Photo credit: Denver RTD
Photo credit: SFRTA
Pompano Beach, Fla.
South Florida Regional Transportation Authority
Given the demographics of our state, one of the greatest challenges the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail (SFRTA) faces is reaching the constant influx of new residents and tourists who don’t even know that a commuter rail system exists in our region, let alone one which could be beneficial to their quality of life and mobility needs.
Add to that our extraordinarily diverse community; a blend of Hispanics, transplants from the Caribbean and Latin America, the French Canadians who populate South Florida during “season,” and the Asians, South Americans and Europeans who are creating a booming condo market in downtown Miami. Of course the SFRTA can’t forget its senior citizens and retirees, many of whom are almost exclusively dependent on using public transportation for the basic mobility necessities. At the other end of the spectrum are the youth, for many of whom mass transit is the only option.
Then there are our daily commuters and those returning to the workforce after long periods of unemployment. Many of these riders have been forced to accept employment that entails a commute from one end of the service area to the other at a time when financial circumstances have forced them to forfeit their automobiles.
These are all potential Tri-Rail riders. The SFRTA has never subscribed to the “cast your bread on the waters and see what comes” philosophy of attracting new customers. Almost every outreach effort the agency mounts has a targeted audience and is created with built-in quantifiable measures.
For example, just last month the SFRTA sponsored the 8th annual“Senior Idol,” a program directly geared to attracting the senior market. It has attracted thousands of seniors over the course of the years. This year we had more than 130 contestants. The selected 12 finalists competed before 1,000 people. Through partnerships with the leading senior publications in South Florida, we have consistently reached more people year after year.
Each year, the SFRTA produces Rail Fun Day, a day of outdoor festivities, games, food trucks, displays by local non-profit agencies, animal adoptions and train rides. Another way that the SFRTA will appeal to the commuting public is through the promotion of new rolling stock over the next 18 months. By the end of 2014, we will have replaced our entire fleet of aging cars and locomotives, giving commuters the comfort, cleanliness and on-time reliability they need to depend on to find and keep secure employment.
The SFRTA has provided special service for the Orange, Pro and Super Bowls, to the new Marlins Ball Park during its opening season, the Annual Air and Sea Show, the Miami Book Fair, and Sun Fest, among many others.
Using all of the media available, including websites, direct mail, e-blasts, electronic and social media, the SFRTA continues to grow its ridership and attract new audiences.
Phillip A. Washington
General Manager and CEO
Regional Transportation District
As we focus on how we serve new or non-traditional categories of customers, I think it’s important we take a look at long-term trends that are shaping our industry’s ability to serve one of our largest, growing groups of new customers — the current generation of 16 to 34-year-olds, better known as millennials.
A recent report issued by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group Foundation details a little-known fact that the number of vehicle miles driven in this nation has shown adownward trend for about a decade. The report noted that demographic changes also indicate this slowdown in driving should continue because Baby Boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, just as driving-averse millennials move into that phase.
Our public transit customer base is changing and a new lead demographic is emerging. This new reality alerts us to the need for restructuring and refocusing our nation’s transportation funding priorities: less emphasis on new highways; more focus on rebuilding our aging roads and bridges; and substantial increases in funding for transit infrastructure. Along with this refocus comes a responsibility for transit industry professionals to take the lead in making this new reality happen.
Read more from Mr. Washington at www.MassTransitmag.com/10962643.