A new guide from EMBARQ helps cities and public transit agencies market public transport.
This post originally appeared on EMBARQ.org 
Major automobile companies spend billions of dollars  annually to advertise their products to customers. In 2009, General Motors alone spent $3.2 billion on advertising campaigns and overall marketing efforts for their products. Major auto companies collectively spent $21 billion worldwide and it looks like their investments are working. The number of private vehicles in Brazil more than doubled in less than a decade -- 1.2 million in 2001 to 2.6 million in 2010. India experienced a 20-fold increase in the number of private motor vehicles in the last decade.
Such overwhelming statistics in favor of private vehicles, backed by billion dollar investments in advertising campaigns, point to the urgency with which public transport must catch-up in this competitive marketplace. Often times, so much energy is focused on the technical and financial aspects of getting public transit projects off the ground that branding and marketing become an afterthought.
In an attempt to give public transport a competitive edge, EMBARQ released a report  on marketing and branding public transport today. The reports aims to help guide cities and public transit agencies in making mass transit a competitive and desirable alternative to private vehicles. Titled, “From Here to There: A Creative Guide to Making Public Transport the Way to Go,”  the report hopes to encourage cities and transit agencies to think critically and creatively about how to make public transport the preferred way to travel.
The purpose of the guide is to help transit agencies develop strong and successful strategies to achieve three important goals:
- Attract new users that currently use private transport, such as cars and motorcycles,
- Retain existing public transport users who might feel compelled to buy a private vehicle, and,
- Secure political and financial support from government officials.
By taking a cue from the private sector, which routinely and successfully influences consumer behavior, the report applies eight branding, marketing and communications tactics to the public transport sector.
- Brand and identity
- Internal communication
- User education
- User information systems
- Marketing campaigns
- Public relations and external communications
- User feedback systems
- Online engagement
“For some time, it has been clear that cities need to create high-quality public transport systems to improve the urban environment,” the report explains. “However, not until recently has it become clear that cities must also convince the public that these high-quality systems are in fact high-quality.”
The recommendations in the report are by no means prescriptive or exhaustive. The report is merely a starting point for exploring ‘best practices’ in the public transport marketing and branding world. With the launch of “From Here to There,” EMBARQ hopes to start an open dialogue that will enhance public transit and the very quality of our cities.
This report is only the beginning of our efforts in helping public transport become a stronger alternative to private vehicles. We will also launch a series on online engagement for public transport starting in October 2011. Stay tuned!