America’s holidays all have strong images associated with them like Santa at Christmas, a shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day, a heart for Valentine’s Day, ghosts and goblins for Halloween, fireworks on the Fourth of July, and transit buses and trains for all of the above. Transit?
In one way or another, transit systems around the country have become intertwined with the fabric of local celebrations. For some, it’s a way to increase riders, others to enhance their reputation and for many it is both.
Major holidays and holiday eves used to make bus and train aisles look like bowling alleys. Yet over the years, innovative and fun promotions, along with solid community partnerships, have connected local transit providers to the unique characteristics each holiday presents.
Mardi Gras in Missouri
Take Mardi Gras for example. If you think it’s only for New Orleans, think again. Nearly a thousand miles upstream from Bourbon St., St. Louis, Mo., holds its own all-day version of the pre-Lenten celebration on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. It takes the form of a street festival in and around the city’s historic Soulard Market. With several hundred thousand people crowding into that area, organizers turned to St. Louis Metro to help move people in and out of the neighborhood.
“We offer a bus shuttle between our Metrolink light rail and Soulard,” explains Patrick McLean, Metro’s vice president of marketing and communications. “We help make the event more successful and at the same time get a lot of visibility and recognition for our contribution.” It’s not bad for building ridership either claims McLean, as 10,000 to 12,000 people ride the shuttle and a good share of them transfer from the Metrolink.
Love in Transit
Affirming each other’s love is the theme of Valentine’s Day, and some couples use it as a day to get married. And then there are those couples who get married that day on a moving train. Last year, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) and the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) that runs between the two Texas cities, teamed up with a local radio station, KLUV-FM, to sponsor a contest for one lucky couple to get a complete wedding package including having their ceremony on a TRE train.
Morgan Lyons, DART senior manager of media relations says that couples entered the contest by submitting an explanation as to why they wanted to get married on the train. Judges from the partners whittled down the entries to a group of finalists who were then able to have their stories posted on the radio station’s Web site. Then station listeners got to vote for their favorite couple.
Come Valentine’s Day, the winning couple and their entourage, boarded a regularly scheduled TRE train dubbed the “Love Train.” With a specially decorated wedding car, the train pulled out of Dallas’ Union Station bound for Ft. Worth. The newlyweds and their guests left the train in Ft. Worth where The T had arranged for a reception. Wedding night accommodations were provided by a local luxury hotel, and the radio station fixed the couple up with a honeymoon trip to the Texas Hill Country.
According to Lyons, the event was widely covered on television, and KLUV broadcast the event live. “We were able to generate a great buzz at a time when the news media was looking for a real unique Valentine’s Day story,” he says. “It really put the TRE in focus in a fun way. People saw the train as bright and clean, and got a sense of where it goes. Hopefully they’ll be more inclined to try it.”
Metro Transit in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., took part in a similar promotion with 51 couples riding the Hiawatha light rail line between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America where a mass wedding took place. Also sponsored by a radio station, the event took place on Saturday, July 7, 2007, or 7-7-07, which was considered a lucky day to be married due to its unique numerology.