How big is the advertising budget of Metro Transit? I have seen that there are marketing staff at Metro Transit and have seen some marketing-speak reports on the interwebs about Metro Transit from advertising companies. In the past decades I have seen billboards, placards, heard radio, even television advertisements exhorting the common schmoe to ride the bus. Even on the bus there are more ads to ride the bus. What good does this do? Does advertising and marketing actually have an effect and a use to the transit system or is it a complete waste of resources?
I always know there is a bus or transit system in any city that has one. You see it going by, you see the transit stops, etc. You know you can ride it to places, you also know you would never ride it unless it was the last possible way to get to a destination so why would any advertising have an effect? Mostly when I see an advertisement that says "ride the bus ..." I think who got paid off to get that useless advertising contract. Nobody wants to hear "ride the bus", it gives no real information. That does nothing for people. So, there are plenty of info-free "ride the bus" ad campaigns but no real navigation aids on the street in the transit stops like maps and schedules that help people use transit, the only marketing in the transit stops is for booze, cigs, and no drug campaigns, the classic doublespeak.
From my web logs I have seen that Clear Channel, the largest national billboard, media and advertising company has read this article. This article threatens the hundreds of useless government sponsored worthless advertising campaigns using Clear Channel media outlets and tens of millions in revenue. Well, rest easy Clear Channel, CBS media, and the rest of you tax money blood suckers, not a single transit organization has read the article in the month of May, your useless marketing golden goose is still pumping out the money eggs.
But this anti-bus reaction is probably just me, right? A cranky cynic. When I hear the advertising for Metro Transit I do not run out and get on a bus. Most people probably respond to the advertisements by flocking to the bus as soon as they hear the "ride the bus" tagline, right? Ya sure, you betcha. What really happens is that nobody responds to those advertisements and if you are on the street and need to take a bus somewhere there are few if any navigation aids to allow you to use the bus.
So much for marketing, so much for advertising. Massive subsidies (75%) to workers and a simple cheap fare structure are far more effective to increase ridership. Removing the many barriers to transit usability like impossible fare schemes, bad navigation aids, uncomfortable buses, lack of snow removal from transit stops, intrusive advertising wraps covering windows, safety issues, bad transit shelter configurations and removing hundreds of other problems may increase the ridership more than any amount of advertising and marketing telling people to ride a crappy system. Many of the changes to improve usability are cheap and easy to implement but will never be done if no one analyzes transit usability.
But as far as I can tell there are no resources devoted to transit usability. Not one staff person, not one contractor, not one dollar. Nothing. And as far as I can tell that is the net result of the advertising and marketing of a crappy unusable transit system. Nothing. An old fashioned state sponsored propaganda campaign telling people to "ride the bus" is actually worse than nothing. It is a barrier to transit usability because it promotes a cynical hatred of transit. People can see themselves that the bus transit is an unusable system that exploits them with 3rd party advertising, is uncomfortable, annoying, sometimes unsafe, slow, hard to navigate with high fares. They also see the chauffer driven custom tailored executives promoting this marketing. So why would they believe this propaganda?
Transit Usability Articles