by Bob Chernow
There is a famous Harvard Business Journal piece written in the 1950s that those who operate our bus system should read. It is Theodore Levitt’s “Marketing Myopia,” and it asks providers to define what they are selling. Is McDonald’s selling hamburgers, or are they selling the ability to buy a standard product at a specific price in a setting that you can bring your family? Is Shell Oil selling gasoline or a product to get you from one point to another?
The bus company does not get it. They have outmoded routes kept through the pressure of politicians. Their service on most routes is designed to load the most people on board without regard to how long a trip takes.
Currently, most who ride the bus do not have alternative means of transport.
In my opinion, riders want a system that they can count on that gets them from their homes to their schools or businesses at a fair price in a reasonable time.
Here are some suggestions that the bus company should consider.
1. Refigure routes to key in workers and students to their jobs. Coordinate with businesses, schools (MATC, MSOE, UWM, etc.) and organizations such as hospitals.
2. For morning rush hours, institute an express pick-up that rotates stops so that the bus is stopping at every sixth stop. Have the bus deliver passengers to the terminal downtown, and have feeder buses take them to their destinations.
3. Clearly post these schedules and keep with the schedule, give or take 5 minutes.
4. Reverse the process for the evening rush hours.
5. Be flexible for schools and hospitals that have afternoon hours.
6. Speed up buses per fare collection. The bus company is already doing this, but they can improve this speed.
7. Use lower cost transit for pick-ups during slow periods, looking at the service more as a taxi service.
8. Make bus rides cheaper.
9. Use a “freeway flyer” system to move people who could be employed but who have no transportation to locations in Ozaukee and Waukesha counties.
This is just a start. Some politicians see the bus system as needing more money, but the core problem is that it is not operated as a business that serves its customers.