Can ads make Metra irresistible to drivers?
Can a snappy jingle get more riders in Metra seats? Agency leaders committed $4 million over three years to that premise by hiring a marketing and ad agency Wednesday.
Pulsar Advertising, a Los Angeles-based firm, will research passenger needs and come up with a campaign that targets people who don't take the train. About two-thirds of the cost will go toward ad buys.
Metra has hired marketing firms before. This time is different, said officials, who have set a goal of attracting 20,000 more passenger trips to Metra.
"We need to be progressive about our marketing," Director and Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said.
In 2015, passenger trips declined by 2 percent, decreasing from 83.4 million in 2014 to 81.6 million last year. The drop in 2015 could have come from lower gas prices, a fare increase in February 2015, or other factors like weather, Metra planners said.
Metra Chairman Martin Oberman said he gets frustrated looking at the expressway and "seeing thousands of people on it." "Why aren't they on trains? Some of them may be living in Schaumburg and would get on a train if we get their attention," he said.
Planners estimate one new monthly pass customer generates about $1,500 a year on average.
"I'm open to spending money to make money," Oberman said.
The Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees Metra, Pace and the CTA, also hired a marketing firm for $5 million in 2014.
Pulsar has worked for transit agencies in New York, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.