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Effective public communication and marketing of high-occupancy-vehicle lanes : an agency perspective
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    Transferred from EDL on 5/14/2008

    The Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) opened the Southeast Expressway high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane on November 15, 1995. The 6-mi (9.6-km) contraflow lane, open to vehicles with at least three occupants, was MassHighway’s third attempt to create an HOV facility on the Southeast Expressway. Two previous HOV lanes, built in the 1970s, had closed because of operational problems and public opposition. Supported by FHWA, MassHighway developed a $558,000 marketing program to promote the new HOV facility and encourage its use by commuters. The difficulties in developing an HOV facility on the congested highway were mirrored in the marketing challenge faced by its agency managers. From the first 8 months of the campaign, Mass-Highway has learned several important lessons from the experience. Marketing should begin years before the project opens. The feasibility analysis offers agencies the opportunity to solicit community input and identify marketing themes for the later campaign. Agencies should allot at least 6 months to prepare for the marketing campaign. They should strongly consider the use of professional consultants in marketing, public relations, and advertising. The bulk of the marketing budget should be spent within the facility’s opening weeks. Agencies should assign their own staff, not outside consultants, to act as project spokespersons. Messages should be tailored to specific audiences identified in the campaign. Public perception of the facility will depend in large part on how well it is operated. Fair and uniform enforcement promotes the facility and maintains public acceptance. HOV-facility managers must be prepared to convert unforeseen incidents into positive press coverage. Reporting on lane conditions must be scrupulously accurate, because there likely will be intense public scrutiny of agency statements. MassHighway’s HOVlane marketing program, ultimately successful, may be instructive to other states contemplating similar initiatives.

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