Finding Joy Outside Our Cars

Sarah Goodyear explores the need to market non-automotive transportation on its emotional appeal, rather than reason, as argued by Darrin Nordahl in his new e-book, <em>Making Transit Fun!</em>
May 3, 2012, 11am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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As Goodyear explains, Nordahl's new e-book calls for taking a page out of the automotive marketing handbook by re-branding alternative transportation modes with positive emotions such as delight, allure, pleasure, exhilaration, and compulsion, and away from a focus on such reason-based selling points as functionality and health. "Getting out of the bureaucratic mindset and being more entrepreneurial and creative is the only way, he argues, that transit advocates will ever chip away at the auto's dominance," notes Goodyear

In his book, Nordahl identifies several real-world examples of how transit officials and planners are trying to sell this notion to the public. "Some are whimsical (like slides in train stations, something they've actually tried in the Netherlands, or fruit-shaped bus shelters, which have popped up in Japan). Some are more substantive, such as making transit stations into great civic spaces, as in the case of the Transbay Transit Center, scheduled to open in San Francisco in 2017."

And to counter the common perception that good design always costs more, Nordahl argues that, "Contrary to what our gut tells us, good design -- the kind that provides utility and delight -- can be affordable. The issue here is not about spending more, but about spending smarter. Sure, designing for the human experience will indeed be an extra and likely expensive cost if it is an afterthought; something retrofitted to the final functional design. But when we design our sidewalks, bike lanes, and transportation circulators with the concern for human experience at the forefront, joy is surprisingly cheap."

With the millennial generation driving less cars than their parents, now is as good a time as any to promote transit, biking and walking as not only good for you, but as a pleasurable experience to boot.

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Published on Monday, April 30, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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