Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning


City and Regional Planning


Kelly Main


A new trend is emerging, seeking to recognize the benefits of and encourage the use of public transportation. In the past, public transit agencies have not directed much energy or focus at marketing, seeking to use limited funds elsewhere. “The common perception is that money spent on marketing would be better spent on transit systems themselves…over time, a sustained investment in marketing increases the number of people who use transit. Increased ridership leads to increased revenue, and ideally, an increase in service to match the new demand” (Arpi, 2009).

Even as marketing gains importance in the public transit world, questions remain as to how to make effective marketing choices for the public transit market. This report explores public transit marketing, and its application to the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority. The San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority (RTA) provides regional public transportation service throughout San Luis Obispo County.

Case study interviews, conversations with RTA, and review of academic and professional sources have supplied information and guidance on these questions. An interview with RTA was conducted to establish goals and guiding research questions for the exploration of marketing. A literature review provided a context of the field, through professional, academic, news, and media pieces. The research questions were explored through case study examples, in the form of interviews with Intercity Transit (Olympia, WA) and Orange County Transportation Authority (Orange County, CA). Further analysis of 2011 ridership survey data provided an additional level of information to consider. The research methods resulted in a range of findings that are applicable to RTA. The report concludes with the following recommendations for marketing RTA:

1. Focus on consistent branding.

2. Establish a system of more detailed ridership information.

3. Identify segments and direct messages.

4. Further develop new technology and social media tools.