In a time of dwindling government funding, selling ads is an important revenue generator for transit authorities. But the advertising can be more than simply placing a car card on a bus or putting up a poster at a station — creativity can produce an “experience” for customers.
Companies and organizations advertising with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) regularly search for ways to bring paper ads to life. From Philadelphia Orchestra mini-concerts at stations to Opera Company arias on trains, these unexpected shows have received rave reviews from customers and are activities that SEPTA has welcomed on its vehicles and at its facilities.
Some advertising can bring “character” to the agency. When the stage show “How to Train Your Dragon” visited Philadelphia in September, the dragons invaded SEPTA’s Suburban Station during the morning rush hour, “attacking” commuters as they went about their routines. It was a different way to build an interest in the show — take the creatures to the parents who would be purchasing tickets for their families to attend a performance.
The most ambitious of the SEPTA interactive advertising ventures is the recently christened “Speakeasy Silverliner.” As part of the $37,000 transit-based portion of the marketing campaign for its new exhibit, “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” the National Constitution Center had the inside of a SEPTA Silverliner V railcar wrapped to resemble a 1920s gin joint named “Dewey’s.”
Through April 2013, SEPTA Regional Rail riders can be transported to the “Jazz Age” on board the car, the walls of which look as though they’ve been decorated with a deep red wallpaper, pictures and sconces; the ceiling with faux tin and crown molding. Some windows appear to be a wooden liquor cabinet, stocked with bottles. Other windows feature police officers, bathing beauties on the beach and bootleggers. An unsavory character stands at a door, knocking to get into the club while Al Capone, flappers, musicians and a bartender pouring martinis greet passengers entering the “club.” But, riders don’t need to know a secret password or special knock to get inside — they just need their SEPTA pass or ticket.
This is the first time the interior of a Silverliner V car has been covered in a full wrap.
“The Speakeasy Silverliner not only allows our customers to step back in time to the Age of Prohibition, but it also serves as a reminder that SEPTA is the way to go when visiting the Philadelphia region’s many cultural institutions,” said GM Joseph Casey.
As an added bonus for riding the train, passengers can enter to win tickets to the American Spirits exhibit by taking their photo on board the car and posting it to Twitter using #NCCSpeakeasy or to Facebook and tagging National Constitution Center and SEPTA.
In addition to the Speakeasy Silverliner’s interior, an exterior wrap with revelers inviting passengers to join the party will appear on another Silverliner V car. This marks the third time advertising has appeared on the outside of SEPTA Regional Rail train cars since Pennsylvania House Bill 1173 was signed into law last year. Proposed by State Rep. Thomas Killion, the legislation allows the Commonwealth’s public transit agencies to sell advertising on railcars’ exteriors. Previously, advertising was allowed on the outside of all Pennsylvania public transit vehicles except railcars.
“It is necessary for organizations to be resourceful to raise capital to support improvements projects,” said Casey. “Representative Killion showed great insight in introducing the legislation, giving Pennsylvania’s transit authorities another ‘vehicle’ for advertising opportunities. Our customers can look forward to future creative advertising like that of the NCC on our Regional Rail cars.”
Public transportation is lauded for its convenience. In the Midwest and on the East Coast, that convenience includes being a mobile supermarket. Peapod’s interactive posters at train stations are virtual grocery stores. By downloading an app for their smartphones, passengers can purchase groceries while riding the rails.
In Philadelphia, Peapod launched a three-month trial campaign earlier this year at 15 SEPTA Regional Rail stations. The campaign proved so successful that Peapod brought the ads back to the SEPTA stations this fall. Commuters are not only “bringing home the bacon” on their trip from work to home — they can also order it from their local Giant Supermarket on the train ride.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!
Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.
Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.