Making transit as cool as cars

For any city taking transit seriously (or not seriously), the video above is a must-see if they care to relate to emerging generations and grow.

The auto industry spends $20 billion in advertising in California alone. The question posed in the video above is, what would happen if the same kind of money was spent on transit? Or perhaps a better question is, what if mass transit was not only presented as sexy as cars are, but as cool as the progressive, open-minded, creative people who use it?

The City of Los Angeles did just that, hiring an in-house creative agency to communicate that transit (methinks the word ‘mass’ sounds too non-individualistic or unique to be associated with its riders) is more appealing and attractive than driving. In other words, to communicate what creatives really do think about it for once.

In the video you’ll see their most successful ‘opposites or problem/solution’ campaign that contrasted transit (known as Metro) with driving: villain/hero; stress/relief; bitter/sweet; naughty/nice. They went with bright vibrant colors to spice up their image, got Mattel to brand ‘Los Angeles’ on a Matchbox replica of their bus, and commissioned 300 professional artists to enliven Metro stations. They chose fonts and graphics for their maps and guides that you’d normally find in designer shops.

Results? Since the design switch, discretionary ridership has gone from 22% to 36% of commuters.

See the full screen here.

Update! Check out Metro’s website here and the Fast Company article, How L.A. Metro Is Enticing Riders With Better Design, previously mentioned in Public, private sectors investing in driving less.

  • Jason Rylander

    Brilliant ad campaign. But could we do this in DC, where Metro is already being loved to death (at least at peak hours) and suffers from serious maintenance and funding issues? Metro in DC is the solution, but it performs like an aging relic, not the hip, cool, stress-free solution we need it to be. Now — something like this for Metro Bus could work and would be well worth pursuing.

  • Taylor Frame

    MARTA-Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority-Atlanta’s mass transit system needs this more than any system I’ve seen. It needs a lot of things, but a face-lift causing a defining surge in appeal followed by increased demand and service would really be a great thing for Atlanta’s car centric demise.

    Plain and simply, MARTA’s colors are horrific. They are as dated as my parent’s 1976 contemporary house complete with dark brown and bright yellow kitchen motif. There house has not been updated since inception and neither has MARTA.

  • I love this! I really appreciate creative advertising campaigns about public transit and public services in general. I wish there were more. Seattle has had similarly fun campaigns around its Light Rail, though I don’t believe it has integrated a dynamic campaign such as this. I wasn’t clearn, did LA Metro contract out for everything? Did they come up with the taglines themselves?

    Thanks for this wonderful video.

  • Peter Smith

    excellent propaganda video by Embarq — crushers of rail systems around the world.

    i love how they brand public bureaucrats with the big Embarq logo — excellent. i’m sure Embarq’s funders are happy. taxpayers? eh, not so much.

    the figures sound interesting, but anytime Embarq is involved, you know there’s deception going on. what was the mode shift to transit in LA? and how much was due to the recession and gas prices?

  • Thanks Aurea, LA Metro invested in an in-house creative agency that came up with their campaigns and designs. I added a link to a Fast Company story that provides more info on this!

    Peter, I think the readers may appreciate a link to a story to clarify and support your argument. This particular entry is focusing on transit vs cars, but I understand the importance of fulling understanding the differences between light rail vs bus rapid transit.