APTA | Passenger Transport
December 15, 2008

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Communications Efforts Spread the Word About Public Transit

APTA’s communications and marketing efforts during the past year covered a very wide spectrum.
The most noticeable action was the launch of a redesigned Passenger Transport in September. In addition to changing the publication schedule from weekly to biweekly, APTA added an online edition and Passenger Transport EXPRESS, an electronic publication highlighting legislative issues and breaking news, which appears in the weeks between issues of Passenger Transport.
Dump the Pump, APTA’s initiative to increase awareness of transit as the quickest way to beat high fuel prices, continued to expand its outreach efforts. On June 19, more than 125 public transportation agencies nationwide joined 20 businesses to mark the third annual event. To bring attention to public transit, more than 30 systems offered free or discounted rides on that day; others conducted on-board radio promotions, distributed appreciation gifts to riders, and invited the public to share transit-related stories.
APTA partnered with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority on Earth Day, April 22, distributing 2,300 specially labeled candy bars outside two Metrorail stations on Capitol Hill used by legislators and Congressional staff. The labels noted the “sweet” benefit of taking public transit: daily riders save 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.
As gas prices rose to and past $4 a gallon, contributing to record transit ridership beyond the 10.3 billion rides provided in 2007, APTA and transit agency public information officers disseminated ridership numbers to the media and draw the connection between more transit use, energy independence, and climate change. Broadcast media outlets picking up the story included the evening newscasts on NBC, CBS, and ABC, as well as the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and Fox Business. Major publications that referred to APTA included The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, Newsweek, Business Week, Associated Press, and Bloomberg.
More than 50 public transportation agencies throughout North America, Asia, and the United Kingdom have provided transit information to Google Transit, allowing travelers to receive fare, schedule, and route information in advance of their trips to these locations. APTA President William W. Millar gave a live presentation of the Google Transit application as part of this summer’s APTA Youth Summit in Washington.
In its second annual Green Transit Forecast, APTA survey results showed that 35 percent of travelers to major American cities in the summer were more likely to use local buses and rail transit during their visits than in previous years. That percentage was 7 percent higher than the comparable figure in 2007.
New York City—the nation's top destination for transit use by visitors—led the urban areas at 53 percent, a 5 percent increase over last year, followed by Boston with 48 percent; Washington, 47 percent; San Francisco, 40 percent; Philadelphia, 38 percent; Chicago, 35 percent; Seattle, 32 percent; Los Angeles, 31 percent; Las Vegas, 30 percent; and Atlanta, 25 percent.
To encourage interest in transit promotion by college students, APTA held its first “Green Means Go” campaign this year. The teams representing 12 U.S. colleges and universities served as “advertising agencies” for APTA and local transit providers as part of their for-credit coursework in advertising, graphic design, communications, or other related fields.
Each team developed an advertising and communications plan and products with an environmental message for use by transit systems around the country, including bus and rail transit ads for print media and radio; video design for social networking sites; earned media through public relations; television storyboards for possible execution; and other promotional tactics, all targeted to college students and individuals ages 18 to 25. Missouri State University took first place in the program.
Another innovation this year was APTA’s monthly Transit Savings Report. To calculate how much money a two-person household could save by using transit instead of using two cars, APTA first determined the average amount of the monthly transit pass of local transit agencies across the country, then compared the average monthly transit fare to the average cost of driving according to AAA’s 2008 driving formula.
In addition to releasing the new Transit Savings Report figure at the beginning of each month, readers can also use a calculator to figure their own savings, with or without car ownership. This calculator is available online at www.publictransportation.org.

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