Go into any store these days and chances are you’ll find a bargain: buy two shirts and get one free… or buy a burger and get another one half-price. Retailers market their products with attractive deals because they know it works. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King thinks it’s time to use that marketing magic to get more of us to “buy into” public transportation:
Go into any store these days and chances are you’ll find a bargain: buy two shirts and get
one free… or buy a burger and get another one half-price. Retailers market their products
with attractive deals because they know it works. Great Lakes Radio Consortium
commentator, Julia King, thinks it’s time to use that marketing magic to get more of us to
“buy into” public transportation:
A couple years back, my smallish Northern Indiana town got an honest-to-goodness
PUBLIC BUS. Progressive types started walkin’ a little taller, a little prouder – because,
well, when you have a BUS it means you live in a place where somebody cares.
Our bus is such a good thing, in fact, that people hate to talk about the one little problem:
(whisper) nobody ever rides it. Okay, that’s not exactly true. Last Tuesday, my
neighbor’s friend thought she saw someone in the very last row on the right hand side.
I’m just BARELY exaggerating. There are really only two kinds of people who ever get
on our bus: hardcore greenie tree-huggers… and those who have no other form of
So, now, with tight government budgets and higher gas prices, some cost-conscious
citizens are rightly taking a closer look at our not-so-public public transportation.
In a letter to a local paper, one man put it this way: “I would prefer not having taxpayers’
dollars go literally up in fumes.” He suggested we have two choices: put the bus out of
its misery, or get more people to RIDE it.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, we could reduce our oil
dependence by about 40% – almost the amount we import from Saudi Arabia in a year –
if Americans would use public transportation for just 10% of our daily travel.
You know, radio stations hand out cash and concert tickets to attract listeners; television
stations lure viewers with home makeovers; cola companies entice customers with
everything from free soda to a chance at a BILLION dollars.
What do bus riders get for their trouble? Hmmm? Oh yeah – more trouble. If it’s hot, or
cold, or raining, and there’s a comfortable car ten feet away in the garage, taking a bus is
In large cities, where drivers compete for rare and costly parking spaces, public
transportation offers tangible rewards in the way of convenience and affordability. But in
communities with plenty of space and manageable traffic – if you have a car – the only
reasons to ride a bus are long-term, big picture, goody-goody reasons like ozone
reduction, energy conservation and curbing global warming.
Here’s where the public sector can use a little private-sector know-how. Catchy jingles,
cash prizes, gift certificates at shops along the bus routes, maybe chocolate…
riders need something in the here and now. Like anything else Americans buy, public
transportation is a product. It’s time to start selling it.
Host Tag: Julia King can be found riding the bus… alone… in Goshen, Indiana. She
comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.