The bus stops here, so hop on board.

ValleyRide, the Treasure Valley’s bus system and one of Drake Cooper’s clients, is growing in popularity, as gas prices go up, and citizens and businesses discover the cost savings involved in riding the bus. The most significant increase in ridership has occurred on the Intercounty bus line between Caldwell/Nampa.

ValleyRide has seen bus ridership soar by 3,000 people (boardings) or 60 percent between July and October in 2007, and so far in 2008, the trend is continuing. It will be interesting to see how $4 gas prices change ridership patterns.

In 2007, Drake Cooper once again won the bid to be ValleyRide’s marketing partner but this time, with a very different idea on ways to use the limited dollars available to market ValleyRide programs. As ValleyRide rolls out bus stops across the Valley, Drake Cooper has become a grassroots marketing agent, using primarily PR tactics, earned media and marketing collateral (often posted inside the bus) to help spread the word. There is no mass media “advertising” per se anymore.

Part of the program is to stay in touch with bus riders, of course. I rode the Intercounty bus service recently to see who was riding the bus and why, while a freelance photographer shot B-roll video for a news release we produced for ValleyRide. Bus riders on the ValleyRide #40 Nampa/Meridian Express told me that high fuel prices and dramatic cost savings by riding the bus have inspired them to hop on board.

The Express route departs Karcher Mall at 6:30 a.m., makes brief stops at the BSU West Campus in Nampa and at Gold’s Gym in Meridian, and then takes the freeway into downtown Boise, arriving at 7:25 a.m. Four different ValleyRide express routes travel many times daily from Canyon County to the Boise area to accommodate the demand.

“When gas prices went above $2 several years ago, I decided to try it,” said Georgeann Williams of Nampa, who works at the Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Hospital in Boise. “My employer pays for three-quarters of my pass, so I pay only $16 a month.”

Dan Narsavage of Nampa, a GIS analyst in the Ada County Assessor’s office, said his employer also covers the majority of the cost of his monthly bus pass, leaving him to pay only $13. “With my truck, I can’t get into Boise and back on $13 for one week, much less one month,” Narsavage says. “It’s pretty much a no-brainer.”

This year, Drake Cooper joined in to help the cause and will reimburse any employee the equivalent value to a monthly bus pass if that employee utilizes any form of alternative transportation.

It’s our view that citizens and the marketplace will continue to find new ways to drive progressive changes for alternative transportation.

ValleyRide’s conversion to a new fixed-location bus stops system in Canyon County was extremely well-received in late February. The objectives of the fixed bus stop system are to improve on-time service and safety, and position ValleyRide to grow. The media turned out in force to witness the new bus stop system in Caldwell and Nampa, and Caldwell Mayor Garrett Nancolas and Nampa Mayor Tom Dale were brimming with enthusiasm. Watch the videos attached here.

Now ValleyRide is working on implementing a new bus stop system for Ada County, beginning in September. Watch for news about the Bus Stops Here campaign, a ValleyRide initiative that Drake Cooper has assisted with PR work and a host of new marketing materials to help consumers learn about the location of new bus stops and how to navigate the system.

Power to the people!

Watch newscast.

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