S J. Bush

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - marketing/promotion, planning - marketing/promotion, mode - mass transit


Wisconsin, Transit operating agencies, Transit lines, Transit, State departments of transportation, Ridership, Research, Public transit lines, Public transit, Promotion, Patronage (Transit ridership), Partnerships, Multimedia, Mass transit lines, Mass transit, Marketing, Local transit, Funding, Financing, Advertising campaigns


Public transit systems need to retain current riders and constantly attract new customers. These systems require a continual investment of advertising resources to maintain and expand market share. Unfortunately, many transit agencies in southeastern Wisconsin have historically under-funded their marketing function. In face of the continual need to build ridership with inadequate marketing budgets, a partnership of four transit systems in southeastern Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation obtained a significant amount of advertising funds and completed a successful research-based marketing project in 1997. The project integrated formal market research with the creative advertising process to produce effective image and ridership-building campaigns. The research-based marketing approach developed up-front information to determine appropriate target audiences and messages for the advertising campaigns. The research also provided a formal evaluation tool to determine the effectiveness of the campaigns in regard to attitudes, awareness, advertising recall, and ridership. The advertising campaigns produced high-quality marketing materials that were visible, persuasive, and memorable. The multimedia campaign helped to improve opinions about public transportation, expand awareness of transit system service, increase ridership during and immediately following a special promotion, and support long-term growth in regional ridership. The partnership was a coordinated effort that enhanced the sophistication and effectiveness of transit marketing activities in southeastern Wisconsin. The success of the project has leveraged additional marketing funds that will be programmed to transit systems in the region.