Improving Public Understanding of Large-Scale Transit Projects: A case study of the Region of Waterloo’s ION
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In light of increasing social, economic and environmental costs associated with automobile use, Canadian municipalities are facing mounting transportation pressures and many mid-size cities are investing in larger scale public transit improvement projects. Given that automobile dependence is still pervasive, there is concern over attracting sufficient ridership. Hence it is increasingly important to understand what factors influence individuals’ support for a public transit improvement project. Through the use of a survey and focus group sessions, this study examines factors that may influence the effectiveness of communication practices for increasing public support for a light rail transit project before operation through enhanced public understanding; The ION in the Region of Waterloo. Specifically, the influence of socio-demographic characteristics, project branding, and the provision of personalized trip information are examined in terms of their influence on the level of support. While the provision multimodal travel time did not have a strong influence on participants’ level of support for the project, findings suggest that it is beneficial for municipalities to include defined personal benefits, in addition to broader community benefits in their communication strategy. Furthermore, that branding can be used to enhance public understanding of a transit improvement project. The project brand must be nestled within the municipality’s broader public transit brand and speak to the diverse needs of residents. Municipalities should also target undecided residents to increase public support (women and residents under 30 in the Region of Waterloo). Results from this study can be used to improve marketing materials and enhance the perception of the ION and other subsequent transit investments by informing future outreach campaigns, both in the Region of Waterloo and other mid-size Canadian cities.