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Transit nerds donít rule the world? Huh?

I've definitely had the conversation depicted on this ad, which is hanging in a Metro station. It's like WMATA doesn't get me at all.

Anybody else?

Photo by the author.

Crossposted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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"when we take metrobus, how long do you think we'll have to stand out in the cold wondering where the heck anything with 4 wheels and seats will show up to take us to the station where we then get to stand on dangerously crowded platforms while waiting for single tracked trains to come?"

"dude, can't we just talk about shoes?"

by jake on Jan 31, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

Can't we talk about shoes (girls)/ sports (guys)?

by trulee_pist on Jan 31, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport


by BTA on Jan 31, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

@ jake

The question is, will the blue line train at rossyln go on to Franconia or Vienna?

by gurrrrl on Jan 31, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

The most tone-deaf marketing campaign I have ever seen. Truly breathtaking. I think it actually rises to the level of professional malpractice. If nothing else, it's nice to have such visible proof of the contempt in which WMATA holds its riders.

by Dizzy on Jan 31, 2014 11:51 am • linkreport

Just for chuckles, GGW should randomly run an article about women's shoes one morning.

by Hadur on Jan 31, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

@gurrrl this has been the most ridiculous of all their "Moving Backward" campaign.

I was hoping the Blue Line would take me to Bao Bao.

by jake on Jan 31, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy: Glad to see I'm not the only one who think these ads are...rather stupid, to be gentle.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 31, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

Jeez, all the impromptu lessons I've given people on Yellow Line trains about why they short-turn at Mt. Vernon... people care! Educate people! Don't treat them like idiots. Though I often feel like one for continuing to give my money to this crop of charlatans.

by Low Headways on Jan 31, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

I feel the campaign could have worked they just went about it the completely wrong way. Implying your customer is stupid essentially or at least not interested in how the system works. Makes them sound out of touch which is kind of the opposite of what I think they are attempting. If they are trying to relate to "real people", they should have gone with stuff like "I know you are trying to get to work on time / pick up your kids at daycare, that's why Metro is adding blah blah new service to get you there faster" or "We know no one wants a bumpy ride, the new whatever buses make it easier to enjoy your commute" not the best examples but that seems like the actual message they want to put across without being needlessly insulting.

by BTA on Jan 31, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

I would rather they not bother at all with PR campaigns like this and sell the advertising space instead, putting that ad revenue back into safety and reliability improvements.

by ontarioroader on Jan 31, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

Jesus Christ, people. How is it insulting to state that Metro riders "probably" don't talk about transit specifics? Nothing in that ad said anything close to "hey idiots, you probably won't understand the specifics of what we're trying to do so let us just tell you that we bought new buses."

Outside of our little world here at GGW, very few people discuss things like sharrows vs. bike lanes vs. cycle tracks or the capacity of an articulated bus compared to a streetcar. Most people don't care about specifics; they care about end results. Hence the "hey, we bought new buses" and not "we bought Xcelsior buses." What's wrong with that?

by 7r3y3r on Jan 31, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

It was insulting because it implied that people had no interest in anything deeper than "shoes" or "sports". Comes off as a slightly smug attitude, like oh you wouldn't understand and given WMATA's reputation for being somewhat aloof already (deserved or not) it was a misstep.

by BTA on Jan 31, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

Most people don't care about specifics; they care about end results.

Correct. And the insult comes in implying that people don't care about the end results.

It's not so bad for this PSA, but the other sexist ones ("Can't we just talk about shoes?") absolutely imply that riders don't care about the end result.

Again, this bus type ad is better than others, because the assumption that new buses are better than old ones is self-evident enough, but the 'shoes' ad cites a stat about distances between bus breakdowns with no context (8,260 miles! is that good or bad? Is it improving or not? It sure seems a lot worse than my car's breakdown rate), and then dismisses the very thing that was supposed to show how Metro is making progress towards a better end result ("can't we just talk about shoes?"). Adding insult to injury, it does so by invoking dumb, sexist stereotypes.

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

I find the race roles portrayals fascinating: the Asian is the informed and concerned techie and the Black is a slang speaking wiseguy who is implicitly uninformed and uninterested in the topic. They downplayed it by using an Asian in the techie role instead of a White and putting the Black in a white collar with a nice smile instead of chains, braids, baggy clothes, and a scowl, but it's implicitly quite racist and stereotyping.

by likedrypavement on Jan 31, 2014 4:20 pm • linkreport

Better, still, "Hey! How come it takes an hour to get from Bradley and Wisconsin to Tenley by bus?"

by Capt. Hilts on Jan 31, 2014 4:32 pm • linkreport

While we're complaining about Metro PSAs, can we talk about the "Not all suspicious packages bite" campaign? The ones where the bags have little monster faces and limbs and stuff? I am absolutely BAFFLED by them. Is it that some scary-looking bags aren't dangerous? Is it that some dangerous bags aren't scary-looking? Are the little monster bags actually supposed to be scary-looking, or just cute?
Am I supposed to report all suspicious bags? Am I supposed to report all unattended bags, even if they're not suspicious? Am I supposed to report cute and/or scary bags along with suspicious ones?

I am an excellent reader by nearly any measure (800 on the SAT verbal section, yeah!) but I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to be afraid of or what I'm supposed to do about it.

by JewdishoowarySquare on Jan 31, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

Same here! JewdishoowarySquare!

I have no clue what, exactly, those signs are trying to say.

It looks like the toe fungus monster. I know the carpeting is moldy, but...

by Capt. Hilts on Jan 31, 2014 4:39 pm • linkreport

@7r3y3r--you would never see Ford do an ad insulting people who were hardcore gearheads who care about the technical specs of cars. Why go out of your way to denigrate the people who are most enthusiastic about your product?

by Dan Miller on Jan 31, 2014 4:56 pm • linkreport

@Dan Miller

I'm not sure that's a reasonable comparison. Is this ad insulting people who know about buses? Is anybody who is offended by this ad going to stop using transit?

Further, we are a niche group. Just because someone rides transit does not make them a transit nerd who cares about bus models.

Also, I'm not at all convinced that this ad is insulting. Classic tempest in a teapot. I'm quite sure that everyone here has been part of a conversation where they are much more excited and passionate about an issue, and the other party just smiles, nods, and changes the subject.

I'm not defending this ad campaign by any means, and I'm not convinced it is effective. But the amount of handwringing, consternation, and internet-rage it has inspired from an otherwise levelheaded readership is absolutely perplexing to me.

by JDS32 on Jan 31, 2014 5:21 pm • linkreport

If I were to put money on this. I'd say Dan's post about this is tongue in cheek. Three sentences about a poster doesn't scream outrage to me.

by drumz on Jan 31, 2014 5:24 pm • linkreport


Apologies if it wasn't clear, the entire comment was not solely directed toward him. I'm also referring to the other 20 comments in this thread, the 45 comments in first post about this ad campaign, and the numerous comments that have popped up here and there in other articles referencing this campaign.

by JDS32 on Jan 31, 2014 5:35 pm • linkreport

I wish JDS32 was my alter-ego because both his/her comments are what I would have responded with. In toto.

by 7r3y3r on Jan 31, 2014 5:44 pm • linkreport

you would never see Ford do an ad insulting people who were hardcore gearheads who care about the technical specs of cars. Why go out of your way to denigrate the people who are most enthusiastic about your product?

Bingo! The campaign makes transit gearheads seem like dorks instead of cool people.

After Wooderson describes what Melba Toast (a '70 Chevelle) is packin', what if Clint said "dude, it's just a car"?

by Falls Church on Jan 31, 2014 8:45 pm • linkreport

seriously, this campaign means nothing to me. as a non-subsidized full fare paying rider, i only care about getting from point a to point be in my lifetime, not getting rear ended by another train, having my stations announced clearly and in a language i can understand through the crackle, without having to give tourists directions because metro maps are the shittiest on the planet, and would really appreciate metro male employees not leering/looking at my ass as i walk up a broken escalator.

don't say it can't be done, cuz i seriously have a list of cities where i've personally witnessed it.

(drops mike...walks off stage confidently)

by jake on Jan 31, 2014 9:24 pm • linkreport

Yeah - what Jake said!


What do I have to do to make you come back on stage? Light a lighter?

by Capt. Hilts on Jan 31, 2014 9:33 pm • linkreport

There's one where the joke us that you're not supposed to have noticed the new footings on the third rail. BUT I TOTALLY DID. They're now white.

by TM on Jan 31, 2014 10:22 pm • linkreport

Thank you @Capt. Hilts. Boom!

by jake on Feb 1, 2014 10:09 am • linkreport

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