‘BART Week’ offers prizes to increase transit traffic
on October 19, 2010
In an effort to increase its drooping ridership, BART has declared this week “Try BART Week.” All week long, the transit district will be giving away free prizes such as BART passes, airline tickets, and ice cream parties to a few lucky BART customers who text to the appropriate number a “word of the day” displayed in BART stations throughout the Bay Area.
At the week’s kickoff, held Monday above the 12th Street/City Center BART station in Oakland, it was hard for anyone in the crowd that packed City Center Plaza not to get something for free. BART representatives handed out organic Green and Black’s candy bars to anyone who would take them. For the more exacting chocolate connoisseur, at least one employee of Alter Eco—a French fair trade food company whose North American offices are located in San Francisco—was on hand to distribute chocolate that was both organic and fair trade. (Full disclosure: this reporter received a sample of each).
But the day’s main event was a text message-based raffle giving away high-value BART tickets. Ten attendees left with $100 worth of rides, but they were only two-fifths as happy as Concord resident Shari Oishi, who collected the grand prize of a year’s worth of BART rides, or $2,500 in fares.
In order to participate in the remaining contests this week, BART riders should keep an eye on the rolling digital ticker above the platform, where trains’ destinations are normally displayed. In addition to the information they regularly display, these tickers will also show a “word of the day” to passengers each day this week. In order to enter oneself in the contest, one simply has to text that word—for example, Tuesday’s word was “BART”—to the number 44144. Winners will receive a call or text informing them of their luck.
Over the course of the week, BART will be awarding 1,300 prizes, collectively worth over $60,000. That may sound like a lot, but BART spokesman Linton Johnson said that this short, attention-grabbing public relations campaign costs only a tenth of what an equivalent amount of conventional advertising would. “The eyes of the transit world are watching this campaign,” Johnson said. “If we can build our ridership this way, this is going to become a model for the rest of the country.”
For those who would like to participate in the week’s giveaways, the details of the contest are available at BART’s website.
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$60,000 isn’t much, but I think it could have been better spent improving service somehow.
Typical of BART to pull media show pieces like this, instead of doing something to really pull in more riders. Things like monthly passes, better signage in stations, opening up the underground bathrooms, or getting BART police out of their patrol cars.