"Interacting with our riders and the community is a great way to receive first-hand feedback on the service that we are providing, and it allows me to take that feedback back to the office and create campaigns that benefit our riders..."
Alexandria Transit Company, Driving Alexandria Safely Home (DASH), has humble beginnings. When it began its services in 1984 this small bus company in the city of Alexandria, VA had only 17 buses. Today, it has a fleet of 85 buses carrying roughly 14,000 passengers daily and has an annual ridership of 4 million. DASH is a transit agency that gives back to its community, and its success proves that its community gives back to it in return. So how do you keep a community engaged and involved with a public transit? This week, Allyson Teevan, Marketing and Communications Manager at DASH talks with SmartRail World reporter Sarah Wright about how DASH tackles this challenge. Spreading the joy with paint, encouraging passengers to go green and giving them a viable alternative to cars, Teevan is not shy about the successes of DASH and her passion for the company. She shares her journey with us, from its beginning to where she sees transit heading in the future…
SW: How did you get into the transit industry?
Allyson Teevan (AT): I have been in the marketing industry for fifteen years, and in the transit industry for six. Alexandria is a reputable community in Northern Virginia, and when the position for a Marketing & Communications Manager opened up, I quickly jumped on it. Being a part of an award-winning organization and ever-growing community in the transit industry, and Alexandrina, is something that I wanted to be a part of. I am thankful for this opportunity and that I have been able to contribute to the success of the transit industry by working at Alexandria Transit Company (DASH).
SW: What do like most about your job?
AT: I like that every day is something different. When working in marketing, every day is filled with new adventures of coming up with ideas for a special campaign, working with the community and providing outreach or hosting community events. Interacting with our riders and the community is a great way to receive first-hand feedback on the service that we are providing, and it allows me to take that feedback back to the office and create campaigns that benefit our riders and provide them with the necessary information or education that they need, and in a way that makes it exciting. DASH is the bus system for the City of Alexandria where there are many transportation options available. When we can continue to increase our ridership with more than 14,000 riders a day, it means that we are doing something right. DASH has won several marketing and program awards over the last few years, and we owe it to the voices of our riders and those who use public transit. We hear what they want and what their needs are, and we find interesting and fun ways to provide them with the information/services that they need through our marketing campaigns and public outreach.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
AT: Creating excitement around using public transit. Riders use public transit either out of necessity or choice. Coming up with new campaigns to attract new riders can prove challenging at times. Public transit is one of those entities where you either need it or you don’t. I promote from the mind-set that everyone needs it, and as a team, we create clever and educational marketing campaigns that want to make people ride DASH and/or use public transit in general. Anything that we can do to have one less car on the road is a success in our eyes. We keep our campaigns exciting, but we also provide several transit fairs throughout the year and at various community locations to educate citizens how to use public transit and what the benefits are of riding DASH are. Many people have told us that they didn’t realize how easy it was to ride DASH or take public transit. Fortunately, we have numerous DASH fans and word of mouth is our biggest promoter!
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between transit now and in 10 years’ time?
AT: Ten years ago, the ability to access public transit was not as prevalent as it is today. Today, we see many choice riders using public transit. From past, present and into the future, we will continue to see the expansion of public transit and ridership increase. With the accessibility it provides, many people prefer to hop on a bus or light rail than have to sit in traffic and spend money on the gas. Riding public transit is very cost effective and it gets you where you need to go. The options now-a-days are endless, and I think that will only continue to grow. With so much focus on the environment, I think we can expect to see continued growth of public transit over the next 10 years. Public transportation will be the way to go with the use of light rail, buses, bike sharing, so on and so forth. In today’s society, the demand for constant communication is very important to riders, and being able to take public transit provides the luxury of them not having to skip a beat in their communications. I think we will only continue to see the luxuries of taking public transit increase in the next 10 years. I firmly believe, it will be ‘the’ way to get around versus hoping in a car.
SW: What’s your favourite transit journey?
AT: My answer is more about what we have done for our riders. DASH is very involved in the Alexandria, Virginia community. One of my favourite DASH stories is from two years ago when we donated a retired DASH bus to the Alexandria neighbourhood of Del Ray, for their Art on the Avenue community event. We primed the bus white and had the community put their handprints on the DASH bus using a variety of colors. This event was so much fun because we were able to involve citizens of all ages from small children to adults. Everyone had the best time getting their hands covered in paint and then using it to make handprints on the bus. It was also an outlet for us to teach folks how to ride DASH, provide them with safety tips and let them know the benefits of riding DASH. Once the bus was glazed, we took it out and about in Alexandria to educate school-aged children on how to ride DASH and provide safety tips. We also took it to our transit fairs and for our annual Customer Appreciation Day, we offered free rides to DASH riders, as a thank you! The event won us the Virginia Transit Association (VTA) Outstanding Public Transportation Marketing Award for 2015.
SW: Thank you so much for your time Allyson!
Enjoyed learning more about DASH? Great, then you should join Allyson at SmartTransit this October to hear how they make things easy for their passengers and keep them coming back.
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