A successful program not only increases ridership, it can improve the agency's community image as well. The Vancity U-Pass at TransLink is one example of that. The Vancity U-Pass is a partnership between TransLink, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity). Between the two universities, there is a student population base of 58,000.
Collaboration was key to making this program a success. TransLink committed the additional service, which included more than 50,000 additional hours, 35 buses and major upgrades to several routes. As Drew Snider, media relations for TransLink, explains, BRT routes are in service throughout the day, not just in peak periods.
A mandatory student fee entitles students at each university to purchase a transit pass at half price. Sinder states, "These mandatory student fees make up the discrepancy between the reduced rate the students pay and the actual cost of each trip, so that the project is revenue neutral for TransLink."
Vancity provides fi nancial support for administrative costs in return for access to the student market. The program helps Vancity in other ways as well, Snider says. "Vancity has a longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability and the Vancity U-Pass program helps the credit union fulfill that."
Snider describes the program as a success from the beginning. "Transit ridership jumped by 39 percent at SFU and 53 percent at UBC. Car traffi c to the campuses is down and so is parking demand - by as much as 15 percent."
He explains that it has helped Trans- Link in another way, as well. "The two universities are at opposite ends of "business" commuter routes into downtown Vancouver. UBC is situated on the westernmost point of Vancouver's peninsula and commuter traffic in the past has fl owed eastward, toward downtown, in the morning and westward in the afternoon.
"SFU is at the eastern end of the city of Burnaby, which borders Vancouver on the east. Most commuter traffic has tended to go towards downtown in the morning and back in the afternoon. Buses would have much reduced ridership on the return trips. Vancity U-Pass gives these buses 'reverse peak' ridership."
Snider also mentions that the Vancity U-Pass won the Innovation award from CUTA and it received the National Sustainable Community Award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the environmental and infrastructure systems firm, CH2M HILL Canada in 2005.
As these four agencies illustrate, good planning and creativity can go a long way. They all also pointed out that the return on their investment of time and money was well worth the outcomes - increased ridership, better communication, a better image and more excitement.
The success of each piece of the marketing puzzle creates a shining moment to build the positive image of the agency among the employees and the members of the community.