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After years of delays
and disruptions
how do you convince
skeptical customers
that things are
Introducing Rush Hour Promise

Introducing Rush Hour Promise

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Creating Rush-Hour Promise is hands-down one of my proudest achievements at Metro.


While money-back guarantees aren't a new concept,
Metro's Rush Hour Promise was considered 
revolutionary in the transit industry for 

two key reasons:

1. It was simple and automatic.

2. There was no fine print.

First, some background on the challenge Metro needed to solve:

Decades of underinvestment and inadequate maintenance had led to a system that was--quite literally--falling apart. From tired railcars prone to mechanical failure to track so decayed that slow-speed orders blanketed the map, Metro found itself unable to meet even basic standards of service reliability for its 700,000+ daily riders.

Returning Metro to a state-of-good repair would take nearly a decade (corresponding with my tenure as chief spokesperson), and would subject weary riders to even more hardship, including shutting down sections of the system for months at a time. There were times when we actually discouraged people from using the system due to capacity constraints during construction.

Finally, with the completion of SafeTrack (akin to emergency surgery). followed by Paul Wiedefeld's "Back to Good" initiative (akin to post-surgery "diet and exercise"), on-time performance and other key metrics began to rebound. 

Except one: ridership.

Metro had shed riders each year for 9 years straight, and now--just as the system was emerging from the darkness--found itself in a new world of competition with services like Uber and Lyft.

»  Washington Post: When it comes to reversing the

     ridership slide, Metro's leaders don't have a plan (Sept. 30, 2018)

»  Washington Post: They risk squandering this culture of

    transit riding:  Metro ridership hits a low point (March 10, 2019)

Metro was struggling to retain the customers it had, much less attract new ones. In the communications shop, we needed a new way to tell skeptical customers something they had heard many times before: 'Things were better, and it was safe to come back.'

It was 2017, and Metro had just hit riders with a service disruption so severe that we took an unprecedented step: We announced we would issue a blanket refund to all affected riders.


It was to be a one-time thing, as Metro required its Board's approval for any permanent fare-policy change, but that afternoon, as was working with the technical pros who manage Metro's fare payment systems to find parameters that would isolate the refund to affected customers, I had a question:

"If we're able to run a script to figure out who was delayed and  then issue them a refund, what's stopping us from doing this all the time?"


From a functional perspective, the answer was nothing, and I immediately saw an opportunity. Metro already had everything needed to launch a "customer retention" program without incurring capital expense, and from a marketing perspective, it was exactly the kind of bold statement of accountability we needed to cut through the noise.


I began shopping around the idea and found strong support from staff in Metro's Planning department who were already looking into the data on customer behavior following a bad experience. We found that, at a 15-minute delay threshold, a service guarantee would actually pay for itself through customer retention -- to say nothing of the incalculable value of good will and positive PR.


With the business case locked down and buy-in from the CFO, CTO, and COO, we took the proposal to the GM, who loved the idea of demonstrating accountability. We got a green light to take it to the Board, who voted unanimously to approve the program on January 25, 2018. 

Metro began issuing ride credits the next day.

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