To mark its 75th year operating as a regional bus service in South Bay communities near downtown Los Angeles, Gardena Municipal Bus Lines (GMBL) began undergoing the biggest, most radical transformation in its long and illustrious history. And in the process, it was giving other transit agencies a roadmap to follow in their own rebranding efforts.
GMBL had always been respected by its riders, who came to appreciate its safe, reliable and friendly service throughout the years, but the agency wasn’t very well known within the larger community, which made attracting new riders a challenge.
City leaders at GMBL believed this lack of recognition came in part from having such an overly complicated name and a fleet with an uninspiring, outdated design.
“It’s pretty obvious that ‘Gardena Municipal Bus Lines’ was a real mouthful to say, and a lot of words for people to remember,” said Paula Faust, Gardena’s deputy director, transportation. “And the plain old buses weren’t exactly winning any design awards, either.”
So, Faust and her team decided to give Gardena’s bus service a great big birthday gift — a complete and total system rebranding.
GMBL partnered with Pulsar, a Los Angeles-based advertising and marketing agency with decades of transportation industry experience, to begin the rebranding effort. The first step was making sure key stakeholders had a voice in the process.
“When you’re working with a public transportation agency, it’s important to remember that many people can take ownership of it,” said Alberto Gonzalez, Pulsar’s president/CEO. “Bus lines belong to the employees, riders, government officials and even the non-riding public — so whenever you make a change, you have to make sure all those groups are on board with it.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
The GMBL and the Pulsar team interviewed Gardena employees to determine the city’s goals and the agency’s core values, which helped form the project’s creative brief. They conducted multiple focus groups with riders and non-riders to get customer feedback on potential new names and bus designs as they were being developed. And they worked closely with the GMBL staff along with city staff on the bus’s new look, so that when it came time to present the finished product to the city council, it was unanimously approved.
The results have been extremely well received. The “Gardena Municipal Bus Lines” name changed to the easier-to-remember, quicker-to-say and more meaningful name “GTrans.”
“The ‘G’ reminds us of our home city of Gardena as well as our commitment to green, environmentally friendly initiatives,” Faust said. “The ‘Trans’ is all about the work we do best — transporting our customers everywhere they want to go.”
The GTrans fleet is now sporting a new paint job, too. The sleek, modern, green and silver design makes the vehicles easy to identify, while also making the service feel more inviting to potential riders who are considering taking their first ride.
Along with these changes, GTrans also unveiled a new website, RideGTrans.com, along with an ad campaign featuring the tagline “It all starts with GTrans.” The work has helped get current and potential riders excited about their ride, boost recognition of GTrans in the community, and ultimately, increase ridership.
And it’s been a total team effort.
“We found the KEY to our success was to be all inclusive from the start,” commented Faust. “Our goal was to make this a collaborative process so that everyone felt involved and on board with the revitalization of our brand.”