Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What van operators can do

In my last post I discussed some things that the Taxi and Limousine Commission could do to give its Group Ride Vehicle program a better chance of success - like changing the name. But part of the idea is that it's a privately run system, and that the route contractors have some responsibility for their own income.

It's pretty easy to think of ways the vans could get the word out about their services: in the case of the Q74, advertising in the Queens College student paper, The Village Voice and other periodicals that students are likely to read. Advertising on the connecting E and F trains, on bus shelters and even on the competing Q64 buses. Hiring a few attractive college students to hand out fliers. Wrapping their vans in ads promoting their own business instead of someone else's.

The van operators could even set up their own website, as a supplement to - and linked from - the existing TLC page. They could start a Facebook page and a twitter feed.

The van operators could also engage in some positive PR. Reach out to campus organizations and student leaders. Demonstrate how flexibility is a strength of jitney operations by having lots of vans available (and signs directing people to them) after major events on campus. Organize an event or two, like maybe a reggae dance party.

The big question is why they haven't done any of this? Some of it costs money, but others can be done with a little time, thought and connections. You might also ask why the vans are so scarce in general. I'll have some thoughts about that soon.


Stephen Smith said...

I'd say that a big reason is culture. It seems like a lot of people who got contracts are immigrants, which makes sense since illegal/semi-legal dollar vans tend to be most popular within immigrant communities. These bus routes, on the other hand, are nothing like those, from what I've seen. They traditionally rely on word of mouth and sheer volume of vans going up and down Flatbush Ave., but they don't have either of these advantages here. One reason the vans might not be doing too well is that there just aren't that many of them. There may be economies of scale in bus service, both in terms of exposure and in terms of just having enough employees to have a separate marketing guy.

-SS from

Cap'n Transit said...

Yes, that's definitely part of it, Stephen. But I think a bigger factor is the fact that most of the van drivers don't really care whether the project succeeds, and the people who care don't drive enough vans.