The digital strategy of Transport Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB)

In 2009, Barcelona embarked upon TMB Connecta, the first phase of its digital transformation strategy, to be succeeded in 2012 by TMB Digital. It provides users of its transport services, principally bus and metro but also the Montjuïc Cable Car and others, with real-time information such as service updates, connexions and timetables. It also connects with customers through social media, the MouTV channel and the JoTMBé travellers’ club.

The challenge

Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) is the main public transport operator in Catalunya. It oversees the Ferrocarril Metropolità de Barcelona (Metro) and Transports de Barcelona (Bus), which run the main transport networks in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, along with other companies such as Projects de Servei i Mobilitat, which runs the Montjuïc Cable Car (Telefèric).

In the late 2000s, TMB still communicated with citizens using mainly offline channels and expensive mass media campaigns via TV, radio and the press. Like many other public transport operators, it saw the emerging digital technologies as an opportunity to transform its services and provide its customers with accurate, real-time data.

The initiative

In 2009, TMB set up its first digital strategy, TMB Connecta [TMB Connects]. It included the following objectives. TMB Connecta was based on four platforms: the web, social media, mobile devices and relational marketing. The most innovative aspect of TMB Connecta was arguably MouTV, “a multi-presence channel with more than 2,500 screens that goes with us whether we’re on a metro platform or inside a vehicle”. [1] The service also connected bus and metro services to provide integrated information. “For example, a bus user not only has information about the next stops and where there are connection points to other lines, but also about connections with the metro system and any possible incidents affecting the system.” [2]

In light of the rapid advances in digital technology, it became necessary to revise the strategy and update the 2009 plan. The result was the 2012 strategy called TMB Digital, which relies on four basic principles:

  • “Placing users at the centre: offering services and products based on the users’ needs and interests. [3]
  • “Specialising channels: using the most adequate channels for each objective, bearing in mind the idiosyncrasy of the channel and its use by users.
  • “Personalised information: being able to provide personalised service information, with a clear commitment to the mobile channel.
  • “Optimising the web territory: integrating the various TMB web spaces, providing a single, unified user experience.”

The public impact

Real-time information was made available direct to commuters for the first time. “In 2010, TMB pioneered two mobile applications: ‘TMB virtual’ and ‘Barcelona Bus Turístic virtual’, which led to the creation of a mobile portal that brings together the main services that can be found on the TMB website, that could be most useful to users [on the move] (search for best route, bus arrival time, map and schedule checking, etc.).” [4]

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.


Public Confidence Fair

The bus and metro service were rated relatively highly by users: "citizens’ assessment of the Metro and Bus service, measured using the Customer Satisfaction Index (an annual study with a sample of 4,000 Bus and 4,000 Metro users), was 7.5 on a scale from 1 to 10”. [6] However, the studies also revealed that “although aspects related to real-time service information and customer care were very important to the responders, they did not reach the same levels of satisfaction”. [7]

Stakeholder Engagement Good

Individuals from various departments worked together to develop a clear set of procedures and policies for TMB Connecta and TMB Digital. This collaboration resulted in the development of a comprehensive matrix indicating what information had to be provided through which channel. "Dozens of people from different departments and services worked together to define all the procedures and policies that had to be applied to each of the possible matrix combinations.” [5]

Political Commitment Strong

There is a strong political support for TMB Connecta, as TMB itself is fully owned by the local government with the federal government also providing funds.


Clear Objectives Fair

The objectives that were set out at the initiation of the TMB Connecta strategy were maintained throughout, and after the programme was renamed TMB Digital. “This entire digital transformation process had begun in 2009 in an environment that had already been profoundly altered by 2012.” [8] These objectives were to improve customer service information, become a pre-eminent in innovative technology, and develop a leading-edge information distribution system.

Evidence Fair

There have been other major cities that have had digital transformation programmes for Barcelona to learn from. For example, Transport for London recognised the importance of using digital information  in order to “keep London moving’’ after the creation of the Directorate of Traffic Management in 2003. They created a centralised London Traffic Control Centre which, among other things, provides real time traffic information and live journey times to users.

Feasibility Fair

The financial feasibility was enabled through capital funding and advertising revenues. “Capital funding for TMB is provided completely through subsidies, with the federal government providing 20% and the local municipalities providing 80%.” [9]

Technical feasibility was carefully evaluated through:

  • Identifying all the possible situations that could generate user messages.
  • Listing all the existing and future communications channels of TMB.
  • Establishing what information had to be provided through particular channels and by which TMB department.


Management Good

Entitat Metropolitana del Transport (EMT) is responsible for various transport roles in TMB and has a sound organisational structure. EMT is responsible for a variety of transport-related roles in the region, including organising, managing, planning, and coordinating public transport services.

Measurement Good

It is possible to measure the number of digital users, such as followers on Twitter or Facebook, as well as users of the apps TMB Virtual and Barcelona Bus Turístic Virtual. Furthermore, customer surveys are undertaken regularly which are available on the TMB website, allowing the TMB to “analyse bus and metro services and study best practices, in order to improve them based on the opinions of passengers”. [10] [11]

Alignment Strong

There was solid alignment between the different levels of government to support TMB’s digital transformation strategy, at federal, provincial and metropolitan level.

There was also a clear alignment with the needs of TMB users:

  • “Facebook and Twitter profiles were set up to establish contact and interact with users, along with YouTube and Flickr accounts acting as content repositories. An office was set up to attend to these channels, and the network was monitored to listen to anything affecting the service and the brand name ... [12]
  • “Creation of the bus and metro travellers' club, JoTMBé, enabling personalised communication, segmented by age groups, tastes, interests or places of residence. Access to the club allows users to obtain information about services as well as financial advantages and benefits.”

The digital transformation strategy led to the exploration of new alliances, such as the one set up with Google to exchange information, which made it possible to set up the Google Transit traffic service in the city of Barcelona.