into brand ambassadors to create an impact.


    1. Good point Keith, maybe Dumb Ways to Die was through a particularly creative agency. I think the missed opportunity here is one of not looking beyond your own industry when forming partnerships – ie tourism organisations may form partnerships with other tourism organisations, operators or events venues, however the city’s public transport operator presents an excellent opportunity to create brand ambassadors from both visitors and locals. Perhaps Metro are not open to partnerships or do not see the value in it from their perspective.


  2. Hello Kelly,
    It was an interesting read which made me really think about how much market Melbourne is losing by not following its people on PTV. Considering my situation I am always playing Pokemon Go while in train and trams or searching for restaurants or places to visit in Melbourne. As this city is ranked most liveable city 6th time I really think tourists want to visit it and are still visiting. I was wondering even an interactive experience in Metro would be really cool like flipping through a pad (like one in McDonald) while travelling. However, sometimes trains are jam packed so ofcourse that would be an issue. The idea of your night stuff or recommendations of restaurants and train delays is really good as when my train is delayed I search for something to eat or coffee as I am big foodie. However when I am rushing for work I am annoyed when train gets delayed and its not so entertaining therefore creative written message from PTV will make no sense to me and leave me more frustrated. Moreover sometimes I am rushing for train at night so if I open PTV app and they will tell me what I can do I will get annoyed. However PTV can effectively use their train stations as there is a huge untapped market over there. Overall you just made me think as a marketer that how can I use this segment. HAHA! Thanks


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog Alina, you make a good point that posts about bars or restaurants would be irritating during the rush of the morning compute! However, I’m the same, if my train is delayed I’m instantly on my phone trying to find somewhere warm to have a drink / bite to eat. It would need to be structured in a way that users could click through either to the shortest alternative route or options for entertainment if they are planning to wait.


  3. Great discussion comparing Montreal’s public transport engagement with the current PTV service. I appreciate that you mentioned PTV’s struggle with their core business, and I tend to agree with Alina that the offers and ‘distractions’ could start to create frustration when the service delays are too frequent. There needs to be that mix of practicality and adding value to the core business, as well as the fun alternatives and suggestions for food/drinks when your train is going to be delayed an hour.


    1. Hi Teagan,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog, one aspect I liked about the Montreal case study was the suggested alternative route. PTV users whose train has been delayed may have two icons to click – one for best alternative route which could direct them to buses, trams, walking routes that could help them get home quicker, the other icon for bars, cafes, shopping or events options if they need to kill some time. This would be especially useful for vLine users, because when you miss a train it is usually an hour’s wait for the next one and the first thing I do is look to my phone to find somewhere to kill time.


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