I do not ride the bus, nor do I plan on it any time soon. My job requires a considerable amount of local travel, often without much notice. My car is basically an office on wheels. Thus, I am not particularly well suited for mass transit – so take this as solely the outside, uneducated opinion of a casual observer.
There is an article in the Dayton paper today about RTA, in which it expresses an intent to raise bus fare while simultaneously cutting service. Pay more, get less. They apparently have a shortfall of funds and need to increase prices and prune routes and personnel to make up for the lack of revenue. Again, I am no expert on this – but if I was hoping to increase demand for anything would charging more and offering less work? It seems that with gas prices regularly above $3.00 and showing no signs of decreasing, RTA has an amazing opportunity, albeit a difficult one. For RTA to increase its user base, it needs to change the fundamental behavioral patterns of human beings who love the freedom afforded by an automobile. That is hard to do. Some would argue it is darn near impossible. So logically, it will take something remarkable to change the fate of mass transit, change consumer behavior, and ultimately make RTA viable. Incremental rate increases and pruning are futile and actually counter-productive long term. RTA needs a game changing idea. Remember, freedom (i.e. the freedome to drive a gasoline powered vehicle) comes at a price – again currently over $3.oo per gallon. So here are a few of my thoughts.
- Make it Free! What if for 1 month RTA charged nothing. Ride for free. Learn that you won’t get killed on the bus. Learn that bus travel is clean, safe, low stress, and gets you to your office and back on time. Stress free commuting. Stimulate demand. Change user behavior and perception, and make people consider the cost of driving relative to the alternative. Once the promotional period has ended, go back to the normal fares – perhaps even increase them to cover loss of the promotional period. First and foremost build a user community.
- Make it Fun! Bucher on the bus. Radio on the bus. Networking on the bus. Trivia on the bus. Folk Singers on the bus. Rappers on the bus. Bagels – sold on the bus for profit. Coffee – sold on the bus for profit. Newspapers – sold on the bus for profit. Wifi on the bus, available with a bus pass. Corporate bus memberships at a reduced rate. Bloggers on the bus, telling the world about our cool buses, real time, twitter on the bus. The list goes on. The idea would be to make the bus the most amazing part of the day. Make it a place for business to happen. Make it a place where friendships are forged. Make it more than mass transit connecting a to b – make it about connecting the experience of the bus to the consumer and the consumers to one another.
Yes, there are countless flaws in the theory, but it is about the mentality. Reinvent what “riding the bus” means. Give more. Make it remarkable, and create a real future. As Weird Al so wisely said….”Another one rides the bus. And another gets on and another gets on, another one rides the bus…” Showing my age. I digress.
What would it take for you to ride the bus?