The transit system will start selling the weekly passes on its Web site in September. And it is exploring the chance to sell the passes through online travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com, Bechdel says.
Reaching a lot of Visitors at Once
At DART in Dallas, conventions and other big groups visiting town are encouraged to take public transportation through the Convention & Special Event Day Pass. The premium day passes usually sell at $4.50, but are available for $2.50 per rider with groups of 500 or more.
Pass prices continue to fall as group size increases, says Dennis Mochon, DART’s assistant vice president of marketing.
“Most of the major hotels are downtown and the convention center is right on our light rail line so a lot of people find it is a much better way than chartering buses to move people back and forth,” Mochon says.
The DART Rail also serves numerous other attractions including the historic West End of Dallas, the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Arts District, giving convention goers the option to use public transportation to explore the city after working during the day.
DART, which had about 63 million riders last fiscal year and has 130 bus routes, two light rail lines and other transportation options, sold 43,422 of the special event day passes in its 2006 fiscal year and 46,560 in the 2005 fiscal year for revenues of more than $120,000 each year.
The passes come with a guide to get around Dallas. And, for the largest groups of 5,000 or more Convention & Special Event Passes, DART includes a “Welcome Package” that has custom-printed distribution maps, LED welcome messages on buses and trains, welcome decorations at the convention center station on the first day of the convention, an information booth at the convention to assist with transportation questions and promotion on DART.org.
Most of those extra riders don’t interfere with daily commuters because conventions tend to start and end at different times than the typical workday, DART officials says.
“Tourists often ride at the very times that commuters do not,” says Smith of DART. “Good balance of service levels can result, with much more evening and weekend travel.”
DART works with Dallas’ visitors bureau, providing collateral materials, meeting with convention coordinators and leading them on rail tours to help sell the convention passes.
A Visual Appeal
In San Antonio, the VIA Metropolitan Transit’s downtown system was created with visitors and tourists in mind, says Priscilla Ingle, vice president of public affairs for the system.
The four downtown routes circulate through the central business district and visit many of the attractions that San Antonio is famous for, Ingle says.
The 19 streetcars serving the four routes in the downtown system were created specifically to fit in with the character of downtown San Antonio by Chance Coach, now a division of North American Bus Industries under the Optima brand.
“The nostalgic design of the streetcars themselves are the result of VIA’s desire to implement a unique transportation service for the downtown area,” Ingle says.
The downtown system has an average of 4,214 weekday riders for a yearly total of 1,618,250, according to VIA statistics.
The streetcars were so warmly received that they were marketed throughout the country as the Alamo City Streetcar.
The Big Event
Dallas is home to the largest state fair in the country. Millions of people flock to the State Fair of Texas and related events during a three-week and four-weekend period in September and October.
That’s the only time annually that DART regularly adds expanded service — beefing up the weekday bus route from the end of the light rail line to the fairgrounds and adding special shuttles on the weekends, says Smith, assistant vice president of service, planning and scheduling for DART.
The University of Texas-Oklahoma University football tilt gets fans talking about mass transit options and shuttle schedules on sports fan forums on the Internet.
Austin’s Capital Metro also says it created special event shuttles to some of the most popular events for residents and visitors alike. Those include the South by Southwest Festival, the Austin City Limits Festival, University of Texas football games and holiday festivals.