RTA invests $5 million for ads

  • The RTA board approved a $5 million ad campaign Wednesday.

      The RTA board approved a $5 million ad campaign Wednesday. MARK WELSH | Staff Photographer, October 2012

Updated 5/21/2014 5:41 PM

RTA board directors are betting that a $5 million ad campaign will put more riders on buses and trains.

Officials voted Wednesday to hire Downtown Partners Communications for a marketing push that targets reverse commuters, occasional riders and older adults. The ad agency's clients include the Illinois Lottery and Walgreens,


"It seems like a lot of money, but it's a relatively small amount of money in the advertising marketplace," interim Executive Director Leanne Redden said.

"Are we able to tie ridership increases to this campaign?" RTA Director Sarah Pang of Chicago asked.

"Once it's up and going, we will see if it's effective in the routes we target and see if the route ridership improves and generates the revenue we hope," RTA Chairman John S. Gates said.

Director Bill Coulson of Glenview said the agency intended to do destination-specific ads that would let suburbanites unfamiliar with transit realize they could take Metra to the Lyric Opera or Allstate Arena, for example.

"The proof will be in the pudding," Coulson said following the meeting.

The $5 million expenditure is equal to 2.5 million to 3.7 million additional rides over three years, market development manager Mark Minor said.

Downtown Partners handled the marketing campaign for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's 2010 election. Madigan's brother-in-law Jordan Matyas is chief of staff at the Regional Transportation Authority, but officials said there was no cronyism involved in selecting the firm.

Downtown Partners' website states its work for the attorney general "helped keep her in office." The firm has also contributed about $5,000 to Madigan's campaign fund. Downtown Partners has not worked for the attorney general since 2010, Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. She added that Madigan "has nothing to do" with RTA contracts.

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