BLOG

What inspires us, what sticks in our heads, what keeps us moving forward. We reflect on who we are, what we do, and why we do it.

Listen to the Memes: Transportation Memes

BY Leah Press

Author

There is something about moving to a new city and starting a new job that can really open your eyes. In my case, I moved from suburban North Dallas to Washington, D.C., where I started working as a Graphic Design Intern at Pulsar. Since this agency has a strong market position in transportation advertising and marketing, I started getting a behind-the-scenes look at transportation – an industry that simultaneously frustrates, simplifies, and consumes our lives so much on a daily basis.

D.C.’s public transportation system is VERY different from that in North Dallas. In Dallas, there is a light rail and bus system known as DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit). It is slow and doesn’t reach the rapidly growing population of North Dallas particularly well. There are buses that service the areas within the system, but they are few and far between – Godspeed if you happen to miss one. Needless to say, most people opt to drive…everywhere. In downtown Dallas, I never fail to drive in circles, miss exits, or take wrong turns, leaving me wanting to put my fist through a wall.

In D.C. there are plenty of cars, and the thought of driving here is even more terrifying. But the bus and Metro rail systems here are infinitely better. So yes, taking the Metro or bus can often extend the trip time, and while every transit system has its issues (shout out to single-tracking), it also saves the headache of driving…which for me is very worth waiting a few extra minutes and running the risk of potentially getting sneezed on (yikes).

In case you couldn’t tell – I hate driving. So it feels like a luxury to have a fast, relatively efficient public transportation system available. Sure, it comes with its own inconveniences, like stopping between stations unexpectedly, along with being packed like sardines as everyone commutes into the city to work. But since the District, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area is known to have some of the worst traffic in the country, the highways are just as bad – if not worse. The Metro is expensive, but so are toll roads, and those get crowded and delayed, too. And let’s not get started on parking costs in D.C.

Another confession: I get turned around here all the time (maybe because I’m new), and I walk around with my nose glued to my phone’s GPS. People make it all look so easy! But it’s harder than it looks. Metro is getting easier (even if I still pick the wrong station exit most of the time), but the buses are still a bit of a mystery to me. So, while I am still getting the lay of the land of the D.C. transit system, I am forever grateful for the many maps and online resources that make finding my way around D.C. whether by train or (eventually) bus, infinitely easier.

Recently I came across a Facebook group called New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens (NUMTOT). It falls under NUMDOT, or “New Urbanist Memes Department of Transportation,” and it even has its own fan page. While the name may fool you, the group and page bring up the issues facing transportation in a light-hearted way, with the larger goal of creating serious change. Those involved in the organization are passionate about urban planning and transportation. They not only discuss and debate public transportation systems but urban living as a whole – like gentrification and what works, or doesn’t, worldwide. And yes, they post a lot of memes too (some NSFW).

null

The group is named for Jane Jacobs, a famous journalist, author, and activist who greatly influenced urban studies, sociology, and economics. It is a niche interest page that has now amassed 110,000 members and is quickly growing. This page is a breeding ground for social listening content that can help us better understand our audiences here at Pulsar – and there are more pages like this one.

These are the people that truly care and aren’t afraid to voice it. Analyzing their reactions will only give Pulsar better, more relevant ways to engage and help the Pulsar transportation clients create happier customers. And ultimately, to help craft extremely effective brand strategies for massive transportation clients – making us better marketing partners.

One of the founders of the group, Eldred, told Chicago magazine, “the key to NUMTOT’s popularity is that dealing with (and suffering through) transit is universal – a connecting thread that all humans share. Whether you’ve been a pawn in a faceless bureaucrat’s game of Public Transit Disaster, or a stymied automobile commuter wishing for options beyond spending much of your life in a fast car moving very slowly, NUMTOT has a place for you. These are things that almost everyone can identify with.”

That is certainly the appeal for me, as someone in her early 20s who has seen both suburban and urban forms of transportation – and is now working and taking public transportation in a large urban city. In addition, I now have the opportunity to help influence the system. I may not be in urban planning or public policy, but the work we do at Pulsar helps shape coast-to-coast transportation systems’ marketing plans – which can end up impacting transportation consumers just like me.

So, I guess I’m a “Transportation Oriented Teen” at heart. I want to hear, listen, and learn from people like me, whether they’re in D.C., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or anywhere where there are people who need to get somewhere. I am glad I’ve found Pulsar, where if I want to discuss, debate, or just talk transportation – I’m surrounded by people who get it.