People hesitate change but if the message is communicated in a proper way then things move in a positive direction. The same happened for the Indore iBus, a bus rapid transit (BRT) system which just marked four months in operation. The idea of building a public transit from scratch is no small feat and that too when it had no popularity initially. The change came in when the EMBARQ, a public transit advocacy and consultancy firm that worked with Indore’s transit authority to involve the local public added with the powers of social media.
Initially the benefits of transit were not clear to the public and it was feared that such a measure would only increase traffic congestion, slower commutes along with the administration worrying about municipally managed bus fleet being a waste of local resources.
To answer all such queries Dario Hidalgo of EMBARQ and his staff set up meetings with 30 local journalists and showed them videos of how BRT worked in other cities in India and around the world. The discussions answered questions like: Why the median lanes? Why a dedicated fleet of buses? Why median stations? What about pedestrian crossings? What about U-turns for motorcycles?
Once the media was in confidence of the BRT, the next task was to get the locals in confidence. To do so EMBARQ along with local transit authority approached the locals via social media i.e. by launching a Facebook page – iBus. The Facebook page soon saw questions from residents who started asking about routes, service, and construction. Besides the project that was facing criticism from people for delay in completion of BRTS project, the administration decided to seek suggestions and views of people on Facebook ahead of the proposed trial run from April 19. This was also meant to reach out to the youngsters in the city.
The Facebook page has a thin following with more than 500 people but the page has been active with relevant information. From numbers the service is serving to press coverage to interesting visual content, the page is trying its bit to keep the momentum going.
The other effective use of having the Facebook page was fruitful when it wanted to decide the name of the new bus service. A contest was run and the name iBus was chosen by popular vote.
Today the popularity of iBus is on the rise despite facing challenges from local bodies. However, the service has got a thumbs up from all sections of the society. Now it is thinking of expansion while talks are on with banks to install ATMs at BRTS bus stops.