NJ TRANSIT: Transforming Customer Experience to Strengthen Public Support for Transit

By Stewart Mader

In 2019, I joined NJ TRANSIT, the largest statewide transit system in America, as the company’s first-ever Customer Advocate and Chief Customer Experience Officer. I am working with staff throughout the agency, from train crews to bus operators, mechanics to maintainers and planners to to streamline communication with customers, strengthen onboard and online customer engagement, and share the inner workings of transit with customers.

Onboard Customer Engagement

I use the system every day to commute to and from work, travel throughout the state, and discuss service with customers, listen to their ideas and suggestions, and help them be informed advocates for investment in their transit system. During Amtrak infrastructure renewal work at New York Penn Station in 2019, I rode every impacted train to talk with customers, answer questions, and help them plan their alternate travel. I also rode the 1, 22, 25, 85, 89, 119, 126 and 167 buses, as well as all eight bus routes that serve the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. In addition to visibly engaging with customers, I regularly take unannounced trips on the system as well. Insights and questions from customers, as well as my own observation and analysis help guide customer experience enhancements.

Cohesive Branding

I led a refresh of agency’s branding and visual standards to ensure consistency and recognizability at every touch point, including the app, maps, social media, signage, and the website. Starting with a set of brands first introduced in 2003 for train lines, I worked with the in-house creative team to update these symbols for digital and social media uses. We redrew each symbol in the color of corresponding train line, increased the visual strength of each icon by wrapping it in a circle of the same color, and expanded the design system by introducing new icons for bus and light rail lines.

  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail – The iconic brown clock tower at Hoboken Terminal, the transit hub connecting Hudson-Bergen Light Rail with NJ TRANSIT buses & trains, the PATH subway, and ferry service.
  • Newark Light Rail – A pink cherry blossom from Newark’s Branch Brook Park, which contains the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the United States, and is easily accessible from multiple Newark Light Rail stations.
  • River Line – A River Line train in deep green, the color of the Camden & Amboy Railroad, New Jersey’s first railroad, and builder of the right-of-way now used by the River Line.

I launched the refreshed and expanded design system alongside a redesign of the website, social media platforms, and service advisory posters. The new njtransit.com homepage uses the individual line brands to share system status at a glance. Twitter accounts for bus, light rail, and train services feature the new line brands, new cover images that illustrate each service, and updated descriptions to let customers know each account is the place for real-time information, updates, and alerts. Redesigned posters feature the new icons to help customers discern whether an advisory applies to their line. A standard header includes line names and service advisory dates for additional clarity.

Social Media & Video

I enhanced customer experience on social media by making service-specific Twitter accounts the primary place to get real-time service updates, making it easier for customers to immediately see service status on their line. With real-time service updates on line accounts, we have refocused the @NJTRANSIT brand accounts on broader news, updates, and initiatives regarding our statewide transit system, and enhanced how we engage with customer inquiries, providing more context in our responses, and sharing the why behind what we do. For example, when customers inquire about onboard issues like heat and air conditioning, we’re providing more detailed responses, and closing the feedback loop as we check with crews.

I am also using video to take customers behind the scenes of America’s largest statewide transit provider. Videos include a look at NJ TRANSIT rush hour operations at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, customer guide to Hoboken Terminal, my 100 Day Report, promoting the Princeton Dinky, a day in the life of various crews, and how we prepare for winter weather.

Hoboken Terminal: Tips for a Better Trip

NJ TRANSIT Service at George Washington Bridge Bus Station

📊 How I Brief the Board

Each month, I update and field questions from the five-member customer service committee of NJ TRANSIT’s 11-member board, appointed by the Governor.