APTA | Passenger Transport
The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis May 18, 2012
Forward   |   Calendar   |   APTA Home   |   Advertise with Us
Valley Metro Notes: Rider Information in Music and Video
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

A clever promotional campaign can encourage non-riders to try public transportation. How can an agency know what will work? Just ask the public—and listen.

That’s the root of Valley Metro’s award-winning “Valley Metro Notes” campaign in Phoenix. Local bands provided clever, catchy songs on rider information topics (how to ride the bus or METRO light rail, use a single pass for both modes, and read system maps and timetables); a local illustrator matched the tunes with a variety of engaging visuals. All the videos can be seen on the Valley Metro website, www.valleymetro.org/notes, or on YouTube.

Heidi Gracie, Valley Metro’s head of marketing and customer experience, explained that the inspiration for Valley Metro Notes came from participants in a focus group.

“People told us that their number one barrier to trying transit is that they didn’t want to look silly because they aren’t sure how to ride,” she said. “Many riders are very comfortable trying transit in another city where nobody knows them, but not in their hometown. So we began thinking how we could reach potential riders in the comfort of their home, before they go to the bus stop, so they’ll see exactly what they expect to see.”

Valley Metro employees realized that music and animation are nonthreatening ways to share information while entertaining the viewer and listener. According to Gracie, the next step was determining the available outlets for a public transit agency with limited finances.

“We put our heads together and decided to keep the project local,” she said. “It’s one thing if the public transit agency says this is how you ride, it’s easy, but what if your friend says it? What if new riders, younger riders, told the story and we didn’t?”

The next step was to approach local bands, selecting them both for their musical skill and their songwriting ability. “We knew what the topics needed to be, but they wrote the songs, and we let the bands choose which topics they wanted to write about,” Gracie said. “For example, a member of one band has a young son, so he wrote ‘Be Safe’ because it’s important for him that his son be safe around transit.”

Since the campaign uses the music of several different bands—with names like Elvis Before Noon, What Laura Says, Mill’s End, Peachcake, and Captain Squeegee—how could Valley Metro tie the videos together as a single campaign? The solution was to work with a single illustrator working in multiple styles.

“Each of the videos has a story,” Gracie added. “Why should we just tell people how to do stuff ? People remember stories.” So “How to Ride the Light Rail” depicts a man and a woman, stuck in separate cars in traffic, fantasizing about riding METRO together—seeing lush desert flowers through the railcar window instead of a packed highway—and “Be Safe” demonstrates what not to do, such as playing on light rail tracks or running after a bus.

Gracie also explained that the Valley Metro Notes songs have taken on a life beyond the website. For example, Phoenix area Safeway supermarkets sell Valley Metro fare media, so the songs turn up on the stores’ background music system, and the bands sometimes show the videos and perform the songs live at their concerts. “The point is for transit information to be in places where you’re not thinking about transit,” she added.

Beyond that, the brief videos have received recognition, not only in the 2011 APTA AdWheel Award competition for public transportation marketing and advertising, but in the Phoenix ADDY Awards and the Effie Awards, which honor the effectiveness of public and private sector campaigns.

Valley Metro cites the video campaign as one reason why its ridership is climbing. “Forty-six percent of all riders report using public transit more often now than a year ago,” said Gracie. “Eighty-three percent of all riders say they would recommend Valley Metro to others, compared with 78 percent last year.”

She added: “What Valley Metro Notes has done is put even more voices out there. We’re not telling anyone to ride; we supply the information to people and they encourage others to ride.”

« Previous Article
Return to Top
Next Article »
» Maryland DOT is seeking a new secretary of transportation. [More]
» The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has an opening for a chief financial officer. [More]
View more Classified Ads »
TO PLACE AN AD: E-mail or fax the requested date(s) of publication to: ptads@apta.com or FAX to (202) 496-4898. Mailing address is: Passenger Transport, 1666 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. Ad copy is not accepted by phone. DEADLINE: Noon, Monday, one week prior to publication date. INFORMATION: Phone (202) 496-4819.
© Copyright 2011 American Public Transportation Association
1666 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 496-4882 • Fax (202) 496-4321
Print Version | Search Back Issues | Contact Us | Unsubscribe