Transported or Transmuted? The Other Side of Marketing Public Transit

Post by Gondola Project

Despite the many benefits of transit, it often does a poor job marketing itself. Image by Flickr user Todd Anderson.

Last week I talked here about the need to rethink public transit. This week, we return to the subject but from a different perspective. As a lifelong writer of advertising and marketing materials, I’ve always been interested in how people and industries are marketed (aka presented in the media). Advertising people like me are typically self-loathing lunatics and inveterate drunks. But we get off easy compared to public transit passengers. They’re usually sad little people with no power to change their lives. Last week I even mentioned the Italian word for commuter, pendolare or pendulum, which captures the powerlessness of someone being swung back and forth. In Britain, enthusiasts of public transit are called train spotters and, again, portrayed at best as lonely, creepy or just dangerous.

Of course, what do you expect when you see how horribly public transit itself is often portrayed? Let’s review a few examples.

Take the thoroughly ridiculous Speed. Flying buses explode, subway trains magically erupt from their tunnels, and elevator cables snap — all of which leaves terrified passengers with nothing to do but scream. Luckily no one’s hurt but their faces get awfully dirty.

Speaking of poor marketing of transit, consider the irony that I watched Speed on a plane.

Then there was — still is — the intensely insane TV programme, 24. Public Transit doesn’t do well here either. Again buses and trains explode, but here many people do die and not well. In Season 2, the subway bomb does go off but luckily Jack Bauer kicks the terrorist off the train to harmlessly suicide-bomb himself to death alone in the tunnel, while terrified subway riders reach for their phones to renew their car insurance.

Even Harry Potter books portray busriders as borderline maniacs and its operators as, literally, blind and dead! Yes, you just read that correctly. The bus drivers are blind and dead. What does that tell our children? Take the flying car!

The Gondola Project regular quotes how safe cable car technology is as a means of public transportation. Nonetheless it was only a matter of time before this happened. When pretty young people say “Are you guys sure about this?” it’s a cue that things will turn out badly. Mind, Frozen was about chairlift at a ski hill, not a gondola in a metropolis, but I’m probably just splitting cables.


As a marketer, I know that a successful pitch rarely aims for the head. You need to touch readers’ hearts. So far, the industry has mostly left the marketing of cable car technology as public transit to riders themselves. If you look around this site, you’ll see they’re doing a very good job and we thank them for their contributions.

Of course, marketing something is easier when you have solid facts and a good story like the many benefits of cable car technology. For instance, gondolas inevitably attract tourists who want to ride them for the sheer pleasure of riding and seeing the sites — and pay a premium to do so. Better still, they tend to ride during off-peak hours when it’s not making much money, plus they aren’t in the way of busy commuters. What an opportunity! In some cases, more than 15% of riders on public transit gondolas are paying extra to fill up otherwise empty space and just sit there. As I said last week, there’s a romance in being lifted and transported to a destination and, on some level, each of us knows that.  Nonetheless, those are some lovely numbers that could even make a Hollywood producer look twice.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

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