Transportation Alternatives’ many transportation service-oriented and vehicle design projects involved its conduct of a full spectrum of marketing, advertising and public relations activities. Because both the media and messages in each area were and are distinctly different, TA’s work in each of these areas is presented separately in the two sections below.
TA has been responsible for designing and conducting marketing activities for its own services (PTS Transportation) and for several transit and paratransit systems it designed, including:
- The Carson Circuit Transit System
- The City of Los Angeles’ VALTRANS Dial-A-Ride Program
- The Pasadena Dial-A-Ride
For VALTRANS and Pasadena, TA designed ridership guidelines, brochures, promotional radio and TV “spots”, press releases, posters, displays, fliers and other materials used for information dissemination to potential riders and for display at major trip origins and destinations. To promote these systems, TA made public presentations at City Council meetings, workshops, community group meetings, social service agencies, and other public forums. TA also composed advertising copy and interfaced with local media and press, including conducting interviews with announcers and reporters.
TA’s marketing efforts for the Carson Circuit Transit System also included TA’s design of its unique map and schedule (see Map and Schedule Design). TA also designed a multi-faceted marketing program involving “field trips” for schoolchildren, special events, mementos (T-shirts, commemorative “pogs” and “slammers”, etc.), promotional literature and general marketing materials. TA made presentations of the system to groups of Employment Transportation Coordinators (ETCs) representing many of the City’s more than 200 businesses employing 100 individuals or more, as well as conducting liaison activities with Board members of the South Bay Pavilion (the system’s timed-transfer focal point) and major land developers whose territories were served by the system. TA also provided liaison with both local and national press including arranging for articles about the system in national trade publications including School Bus Fleet, School Transportation News and Metro magazines, and the CASTO Newsletter, as well as the Los Angeles Times.
Vehicle Design and Marketing
As the North American partner in TAM-USA, TA was completely responsible for performing all marketing, advertising and public relations activities associated with the introduction and sale of the TAM 252 school/activity bus and TAM 260 motorcoach in North America.
The core of this activity involved TA’s creation of advertising copy, placed in the major trade publications for both the pupil transportation and motorcoach coach industries. These publications included School Bus Fleet, School Transportation News, National Bus Trader and Bus Ride. Selected advertisements include:
TAM-USA: The Problem, The Solution
A Great Structure Equals A Great Bus
TAM 260: The Affordable Alternative
School Bus Fleet, June-July, 1992 and School Bus Fleet, April-May, 1991).
Articles about the TAM-USA project and its products appeared in numerous issues of these magazines (see Articles about Transportation Alternatives, TAM-USA and Ned Einstein). In particular, a seven-page article examining and praising the TAM 260 tour coach appeared in the January, 1994 issue of National Bus Trader (see TAM 260: The new coach for the economical and small market niche).
Finally, TA successfully placed the entire story of the TAM-USA venture, including a history of its transition from school bus to tour coach production, in the major international investment publication associated with Eastern and Central Europe, East European Investment magazine: Make Way… Slovenia Coming Through!
TA brought further attention to TAM-USA products through its participation in a number of national and international information-sharing organizations, including the National Association of Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National School Transportation Association NSTA), the National Safety Council, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), and the United Motorcoach Association (formerly the United Bus Owners Association). TAM-USA displayed models of both versions of buses and coaches at national conferences for most of these organizations, as well as at many State and Regional Conferences. Most importantly, TA President Ned Einstein was invited to make a full-hour presentation of the TAM 252 school/activity bus to the 50 State Directors of Pupil Transportation at the 1990 Annual NAPT Conference.
TA also conducted the most remarkable marketing/public relations activity in decades of the U.S. bus business with its formation, in 1989, of the TAM-USA User Design Committee (UDC). This committee was composed of four state directors of pupil transportation (California, Arizona, Washington, Texas), several recognized school district transportation directors, senior officials from the nation’s five largest private school bus contractors (Laidlaw, Ryder, Mayflower, Durham and VANCOM), the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Safety Council, and the presidents of both the public- and private sector “umbrella” organizations representing the pupil transportation industry (NAPT and NSTA). The UDC met three times (including a week-long meeting in Central Europe!) to participate directly in the actual design of the TAM 252 school/activity bus. Largely for this reason, the TAM-USA project had an enormous impact on the school bus industry even though the vehicle’s introduction into the North American market was not commercially successful largely as a matter of its timing — in the midst of the break-up of former Yugoslavia (see Make Way… Slovenia Coming Through!).
However, TAM-USA’s follow-up project — the TAM 260 Motorcoach — was introduced 18 months later, 12 units were sold almost immediately, and another 30 were ordered but never delivered, as Slovenia’s transformation from a genuine socialist country to a democracy resulted in the liquidation of the TAM-BUS manufacturing plant by government officials and members of that nation’s banking community.
The enormous impact of the TAM-USA User Design Committee, and the school/activity project in general, led to the appearance of a plethora of similar design and safety features formerly unavailable in school buses in virtually every other school bus manufacturer’s products. These features included TAM-USA’s introduction of ABS brakes, pneumatic suspension system (only the models of the two small “West Coast” manufacturers, Crown and Gillig, no longer producing school buses — contained this feature), accessible headlight and front cap electrical panels, track seating system, increased undercarriage luggage space, air conditioning, and fully ergonomic driver’s compartment. Further, the TAM bus’s integral structure (identical to the structure used in transit buses and motorcoaches) and its transit style design helped other school bus manufacturers dramatically increase the proportion of “transit style” full size buses sold compared to “conventional” front-engine models, and helped them effect a transition of their body-on-chassis vehicles to cosmetically-altered and upgraded “commercial bus” variations designed for the transit, tour and charter coach markets. Of course, the TAM School/Activity Bus contained many safety features still unavailable in school buses, including anti-explosive fuel tank technology, oversized window openings, wider passenger aisles, offset roof escape hatches, and rear “curb” and “safety” lights to illuminate the “danger zone” beneath the rear tires (see Vehicle Design and Product Development).
The impact of the TAM-USA School/Activity Bus project also enabled TAM-USA to effect an almost effortless transition into the motorcoach market – permitting TAM-USA to sell the initial order of vehicles before they even arrived (see Make Way… Slovenia Coming Through!). Further, the concept of a motorcoach vehicle “envelope” transformed into an integral school bus triggered an enormous spurt of design and marketing activity among other school bus manufacturers which designed, produced and successfully sold hundreds of modifications of such vehicles to transit agencies, municipalities and tour and charter coach operators. The concept also led, as recently as 1998, to the State of California’s issuance of specifications for an integrated school/transit bus (the specifications were designed by former State Director of Pupil Transportation Ron Kinney — a member of the TAM-USA User Design Committee), as well as efforts by the USDOT, the Transportation Research Board, and other national and state organizations to explore the integration of pupil transportation and transit service. This trend included TA President Ned Einstein’s co-authorship (with Ron Kinney) of the concept paper adopted by NASDPTS calling for the reconciliation of pupil transportation and transit industry differences, and cooperative efforts to improve the safety of transit service to accommodate schoolchildren (see STNonline -“State Directors/Proposed Partnership between School Bus and Public Transit Service”).