Collaboration by Chicago Region’s Transit Agencies Uses Humor to Attract New Riders

(Chicago)  The Regional Transportation Authority, in conjunction with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace Suburban Bus, is launching a multi-year marketing campaign to improve public awareness and perception of public transportation, and to attract new transit riders, to the system in the RTA’s six-county region.

The transit agencies’ “Ride On.” campaign highlights the benefits and convenience of riding public transit in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties—juxtaposed against the challenges drivers face in the more than 8-million resident region. The campaign targets riders who could take transit during non-peak hours, such as visitors, tourists, older adults and reverse commuters.

“We know that nearly 38% of households in six-county region use transit regularly. By highlighting what these riders know, that taking transit saves time and money, we want to encourage new riders to try our system,” says RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. “This campaign is a large scale collaborative effort between the RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace.  We are using humor—playing off of the realities of driving and parking in our region—to encourage first time and non-regular riders to “Ride On.”  

The ads in the campaign – developed by Chicago-based Downtown Partners Communications, Inc. – will be seen on cable television, online and on digital billboards throughout the region over a 2 ½ year period. The campaign launched in early January, 2015 and will continue through summer, 2017.  The ads highlight the shared “real life pain points” of driving versus taking transit on the nation’s second largest transit system by passenger miles traveled.  The first round of ads, included in the campaign launch, can be viewed below:

 http://www.rtachicago.org/plans-programs/ride-on-marketing-campaign

Transit agencies in other major metropolitan areas have had success in boosting ridership through creative marketing campaigns, including LA Metro, TriMet (Portland) and Sound Transit (Seattle).   Recent campaigns by these agencies have resulted in increased public awareness and improved public perception of transit, as well as increased likelihood of people to try transit.

The RTA will closely monitor the success of the ads, by tracking ad performance and measuring the behavioral and attitudinal impacts of the campaign. The highly digital nature of the campaign allows flexibility to adjust the ads and the media used to assure reach and effectiveness.  The RTA Board of Directors unanimously approved the $5 million campaign in May, 2014.

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