Albuquerque NM - The Albuquerque Tribune reports that the city's buses will be "taking art on the move". Normally this wouldn't garner my attention but one quote in the article immediately caught my eye.
The City's Transit Director Greg Payne stated the following:
"We're a much different transit department than we were a year ago," Payne said. We will do anything and everything to attract people to mass transit, including putting art exhibits inside and outside of our buses."
Well Mr. Payne, what will attract riders is a clean, safe, reliable and convenient operation that takes people where they need and want to go. As I have commented in the past, you could have 5-star service with attendants fluffing your pillows while serving you drinks and it won't attract the ridership if your service isn't up to par.
Mr. Payne appears to have fallen into the marketing trap of style over substance transit operations. The roving art exhibit isn't going to bring new ridership and neither is any other fluff marketing campaign. What sells transit is good service and advertising that good service without the Madison Avenue treatment that is more lies than truth.
The best advertising for any system that provides good transportation service is education. When you educate the public about the transit service and how to use it to their advantage, you will attract ridership. Trying to sell a transit system like a can of Pepsi does nothing but waste valuable money that could be used to improve service.
I've been finding that transit systems that hide behind the style over substance type of promotions tend to be rather poor transit providers. Their system tend to be sadly lacking in providing convenient and reliable service and that fact is buried in the "sell the sizzle, not the steak" style of marketing they use. People aren't fooled however and ultimately what happens is the marketing campaign flops, costs a lot of money and you usually end up with less riders than when you started out with the campaign.
Mr. Payne, concentrate on providing quality transit service and people will ride. The "anything and everything" concept will only cost money while not doing anything to put new butts on the seats.
(Edited to change the name of the City Transit Director which I originally has posted as Scott Payne instead of Greg Payne)