Similarly, branding strategy played a significant role in the new VIVA BRT line in North York (north of Toronto, Ontario). Branding expenditures for VIVA accounted for a significant portion of the overall budget, and the outcomes have been similar to those in Los Angeles: increased ridership and an enhanced travel experience. When deployed consistently, the return on investment for transit branding can be significant, and as the peak in fuel prices prompts people to seek other, less expensive transportation options, branding can help to change public perceptions about public transit, and by extension about the overall collective mindset of a particular city.
This change in perception will inevitably entice many to consider public transit as an alternative to private cars. Over time, this change in consciousness can translate directly into increased reach of transit services, reduced commute times, less pollution and congestion, lower municipal road maintenance and infrastructure costs, and increased housing and employment densities, even away from the urban core.
In the near future, look for new BRT systems in North American cities — but, before that, look for transit branding with new names that connote fast and connected service (like MetroRapid in Los Angeles or B-Line in Vancouver), hot and premium colors that connote style (SilverLine in Boston), and logos that suggest energy (Viva in Toronto) or luxury (Lymmo in Orlando).
Branding BRT will provide an opportunity for riders to re-examine public transportation, and will help “sell” an image of fast, convenient, stylish, economical and environmentally friendly public transit, and suggest that North American cities and regions are, at long last, headed in the right direction.
Alex Bitterman, MArch., PhD., is associate professor in the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y. A designer and architect, he is an internationally respected expert in place branding, corporate identity, and identity systems, and much of his research focuses on the efficacy of place branding and the accessibility of identity systems for people with physical, cognitive, cultural, or situational impairments. Bitterman is the editor-in-chief of Multi: the journal of diversity and plurality in design, and is the author of several books and one textbook.
Daniel B. Hess, PhD, is associate professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He earned a doctoral degree in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was awarded a Dwight D. Eisenhower Fellowship for Transportation Research from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. The author of numerous articles in leading urban planning and transportation journals, Hess has published research about best practices for increasing transit ridership, the role of transportation access in employment, and the relationship of land use planning and urban design to delivery of transportation services.