Muni and BART Dump ‘Dump the Pump Day’ This Year

dumpthepumpvisual.jpgThe Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's promotion of Dump the Pump Day 2008. Flickr photo: Metro Library and Archive
The Bay Area’s two largest transit agencies are passing this year on a national event intended to get drivers to ride transit for a day.

Muni and BART won’t be participating in National Dump the Pump Day today, an event sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association and intended to raise awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of riding transit.

Last year, BART drew a record number of riders on a combined Dump the Pump/Spare the Air free transit day. The 2007 Dump the Pump Day led to a more modest bump for BART, without the incentive of free trips.

Neither BART nor Muni disputed the inherent effectiveness of transit awareness campaigns, but each cited their own reasons for staying out this year.

Muni did participate in Dump the Pump Day in 2006, but the agency is now inclined to create its own campaign, said Murray Bond, the MTA’s deputy director of external affairs. “Instead of buying ads now to use what basically are canned national campaigns, we’re going to run our own campaign after the new fiscal year starts on July 1,” said Bond.

He said Muni would run ads it shot last fall, which are more provocative and eye-catching than those produced for Dump the Pump Day.

“This is San Francisco. When we do things here, we try to do things upbeat, to get people’s attention,” said Bond. “Not that Dump the Pump isn’t good, but we think this thing, it’s all visual.”

Though Bond wasn’t thrilled with the Dump the Pump visuals, Muni’s campaign shares very similar goals: “The point we’re making is how inexpensive it is to ride a bus to work, or streetcar, or light rail, as opposed to what it costs to operate a car,” said Bond. “And at the same time, it’s clean, it’s green.” Similarly, APTA President William Millar says the purpose of Dump the Pump Day is “to make a difference in their wallet, as well as in the environment.”

VTA.dumpthepump_1.jpgA 2006 VTA ad for Dump the Pump on the side of a light rail vehicle. Flickr photo: richardmasoner
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is participating this year, and many agencies nationwide are coordinating participation regionally. The VTA will promote the event by sending email messages to their Eco Pass partners, running online ads on Yahoo and the San Jose Mercury News website, and holding a contest for stories from riders about why they “dumped the pump.”

Affirming BART’s support for the event in spite of its absence this year, BART spokesperson Linton Johnson wrote that BART was “stretched too thin this year” to participate, but noted that they had participated every other year since Dump the Pump Day’s inception, and would again next year.

Transit agencies across the country are promoting the event in diverse ways, which raises the question of whether in the future Muni could simply use its own, more provocative ads in conjunction with the existing Dump the Pump campaign, allowing for better regional coordination while not sacrificing style. Since that won’t be happening this year, let’s hope Muni’s ads are as provocative, interesting, and effective as promised.