BC Transit: transforming organizations from the website out

A 3 minute read written by Paul January 12, 2015

An illustration of a mobile phone with a BC Transit icon in the centre.

When you think of complex transit systems, you might think of New York, London, or Tokyo. But if you’re in the transit business, you’ll probably also think of BC Transit.

British Columbia is home to a transit system that serves more than 1.5 million kilometres of land, approximately 130 municipal regions, and over 60 unique transit systems. Few other transit systems in North America manage this level of complexity.

What really makes BC Transit unique is the diversity of the transit systems that are all managed from one central operations centre. So when the provincial government gave BC Transit a new mandate to double ridership in ten years, the organization had to develop a brand new strategy to reach their challenging new objective. The core of their strategy was to transform into a web-first organization.

Just what does web-first mean anyway?

Consider your website as a (if not the) must-have tool to deliver your organization’s information, services, and products to the public. Being web-first means knowing that your customers will come to you online first. They want to complete their entire task online.

And that’s where we come in. We help you incorporate digital thinking, capabilities, and strategies to produce the best possible web experience not only for your customers, but your internal staff as well.

Our clients aren’t just trying to build a website. They’re trying to improve service, expand capacity, reduce costs, and embrace efficiency. The web doesn’t fix every business problem, but we believe that being web-first is central to the success of any organization that delivers public services.

While we are a web design and development shop, we’re also a team that collaborates with customers over time to help them to transform into web-first organizations. BC Transit’s objective is our mission statement, so this challenge was made for us.

Transforming organizations from the website out

For a bold web project to be transformative, it has to be more than buying a platform, adopting a new design, or opening up data. Transformation requires organizational change and adopting a model of continuous improvement. A Yellow Pencil project involves governance, audience analysis, systems engineering, user experience design, infrastructure and capacity improvement, and a cultural shift towards measurement and learning. These practices are all a part of the BC Transit Online Communications Project, and we’re proud to be launching the first step in their transformation: BCTransit.com.

The new BCTransit.com

Behind this experience are some powerful innovations that we’ve developed in collaboration with BC Transit:

  • A Canadian-cloud hosted web platform, fully managed by our team 24/7/365 that meets the conditions of BC’s rigorous privacy legislation.
  • A full stack deployment of industry leading Oracle WebCenter Suite running on Oracle hardware, operating system, and database, ready to integrate with BC Transit’s other Oracle software investments.
  • A mobile-first, responsive web experience with adaptive images and javascript, to ensure optimal performance on any computer or device, and in any urban or rural region of BC.
  • A system that has passed rigorous platform, usability, and accessibility testing to ensure that all content is available to the widest possible audience.
  • A robust data management layer that enables BC Transit to quickly upload batches of system data from their internal systems, test it for validity, and then instantly update the website.
  • A content strategy approach focused on empowering content authors, with an easy to use, browser-based management interface that enables content sharing between regions, real-time cross-platform preview, workflow, and one-click adaptive image management.

Communication is key to becoming a web-first organization, so we’ve developed a multi-year intranet and extranet strategy to improve how BC Transit works with their 130+ municipal partners across the province, as well as their distributed workforce. The first version of Hub, their new internal collaboration platform, will launch shortly after BCTransit.com.

This is just the beginning

Most importantly (to us), BC Transit has committed to a multi-year roadmap for improving their online communications. So, we’re going to immediately start expanding the platform to enable powerful new features. We’re already starting phase two of the project, which will deliver regular improvements to the BCTransit.com and Hub communication systems for riders, partners, operators, and staff. We believe that BC Transit’s web experience will soon become the recognized standard for online transit service delivery.

We talk about enterprise web content a lot here at Yellow Pencil. We define an enterprise as “a bold endeavour undertaken with an entrepreneurial spirit”, and we can’t think of a project that’s been bolder in its objectives. We’ve learned more than we knew there was to learn about transit and way-finding, and we’d love to share that knowledge with other organizations that are ready for the journey. We’ll be sharing more about our work on BC Transit.com in the near future, be sure to stay tuned.