Urged on by the federal government, Minneapolis is launching a $100,000 ad campaign to boost carpool ridership using Downtown's Third Avenue Distributor (TAD) ramps.
It's an effort to offset the loses due to last year's carpool crack down, said Mike Sachi, who oversees parking services for Pubic Works.
Downtown firm Periscope got the contract. The goal is to remind people of the deep discounts available to qualified carpools.
The TAD ramps - just off I-394 exits at 3rd, 5th and 7th streets - have a combined 6,755 stalls. Qualified carpools pay $20 a month, a significant savings compared to the $7-$8 daily rates.
The TAD ramps currently have 1,800 car pools, or about a quarter of the daily capacity, Sachi said. Last year, the ramps had 2,400 car pools.
That was before the rule change. Registered carpools used to have the option of dropping passengers off at the office before parking, Sachi said. "We felt there may have been some people that were saying they were dropping people off when really they weren't," he said.
(Private lot and ramp owners also complained, saying the carpool cheating undercut their rates and cost them business.)
Starting last April, carpools have to show up at the TAD ramp with members still in the car. The ramps have staff at the carpool lanes; lone drivers pay the daily rates.
The carpool numbers dropped after the new policy took effect, Sachi said. That's when the federal government asked the city to increase its marketing efforts.
Instead of calling them the TAD ramps, the new ad campaign calls them the ABC ramps ("as easy as ABC," Sachi said.)
(The name change is a good choice regardless, given that two of the three ramps have Second Avenue addresses. Had they been accurately named, they would be the Second Avenue Distributor, or SAD ramps.)
The ad campaign uses symbols such as a Fairy Godmother ("Think of the extra $1,200 as a gift from the Carpooling-Fairy Godmother"), Thelma and Louise ("Get out of town quicker") and Generic Skyway Guy ("Get skyway access to everything Downtown.")
The campaign also includes a new Web site, www.abc-ramps.com, launched mid-March.
The special carpool rates apply to people commuting to Downtown from I-394 or I-94 from the west or north. Carpools have to register with Metro Commuter services or the Traffic Management Organization. For more, see www.metrocommuterservices.org or www.mplstmo.org. You can also call 379-3987.