Infrastructure Money Tight? Do Better Bus Marketing

Posted on March 24, 2015 by Paul Mackie - Also by this author

Los Angeles has done a great job of using creative marketing to get people excited about riding its transit s - See more at: http://mobilitylab.org/2015/03/06/infrastructure-money-tight-do-better-bus-marketing/#sthash.DTwXmaks.dpuf
Los Angeles has done a great job of using creative marketing to get people excited about riding its transit system. Photo courtesy L.A. Metro
Los Angeles has done a great job of using creative marketing to get people excited about riding its transit s - See more at: http://mobilitylab.org/2015/03/06/infrastructure-money-tight-do-better-bus-marketing/#sthash.DTwXmaks.dpuf
Los Angeles has done a great job of using creative marketing to get people excited about riding its transit system. Photo courtesy L.A. Metro
(This story by Chris Hamilton, chief of Arlington County Commuter Services in Arlington, Va., was original published by Mobility Lab.)

If cities want to reduce the need for expensive infrastructure improvements, they should brand and market their buses better, according to New York Times conservative commentator Josh Barro.

Citing a 2009 report from the Federal Transit Administration, he notes there is evidence to believe that transit agencies could attract more discretionary or choice riders if they “spruce up the buses and tell riders they’re faster than they think.”

This resonates with our experience in Arlington, Virginia, and in other progressive communities around the country.

To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.

Our experience in Arlington shows that transit agencies could indeed gain ridership if they did a better job on marketing basics, we call it “Making It Easy,” including:

  •     Branding buses better,
  •     Spending time to do good marketing and sales,
  •     Putting information at the stops, and
  •     Providing great real-time apps and other information tools.


  We should do these relatively inexpensive things first, to maximize the use of the existing system and possibly forestall having to invest large sums in additional infrastructure.

In Arlington, our Commuter Services bureau markets all modes of transportation through a variety of means. Our research shows this marketing causes a substantial lift in transit usage as well as a shift from driving to other modes. In concert with good development planning and transportation services, our efforts provide better mobility without more traffic, at a relatively insubstantial cost as compared to infrastructure.

Barro contends that we should spruce up buses and let consumers know they are faster than you think. This isn’t a bad start.

In Arlington we’ve worked on some other ideas as well.

  •  We are developing a technology product called CarFreeAtoZ that will combat the car bias inherent in most current mapping software systems, and produce travel results more akin to real-world conditions across multiple modes.
  •  We’ve had success marketing the Metrobus 38B as the “Orange Line with a view,” and our Car-Free Diet marketing platform emphasizes how letting someone else behind the wheel can alleviate stress, among other things.
  •  We’ve worked on distinctive, colorful branding on our ART series of buses. (The same technique has been utilized on Washington D.C.’s successful Circulator buses.)
  • And last but not least, we’ve taken deliberate action in improving the customer service provided by bus drivers. Our most recent survey shows that we’re succeeding, not only in terms of customer satisfaction, but, significantly, in terms of the numbers of Millennials using the service.

Yes, we need to think deliberately about the way we market buses in this country. And we can’t skimp on these efforts. If conservative writers like Barro can get on board with this concept, that’s good news.

Screenshot of suggested routes on CarFreeAtoZ system.
Screenshot of suggested routes on the CarFreeAtoZ system. - See more at: http://mobilitylab.org/2015/03/06/infrastructure-money-tight-do-better-bus-marketing/#sthash.DTwXmaks.dpuf
Screenshot of suggested routes on CarFreeAtoZ system.
Screenshot of suggested routes on the CarFreeAtoZ system. - See more at: http://mobilitylab.org/2015/03/06/infrastructure-money-tight-do-better-bus-marketing/#sthash.DTwXmaks.dpuf

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

April 17, 2019

Transportation Innovation Steers Mobility for All

In the U.S., we love our cars and prefer to drive alone. More than 90% of Americans owned personal automobiles in 2017, and 21% of families had more than three cars per household, says the U.S. Census Bureau.

April 1, 2019

Why freedom of mobility is at the center of dealing with the climate crisis

The single biggest driver of change in transportation in the coming years will undoubtedly be the impending climate catastrophe.

March 26, 2019

'Going to School' to Cultivate the Next Generation of Transit Employees

To help mitigate the effects of a potential workforce shortage, SEPTA is taking its recruitment efforts to the next generation, reaching out to students about careers in transportation.

March 17, 2019

How congestion pricing, MaaS, and new transit policies will benefit all

By working in tandem, these elements will result in better public transportation infrastructure, more egalitarian access to transit options, affordable or free services, and a healthier environment.

March 13, 2019

How private-sector vendors can successfully navigate transit agencies

What I found in my public sector roles was that often private sector vendors did not understand how we operated nor how to interface effectively with us as the public agency.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation