Case Study: Impact of Digital Strategy & Strategic Branding on the City of Racine, WI Local Transit System

Written by Nim Joshi

Aug 20, 2023
Home 9 Case Studies 9 Case Study: Impact of Digital Strategy & Strategic Branding on the City of Racine, WI Local Transit System

Case Study: The Transformation of the City of Racine’s Local Transit System

RYDE Racine, a local transit department, had been operating in Racine, a city with a population of about 77,000. However, due to a lack of proper branding, it suffered from low ridership and negative public perception.

In Racine, the bus is primarily perceived as an under-utilized, last-resort form of transportation. The studies show that many segments are more likely than ever to try and even rely on public transit. These riders, especially Baby Boomers and Millennials, are also expected to help build the civic pride movement, supporting the notion that loving transit means loving your city.

The Rebranding Strategy: Strategic Branding to Enhance User Experience

Understanding the pivotal role branding plays in public perception and ridership, the transit system’s management decided to undergo a comprehensive rebranding campaign. In 2017, the City of Racine changed the transit system’s name from Belle Urban System to RYDE Racine. The management embarked on a rebranding campaign to change public perception and improve ridership.

RYDE Racine RYDE Happy

The process began with extensive market research to understand the community’s needs, preferences, and perception of the current service. Based on the study, the management developed a new brand identity with a fresh logo symbolizing connectivity and inclusivity. They changed the name to “RYDE Racine,” emphasizing the mission to bring people together and help them navigate the city easily. This transformation was accompanied by a vigorous marketing campaign across various media, highlighting the service’s convenience, reliability, and affordability.

“RYDE Racine” also improved its services to substantiate the new brand image. This included the introduction of new, eco-friendly buses with comfortable seating, Wi-Fi services, and updated routes and schedules to cater to most of the community’s needs.

The rebranding process bore fruit within a year. Ridership increased by 30%, and a follow-up survey indicated improved public perception, with most respondents acknowledging the improved services and branding efforts.

RYDE Racine Primary Logos

The new brand also sparked an interest in local businesses for partnerships, leading to additional revenue and advertising opportunities. The vibrant, new buses became a moving billboard, advertising local businesses and events, symbolizing community pride and unity.

The “RYDE Racine” demonstrates the importance of effective branding and marketing for local transit systems. Transit systems can shift public perception, boost ridership, and foster partnerships with local businesses by aligning their brand image with community needs and expectations. Although such a transformation may be challenging and require substantial investment, the benefits of increased ridership, revenue, and community support are significant.

RYDE Racine Secondary Logos

The Racine Transit System rebranding exercise underscores that public transit isn’t just about getting from point A to B—it’s about how the journey brings the community together. The branding, thus, is as much a part of the service as the buses themselves.

Digital Strategy in Public Transportation for Ryde Racine Local Transit

To provide a seamless, user-friendly, and engaging online experience that not only served functional purposes (like bus routes, times, and fare information) but also elevated the RYDE Racine brand. The goal was to make a newly branded website not just a tool, but an integral part of the user journey, helping riders easily navigate the transit system, stay updated, and feel connected to the service.

The Challenges

In the digital age, a website serves as the face of an organization. As a local transit authority, RYDE Racine must effectively communicate its brand identity, values, and offerings through an online platform catering to diverse users – from daily commuters to occasional travelers, tech-savvy youths to older adults, and residents to tourists.

The website had to offer functionality (like real-time updates and route information) while delivering aesthetic appeal and user experience. Additionally, given the nature of public transit, the website should be accessible to users with disabilities, adhering to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Strategy & Execution: Innovative Approaches in Racine’s Local Transit

In partnership with DesignsTouch, RYDE Racine conducted extensive user research to understand their riders’ needs, preferences, and pain points. They also performed a competitive analysis to identify best practices within and beyond the public transportation industry.

Based on these insights, the team developed a new brand language that was modern, fresh, and rooted in the local cultural fabric. This language is communicated visually through a new color scheme, iconography, and typography and verbally through tone and messaging.

The website design followed a mobile-first approach, recognizing that most users accessed information online. The team prioritized a clean, intuitive interface, fast loading times, and efficient navigation.

RYDE Racine

Visit: RYDE Racine Website


The RYDE Racine website features include the following:

Real-Time Updates: The website provides live updates on bus routes, times, and delays, helping riders plan their journeys effectively.

Interactive Maps: An interactive map feature allows users to visualize routes and stops, enhancing their understanding of the transit system.

Customer Support: The website has a robust FAQ section and contact info for further customer support, ensuring user concerns and inquiries.

Community Engagement: The website shares news about RYDE Racine’s community initiatives, environmental commitments, and plans, helping build relationships and foster local pride.

History section: The new RYDE Racine represents the latest advancements in transit solutions and pays homage to Racine’s rich transit history. By incorporating elements from the past, RYDE ensures that the legacy of Racine’s transportation milestones is not forgotten. From the early days of horse-drawn streetcars to the introduction of electric trolleys and buses, the department serves as a living museum, reminding residents of the journey that has led to the modern, efficient, and sustainable transit system they enjoy today.  Check out RYDE Racine’s historical photos.

Results: Key Findings and Impact on Racine, WI’s Local Transportation

The new RYDE Racine website significantly enhanced the user experience. Post-launch surveys indicated a substantial increase in user satisfaction. Riders found the website easy to navigate, visually appealing, and extremely helpful in planning their transit journeys. The site also experienced an increase in daily visitors and page views.

The website’s accessibility features are highly appreciated, making information and services accessible to a larger audience. The real-time updates significantly reduced rider anxiety related to delays or route changes.

The redesigned website played a pivotal role in strengthening the RYDE Racine brand. It showcased their commitment to user-centric design and innovation and resonated with the local community and culture.

It helped foster a connection and trust between RYDE Racine and local commuters, ultimately driving increased ridership and public transit advocacy.


RYDE Racine’s website transformation highlights the importance of digital platforms in public transit. By prioritizing user needs, leveraging modern design principles, and integrating advanced features, RYDE Racine created a digital platform that truly serves its riders and elevates the brand.

This case study is an excellent example for other transit authorities considering a digital overhaul.

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