The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in California will expand bus routes for the second year to better serve passengers heading to the Orange County Fair in July and August.
The weekend-only routes will take passengers from designated stops directly to the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, says Joel Zlotnik, spokesman for the authority.
In May, OCTA launched “a marketing plan to promote ridership on the service,” Zlotnik says. “It will include newspaper ads, door hangers and special graphics on the buses promoting the service with the fair theme.”
OCTA carries more than 200,000 riders each day for more than 68 million riders per year on 81 bus routes.
Other mass transit systems that were contacted for this story didn’t report increasing services significantly for major events.
Get the Word Out
Travelers are savvy and do their homework before going someplace new. Making sure your information is out there for them to find is important, officials say.
Capital Metro in Austin is already part of Google’s Google Transit site, in addition to having a trip planner on its own Web site, www.capmetro.org.
Miami-Dade County Transit is also planning to add its offerings to Google Transit to augment the trip planner on the system’s Web site, www.miamidade.gov/transit.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit has made sure it’s the first thing that pops up when an Internet surfer types DART or Dallas transit into the most popular search engine, says Morgan Lyons, senior manager of media relations for DART.
The DART Web site (www.dart.org) will even suggest something for people to do in the Dallas metropolitan area every day.
“We have a special destinations section on the Web site where we list an activity or event every day,” Lyons says.
While the Web is a powerful tool, paper copies of transit information are just as important to the visitor.
“We put a lot of route information, especially the streetcar maps, in many of the hotels downtown, as well as a lot of the popular destinations for tourists,” says Ingle of VIA. “VIA started a route specifically designed to serve several of these destinations, as we call it the Sightseer Special.
Austin also created a special route to take visitors to many of the town’s attractions — the Tour of the Town route.
Maps and the like are equally abundant in Austin.
“Many organizations that provide services to tourists — hotels, restaurants, chamber of commerce, etc. — have our schedule books and maps available,” says Whited, of Capital Metro. “The marketing department also works with special event organizers to provide visitors ample information on our services.”
Special downtown shuttle buses, the kind that might see a large tourist ridership, haven’t been viable in Dallas, says DART.
“Fixed-route transit systems are usually designed and operate more effectively when targeting regular daily customers,” a spokesman for DART says. “Visitor-oriented services often suffer from dramatic drop-offs in ridership outside of the peak travel season.”
Good Old Customer Service
In the end, commuters and tourists are looking for many of the same things — a clean, comfortable ride, good value, friendly customer service and the ability to get where they want to go without problems.
“The challenges in serving both tourists and residents are very similar,” says Misty Whited, with Capital Metro in Austin. “It is important for Capital Metro to make sure our customers and potential customers are aware of the many services we provide and understand how easy and economical it is to use mass transit.”
Capital Metro has 134 bus routes, more than 500 vehicles and has roughly 35 million annual boardings. The Texas capital’s biggest tourism events are the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Trail of Lights holiday celebration in December.
Obviously, mass transit systems need to keep the regular riders at the foremost of their focus, but serving those folks well can lead to serving visitors well, too.