McLennan County Rural Transit District (MCRTD), Operated by Waco Transit System ' 'Anyone. Anywhere.' Rural Ridership Campaign

Target Audience: Our target audience was anyone in the rural McLennan County area living outside of the urbanized area eligible for Waco Transit's fixed route and Demand Response services. In July 2015, Waco Transit assumed operations of the newly-formed McLennan County Rural Transit District (MCRTD). MCRTD replaced a former rural program run by another agency. In addition to targeting potential new riders, we also wanted to reach those who had utilized the former rural service. Compared with that program, MCRTD was able to operate more efficiently, service more areas within McLennan County, and offer extended hours, including service on Saturdays. Destinations covered by MCRTD include anywhere in McLennan or adjacent counties, as long as one leg of the trip originates from, or travels to, a rural address.

Strategy Objective:While most of the transportation services offered at Waco Transit were already well-known and established within the community, rural transit was a relatively new service many people still weren't familiar with. Our main objective was to develop a well-branded marketing campaign, which would help educate our target audience on the program, evoke greater interest in rural public transportation and produce higher ridership as a result of increased public knowledge on the program. We achieved this through the use of complimentary marketing pieces, including a TV commercial, full-length PSA in music video style format, collaboration with a local celebrity, transit and bus bench ads, a radio spot, educational print materials, and a strong social media presence.

Situation Challenge: MCRTD was a little more than a year old when the "Anyone. Anywhere." campaign was launched on November 28, 2016. Our main challenge was to develop an effective strategy to grow ridership and help educate the general public and potential new riders of the program's existence, ease-of-use, affordability, and tremendous benefit to McLennan County and surrounding communities. Public transportation had previously not been an option for most people in these rural areas. MCRTD offered appointment-based, door-to-door service that anyone could use to travel anywhere in the rural McLennan County area and adjacent counties. The program was created in order to improve the mobility of more residents in rural areas and enhance access to jobs, education, community services, healthcare and more.

Results Impact: Just three months after the launch of MCRTD's "Anyone. Anywhere." campaign, MCRTD saw a 44% increase in rural ridership, compared to ridership from the same time period a year prior. The program grew so much in popularity that Waco Transit was forced to hire additional rural transit drivers in order to meet the growing demand for service. As more residents became aware of the program, so did area agencies and organizations whose patients, clients, and/or members, could benefit directly from the service. Ridership has increased above expectations, and MCRTD officials still expect numbers to rise in untapped markets as word continues to spread about the program.

Why Submit: MCRTD has changed the dynamics of public transportation in McLennan County and surrounding communities. The "Anyone. Anywhere." campaign was successful in its goal of achieving increased rural transit ridership, as the program has grown exponentially and continues to flourish. The campaign also played a significant role in generating awareness on the program and educating the general public on its affordability and ease of use.