Ads popped up on the outside and inside of 15 CTA Brown Line cars this week. In addition, posters went up at downtown Chicago health clubs, while drink coasters deliver Wisconsin’s pitch to millennials at restaurants and bars.When somebody points out that omitting the other transit lines is exclusionary, and someone will, I'll let you know. In the meantime, Streetsblog's John Greenfield doesn't like the implicit transit-bashing.
Wisconsin is hoping the Brown Line — which, along with the Purple Line, is one of only two CTA lines that run through the Loop but not through the city’s South or West sides — will reach the very specific target audience it is seeking.
“The Brown Line was chosen because it travels within the downtown Loop and North Side neighborhoods popular with millennials,” said Mark Maley, spokesman for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state’s Madison-based development arm.
Digital advertising includes sponsored posts on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, streaming ads on Pandora and YouTube, and mobile ads targeting millennials within a 25-mile radius of downtown Chicago and north to the Wisconsin state line.
The ads promote employment opportunities, rents that are 42 percent lower in Milwaukee than Chicago, shorter commutes and the natural resources exiles from Chicagoland can explore with their extra money and time in Wisconsin.
“We’ve already had anecdotal stories from individuals that have moved from the Chicago metro area and were somewhat surprised and very pleased with the quality of life that they were afforded in Wisconsin, and so we built on that,” [Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation representative Tricia] Braun said.
A video spot shows zombie-like young people looking depressed and yawning on a drearily lit ‘L’ car. “An hour commute or an hour with friends? In Wisconsin the average commute is less than 22 minutes,” says the voiceover. The spot then cuts to images of happy millennials paddle boarding on a river in Milwaukee, drinking beer on a terrace above Madison’s Lake Monona, mountain biking through the woods, and kayaking. “So you’ll have more time to do the things you love. Wisconsin. It’s more you.”Perhaps that Union Terrace reference is a pitch to bring back departed Badgers, whether home-grown, or Illinoisans who studied there. But when you defend your rapid transit by comparing it with the worst?
One display ad states that Chicago has the longest commute times in the country and asks Chicagoans if they’d rather be “waiting for a train or waiting for kabobs” at a barbecue. Another one shows glum-looking straphangers juxtaposed with people playing beach volleyball, asking “Bump elbows or bump on the court?” The message is clear: Public transportation is a drag, and you can avoid it if you move north of the border.
Bike Federation of Wisconsin director Dave Schlabowske confirmed that, unfortunately, it generally is so easy to drive in Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, where he lives, that just about everybody who can afford to commute by car does so. “Parking is often free in Milwaukee, and also easy to find. People downtown will literally drive four-to-six blocks to go to a meeting or for lunch rather than walk.” Obviously that’s not a good thing for air quality or public health.
But while the average Chicago commute may be longer than a typical drive to work in Wisconsin, a recent study found that Windy City commutes are less stressful than those in other cities thanks to our relatively robust CTA and Metra networks. In contrast, Wisconsin has no rapid transit, and Governor Walker seems intent on making sure it stays that way.That noted, Milwaukee's Summerfest and the ethnic festivals that also play there is not a bad walk from the railway station, and at weekends there are late night trains. Other attractions might be more easily reached by car.
Personally, I’d much rather relax on a train while listening to music, reading a book, or catching up on emails than deal with a stressful, potentially dangerous car commute. And then there’s Chicago’s Divvy bike-share system, which offers a fun, healthy public transportation option, with more than 580 docking stations compared to Milwaukee’s Bublr network, which only has 83.