Some Thoughts on Transportation Education II

Every year I watch the Superbowl I’m reminded about what’s wrong with American….every…well, no, let me keep it simple: with American transportation ideology.

I mean our obsession with the car.

Let me be specific. The purpose of every car commercial during the Superbowl is to inspire men to own (and drive) motor vehicles. This inspiration is steeped in American idealism, such as freedom and (masculine) individuality while simultaneously suggesting that by owning a car, you (white male) are also serving a greater cause, for example, your loved ones (read Subaru) or your city (read Chevy).

Take the Chevrolet Sonic….how much money are they spending on their “Let’s Do This” campaign? Remember the infamous bailout of the automotive industry? If this industry needs a few million so that we the consumer can watch cars enjoy leisure activities like sky diving and bungee jumping surely we can put some money into some kind of public transit advertising that involves more than just updating riders as to when service is suspended. Or, at the very least, give some money to the People Mover so they can update their website.

Will public transit ever get enough money to create ads that stir our emotions to the same degree as the motor industry?

“Thank you for riding with MTA” is New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s slogan. What car company would ever use such a phrase?  Seduction rarely begins with a thank you; it’s obvious that public transit systems are suffering from low self-esteem, which, as we all know, is a major turn off. Or look at the People Mover’s “WE’LL TAKE YOU THERE!” (note all caps is their choice), somehow, it’s just not as riveting as the Sonic’s “Let’s do this” approach to moving from point a to b. Why? Because while the later suggests that the ride is going to be an experience, the former suggests that, with enough patience, you’ll get to where you need to go.

Do our transit authorities need more money or just better PR?

I think they probably need both, but, more importantly, they need Hollywood. Hollywood needs to make a great film that involves public transit. When’s the last time you’ve seen an American film with a good train scene? The kind that stirs you to abandon your car and take public transit with the hope that, by doing so, something amazing, extraordinary could possibly happen to you (note the movie Speed DOES NOT count). Sure there are some great films that involve train adventure–but I don’t think any of these are American and they usually oscillate between childish fantasy (e.g. taking the train to Hogwarts) and violence (e.g. opening scene from Man Bites Dog). So, what I’m asking, dear reader who is in graphic design, mass communication, advertising, Hollywood, and/or has a lot of money, please make an amazing public transit commercial for Superbowl 2013.

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