In a marketing campaign designed to appeal to younger riders, the Charleston (South Carolina) Area Regional Transportation Authority distributed “Born to Ride” temporary tattoos, offered free shuttle service to concerts and set up a Website.
The tattoos doubled as free bus passes and advertising for them read, "At last, a tattoo I can show my parents" and "Finally, a bus pass I can’t lose." Everyone from the mayor to bus operators was wearing them.
"We want to attract a younger ridership, individuals who don’t necessarily normally ride the bus," said Howard Chapman, executive director of CARTA. "We want to present buses as an alternative to cars."
The primary ridership of CARTA, which began revenue service in January 1999, is elderly and captive riders. In its first year, it carried 3.8 million riders. Chapman said he hopes this marketing strategy will increase that number 10-15%.
An improvement in the number of student riders has already been seen, with a 50% increase last semester in the amount of student passes distributed.
David Rawle, chairman of Rawle-Murdy Associates Inc., which developed the campaign, said he believes younger riders are more likely to change their habits to ride public transportation.
"The challenge is to get people who don't have to use it to use it," Rawle said. "We developed a personality that is not the typical institutional image of mass transit."
The goal of the campaign was to build awareness of CARTA and to change perceptions of public transportation, Rawle said.
"We want to make people think about CARTA in new and interesting ways," Rawle said.
He recommends other transit agencies take a more non-traditional approach when developing marketing campaigns.
"I definitely urge them not to take themselves so seriously," Rawle said. "Give the people a good time, then people will want to be with you."
The cost of running the campaign, which began in the end of 1999, is $400,000. Other marketing promotions developed by Rawle-Murdy include: Rack 'n Ride, which placed bike racks on the front of all CARTA buses; celebration of CARTA's first birthday, when riders brought in an advertisement for that event in exchange for a free ride; and providing riders with coffee and candy.
In addition to its new campaign, CARTA constantly improves routes and schedules to retain its existing riders, Rawle said.