Can Los Angeles Make Public Transit Cool?
Public transportation has a dirty name in America. So how do you make using the bus and the subway seem cool, especially in an image conscious city like Los Angeles?In what appears to be a first for a transit system in the United States, LA's Metro is now advertising its services as if it were a for-profit company. The embedded video tells the tale, but Metro has seen lots of success with this strategy. "Discretionary riders, those people who have the choice to commute by car or transit, have jumped from [a] 24 to 36 percent" share of total ridership.So what's behind LA's strategy? First, the team consolidated the Metro into one cohesive brand. At one time, the video states, there were over 300 (!) logos in use by Metro. The company also simplified the colors of its buses to just two - orange and blue - to help riders associate the colors with the brand. The city brought in local artists to paint a number of subway stations, a two-fer that helps Metro's image in the community and makes the physical stations better places to spend time in. As for traditional advertising, the Los Angeles Metro relied heavily on comparative ads that show the Metro as a hero and traveling by car as a villain. Metro enlisted the help of baristas at local coffee shops to wear Metro t-shirts with the hero/villain theme.The Los Angeles Metro deserves accolades for this awesome campaign and for their increase in ridership. There is of course room for improvement. The agency has a twitter account at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/metrolosangeles">@metrolosangeles</a>, but with only 1,000 followers it doesn't seem too popular. This is a great way for the agency to communicate with some of their riders and to share information about routes, service outages, etc. However there's only so far you can go with the twitter/barista crowd. Perhaps Metro should continue with community outreach programs like its art in the subway series. What about sponsoring performances of musicians in the stations? Or providing some sort of incentive program to the discretionary rider who constantly wrestles in between choosing the car or choosing the metro?