Commuter Connections, a free service offering alternative commuting options for the metropolitan region, has launched an aggressive mass marketing campaign to promote the use of mass transit, ridesharing, and telecommuting as alternatives to commuting alone by car.
The campaign was developed to address the area’s worsening traffic congestion and air quality. The effort, a first for Commuter Connections, is designed to connect with commuters’ frustrations and will include radio and television advertising, direct mail, Internet, ethnic advertising, and special events.
“We’re trying to get across the message that people can improve their quality of life by changing the way they commute to work each day,” said Peter Shapiro, chair of the National Capitol Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). “Folks who commute regularly across jurisdictional lines need to understand that there are less stressful ways to move across the region,” said Mr. Shapiro, who also chairs the Prince George’s County Council.
Commuter Connections, a service of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) based the marketing campaign on research revealing a high level of frustration among area residents who drive to work alone. Last week, an annual study conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute reported again that metropolitan Washington ranked as the third most congested region in the nation during the morning and evening rush hours. It also estimated that a typical commuter in this area wastes 58 hours stuck in backups each year.
Reducing the number of vehicles on area roads also will help reduce air pollution levels that affect all residents seriously, especially those who have asthma and other respiratory ailments. Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that metropolitan Washington is severely out of compliance with federal standards for ground level ozone pollution. The designation means the region could lose millions of dollars in federal funds for local transportation projects if the situation does not improve by 2005.
The campaign’s main goal is to eliminate 17,050 individual car trips by 2005. Transportation officials estimate that this will help reduce air pollution significantly. The campaign aims at converting 8,500 solo drivers over to alternative commuting modes by June 2005.
The radio and television commercials will underscore the personal benefits of using mass transit, carpools, or even telecommuting from home or a site close to home -- commuters can save money, lessen the stress of daily commutes, spend time with their families, relax, read, or get more work done.
In a recent “Found Time” essay contest sponsored by Commuter Connections, participants were asked to write about how they spent the extra time they “found” by sharing rides or taking mass transit to work. The winner of the grand prize, Susana Limon of College Park, said the time she saved by taking Metro helped her as she worked to earn a doctoral degree while balancing her roles as a working mother and wife. Living in Maryland, working in D.C., and taking classes in Virginia, Ms. Limon said she maximized her “found time” while commuting.
Paul Astrow, a contestant from Springfield, Va., won a digital camera for chronicling how carpooling in the HOV lane allowed him to arrive home in time for a relaxing dinner with his family, and attend PTA meetings.
A Spanish-language version of the ads will air on Latino radio stations throughout the region. Each of the spots urges commuters to learn about the many commuting options by calling Commuter Connections at 800 745-RIDE or visiting its website, www.commuterconnections.org.
Commuter Connections has free ridematching services for car and vanpools and provides a list of commuters who live and work near other interested commuters. In the event of an unexpected emergency or unscheduled overtime, the Guaranteed Ride Home Program provides a free, reliable ride home to regular rideshare commuters up to four times a year via taxi, rental car, or transit.
Commuter Connections is a network of area transportation organizations coordinated by COG. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia Departments of Transportation fund the program.