February 15, 2013

Houston Metro, U. of Houston partner on light rail campaign

With the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) MetroRail’s Southeast (Purple) Line 71% complete, Metro is taking education to the streets, heightening safety awareness and teaching neighboring communities how the new transit system will impact traffic.

The University of Houston (UH) is helping through students from the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication. The students are assisting the regional transit agency by gathering insight on critical issues. Of the nearly 40,000 students enrolled annually, nearly 85% commute to classes.

In 2014, three new MetroRail lines will be ready to offer students fast, dependable service.

Metro asked students to focus their efforts on campaign and research projects designed to strengthen the relationship between the transit system and the university, increase public awareness of light rail, and encourage student and faculty support for more than 500 businesses located along the North, East End and Southeast lines.

“The University of Houston, as a stakeholder on the Southeast Line, plays an important part in successful expansion of the Southeast line — through construction, testing and of course in final operation,” said Thomas Lambert, interim president and CEO of Metro. “Getting buy-in through this creative partnership with advertising and public relations students is one way we can forge a partnership for years to come.”

Students will see their work come to life this semester as part of Metro’s UH awareness initiative, starting with informing the university about construction on the western boundary of the campus on Scott between Reeves and Wheeler. Later this spring, Metro will launch a general informational initiative in addition to a safety awareness program for the fall semester.

Students spent the fall semester working in teams developing ideas such as:

  • An interactive blogger guide highlighting the 500-plus destinations along the rail lines
  • Coordination of sponsorships for major Houston events such as Free Press Summer Fest and Houston’s annual Art Car Parade to enhance awareness of the new lines
  • Festival hosting along the three lines to celebrate unique businesses and encourage ridership

“We always appreciate when our students can translate their coursework to real-life with clients like Metro,” said Larry Kelley, professor of advertising at the UH Jack J. Valenti School of Communication.“The students remained engaged and excited throughout the project, and we’re looking forward to offering this again in the fall.”

The three new light rail lines are set to open for service in 2014. Current construction completion status for the Southeast Line includes utilities - 98%, roadway - 99%, guideway - 69% and stations - 21%.

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