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Marketing Pearls of Insight Ax4: Public Transportation

Nicholas Gunnell

W.P. Carey School of Business


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Part I

With our primary focus of Local Motors being the Olli, the Self-Driving Minibus,

we decided to visit places where individuals frequently use public transportation. I took

it upon myself to look into the scene both on campus at ASU and at the Phoenix Sky

Harbor Airport, where buses are used non-stop. My first interaction actually happened

by surprise. I noticed a couple of students loading onto one of the Valley Metro buses

that offer rides to a variety of stops. The intrigued me and I decided to watch for another

20 minutes or so. These students were between the ages of 18 to 25, each one carrying

either backpacks, purses, or skateboards/scooters. Each student did not engage with

each other, sticking to themselves. They obviously needed the public transportation

because they did not have a vehicle of their own at that time and needed to attend their

classes, showing the bus as a necessity and not a luxury piece. Many students were

dressed as students usually are, plenty of jeans, yoga pants, basketball shorts, tank tops,

baseball caps, the university style of dress. Their walking patterns were rather

interesting as well, each student took large steps and walked as fast as they could away

from the bus in various directions, plenty passengers cramming to get out. In the

opposite directions, I also surveyed a plethora of people coming in and out of the airport

terminal. Each person was so incredibly unique, I saw a cluster of businessmen from out

of town, a large family clearly from the East, a young couple holding hands, and

countless other people who took these buses to their cars (rental or personal). The bus

system, as a whole, was messy. Plenty of people attempting to cram themselves in the

tight quarters of the bus and for good reason because another bus did not come for

about another 10 minutes. Perhaps this was a slow day for the buses but the people piled
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and the crowds grew antsy as the minutes ticked by. Many were older people in their

early 30s but some were as young has 5 or 6.

Along with the people themselves, the items each carried varied from person to

person. Although there are plenty of secondary objects used while traveling on public

transportation, there was a collective distraction used by almost every person I watched

both at ASU and Sky Harbor. Students from the bus stop at ASU and travelers from the

airport were involved with electronics in some way (listening to music, texting, phone

calls, surfing the web, etc.). At the airport, plenty of people carried luggage and their

carry-ons as they pushed past the crowds entering or exiting the bus. I noticed that

many people at the airport also still had their airline tickets and what appeared to be

stubs informing them where their cars were. All these items play in to the bus scheme

because many people forget or have no clue where their rental vehicle should be or

where they parked their car before the flew to their trip. The students at ASU had items

like water bottles, little clutches, papers, and student I.D.s. Though these items might

not seem completely relevant to the public buses themselves, it might play into some

factors as to how much room there is on each bus for every student. The buses at the

airport are similar in size and amenities as to the ones at ASU but with so many more

items that each person carries when returning or leaving on a vacation, the bus tended

to take up space much faster and more inefficiently.


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As to the activities that are visible in both of my accounts, students at ASU were

very lifeless to a certain degree, robotic if you will. The simply walked off the bus,

phones in hand, I saw two people give quick goodbyes and then head off in two different

directions but each student was in a world of their own practically. Students waiting for

the bus were on their phone and looking out into the distance. When I was about to

leave after a third bus took off, I noticed another student who was running to catch the

bus but, unfortunately, missed it. She stood there, watching the bus leave and resided to

standing under the bus sign to wait for the next one. I watched her for a few minutes

and she seemed to always be alert for the next bus, looking up and down the main street

the bus would eventually take. I left after a few minutes of observing, watching her still

waiting for the next bus. The activities at Sky Harbor varied immensely. With a variety

of people, the activities were plentiful. I saw plenty of men on their phones, mothers

struggling to keep their kids from running off into the street or loading area, I saw

couples kissing, flyers checking their itineraries as the left the bus, returning flyers

checking to make sure that they have all their luggage, I noticed one woman crying as

another was comforting her, and all over the mass noise of crowds. People laughing,

yelling, arguing, and reading the confusing signage around the airport. I saw people give

up trying to get onto the bus and walk with their luggage down the sidewalk and around

the corner out of my range of sight.


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Both atmospheres occurred outdoors and each one displayed a different feeling in

the air. The ASU campus, as with every morning, was very quiet and dull. Students

lulled off the bus and only a couple boarded with no one attempting to the first one, each

person waiting their turn. The weather was nice and dry; the sun had just risen and was

warming up the day. The bus stop was just across from the Gammage Theatre and very

few cars took the street the buses travelled daily to pick up the students. Very few spoke

to one another giving an almost melancholy feeling in a university of all places. The

airport, as you can imagine, was an active and maniacal area. The atmosphere was

claustrophobic with a large roof overhead and a consistent movement of people going in

and out of the airport itself. The weather was stuffy and hotter than usual because of all

the body heat and closer quarters. Taxis and other vehicles mingled with the bus route

which caused backups and a good amount of honking. You could feel a tension in the air

and the added rush of getting to a gate on time or getting home. The place was anything

but organized and the busses seemed to be in a rush as well. The entirety of the airport

was overall enjoyable, mostly because I love airports, but for a family with 4 kids or a

businessman who is late to his meeting because of a flight delay, the bus system at the

airport provided only more stress and an added need to rush causing even more stress

and tension towards the crowds that surround you.


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*While at Sky Harbor, I was asked to not take pictures by security, but I did get a picture

of one of the buses outside of the airport itself.

Part II

While Local Motors Olli bus is not a public vehicle approved for the road, we

observed the public transportation system in Phoenix primarily the Valley Metro's light

rail and buses. When we observed the overall expanse of people, we saw that most of the

customers using the Metro are students, people who have no personal vehicle of their

own, visitors from out-of-state, and even the homeless.

The way they interact with the transportation is routine and automatic. They wait

for the transportation, they board when it arrives, they pay for the travel, they remain to

themselves and dont talk and then they get off at their stop. There is very little

interaction between the travelers and the bus or rail they use.

Local Motors intended goal with this project is to Fill the transportation gaps in

your city. For example, Olli busses will be available around college campuses and
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airports, places where people might not have access to their own vehicle. Customers will

call an Olli from an app very similar to Uber, which will take you right to the door of

your destination.

Public Transportation is used when the cost of driving ones personal

transportation outweighs the cost of public transportation -or when there is no other

option. Although, a striking reason why people use public transportation is because of

the low costs and accessibility. Since a large portion of its users attend university,

students use these services to travel to and from the campuses. Students also ride into

downtown Phoenix for its nightlife, sporting events, concerts, and more.

Though the majority of public transportation users are ASU students, a great deal

of business professionals, young mothers and elderly also use the systems currently in

place. This along with the positive interactions between riders was surprising, many

courteous younger adults relinquished their seats for older adults to enjoy.