by Angela Castro, Senior Director Government Affairs, Media Relations & Marketing of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada has a big job. It’s one of the few transportation agencies in the country responsible for managing a region’s public transit, traffic management, roadway design and construction funding as well as a federally recognized planning effort, known as Southern Nevada Strong, to plan and create sustainable neighborhoods with quality education, transportation, housing and employment opportunities– all under one roof. And in a city as exciting and energetic as Las Vegas, competing for the public’s time and attention to secure input on mobility, transit and transportation is no small feat. So thinking outside the box is not just important, it’s critical.
To that end, the RTC has initiated several novel and creative outreach efforts to obtain community input and promote the RTC’s various messages and plans in memorable and engaging ways. Here are five examples:
1. Street Teams
Realizing that adopting new technology can be easier through one-on-one interaction, the RTC wanted to engage directly with its customers when it launched its new smartphone transit ticketing and trip planning app, rideRTC. The agency employed street teams comprised of RTC staff and external personnel to directly market the service to customers, ultimately interacting with more than 4,100 customers at 90-plus outreaches held at transit facilities and bus stops throughout the valley over a period of three months. The personal “show and tell” approach proved successful, resulting in the sale of more than 15,000 passes as street team members demonstrated how to download and use the app. The project also reinforced the fact that flexibility is key to an efficient grassroots effort, as the RTC had to adjust its schedule to reach the greatest number of people possible. Flexibility is especially important in a 24/7, 365-day-a year town like Las Vegas.
2. Wi-Fi Splash Pages
The RTC believes community input is critical for the development of its plan for the future of transit in the growing Las Vegas Valley. To hear directly from Southern Nevada’s 2 million-plus residents on their transportation priorities, the RTC created a brief online survey and sought to get responses in a variety of ways, including promoting it directly to residential transit riders – who account for 140,000 passenger trips per weekday. An eye-catching splash page that popped up when transit riders logged onto the RTC’s free Wi-Fi service encouraged them to take a short survey. This direct outreach tactic to transit riders proved successful as the RTC garnered more than 15,000 responses to the survey in just a few weeks. This success was in spite of a technical challenge that resulted in the splash page only working on Apple devices.
3. Water Wagons
To say that summer in Southern Nevada is hot is an understatement. For transit passengers, traveling in the extreme heat can be unsafe if they are not prepared. That’s why for many years, the RTC has executed an educational campaign to provide safety tips to customers on how to safely ride transit in the heat. In 2017, the RTC launched its most ambitious “Summer Heat” campaign to date. Thanks to numerous public/private partnerships and a radio station sponsor, the RTC disseminated its safety tips as well as nearly 6,000 bottles of donated water via two radio remotes at its transit facilities and eight “Water Wagon” events where employee volunteers handed out water to customers waiting at transit stops along busy routes. This small but meaningful gesture was well received by riders and fostered considerable goodwill. Onsite rider feedback was so positive, the RTC plans to launch future Water Wagon events earlier in the year so they can be held more often.
4. Career Expo
As the agency that funds roadway projects, the RTC wants to educate local residents about career and training opportunities in the design, engineering and construction industries. However, the RTC could not conduct a traditional “hiring” job fair since project contractors are ultimately responsible for hiring. So, the agency got creative and worked with nearly two dozen partners, including labor unions, contractors, engineering firms, chambers of commerce, colleges/universities and job training organizations to hold “Careers in Motion,” an expo where interested residents could get information about training programs and career opportunities in the roadway construction industry and related fields. Attendee feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 96 percent of attendees reporting via a post-event survey that they found the information useful and 98 percent rating the event positively.
5. Information Clearinghouse
The pace of road construction projects funded by the RTC, other government agencies, local municipalities, utility companies and private developers began to pick up in 2015. Drivers who encountered orange traffic cones delaying their commute became increasingly frustrated. Committed to finding a solution to help ease some of this frustration, the RTC created a public campaign and information clearinghouse, “Seeing Orange,” where residents could submit inquiries about road construction and receive updated project information to help them better plan their commute. Locals welcomed the hotline and website, logging nearly 700 inquiries so far. To get real-time information to even more drivers and residents, RTC partnered with Waze, a highly popular crowd-sourced traffic and navigation app to provide users with real-time government reported data on road construction, traffic accidents and road closures. This innovative partnership has created the most thorough and comprehensive overview possible of current road conditions in Southern Nevada.
The RTC knows there is no one-size-fits-all outreach model. It has found the most successful efforts are those that clearly identify a specific goal, the target audience and how that audience would most likely want to interact with the agency. In other words, the RTC’s outreach model is focused first and foremost on the people it serves – tailoring communications to meet their needs and finding innovative ways to grab their attention and keep it.
In today’s fast-paced, tech-savvy world, sometimes that takes innovative and creative outreach efforts to ultimately build goodwill, raise awareness and most importantly, enable the community to be a valued part of the planning process.
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) is the transit authority, transportation planning organization, regional traffic management agency and administrator of Southern Nevada Strong, the regional planning effort for the Las Vegas valley. The RTC's vision is to provide a safe, convenient and effective regional transportation system that enhances mobility and air quality for citizens and visitors. The RTC encourages residents and visitors to use a variety of transportation choices to help reduce traffic congestion, clean the air and improve the quality of life in Southern Nevada. For more information about the RTC and its major initiatives or to download its transit app rideRTC, visit rtcsnv.com.
Angela Castro is the senior director of government affairs, media relations and marketing for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC). In her role, Castro works directly with the general manager and is responsible for the oversight of all strategic and public facing initiatives that span public transportation, traffic management and roadway planning and funding. She directs all state and federal government affairs and public policy; traditional and digital marketing; public engagement; media relations and messaging. Before joining the RTC, Castro held several important marketing or media positions with the Las Vegas Monorail, MGM International and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Published in the December 2017 Issue