RT1 – Dr Joanna Moody – Car pride or bus pride? It’s in the branding

RT1 – Dr Joanna Moody – Car pride or bus pride? It’s in the branding

Researching Transit – Episode 1

Published: March 2020

Keywords: Car pride, bus, transit, decarbonisation, future mobility, branding, marketing

In this episode of Researching Transit, Joanna Moody discusses the future of sustainable mobility, and her research exploring car pride. We focus our discussion on car pride, its implications for car dependence in rapidly urbanising cities, and what we can do to de-market the car or market more sustainable public transit alternatives.

“[Car pride] is the attribution of social status and personal image to owning and using a car”

Joanna’s recent research surveyed in two U.S. cities and internationally with a sample of 42,000 people across 51 countries to clearly understand whether the symbolic attachment of success to the car (car pride) causes people to purchase cars, or if their pride results from owning and using the car. She discusses examples from New York and Houston, where findings suggest that the relationship is cyclical: car pride predicts ownership, and those who own cars are more likely to use it and have their car pride reinforced. Internationally, she finds that car pride is highest in rapidly motorising countries with less developed car markets, such as in South East Asia and the Middle East.

“[There is] a symbolic value of the car that encourages people to own and use cars beyond their ability to get you where you need to go.”

The reinforcing cycle of car pride and use adds to the growing car dependence of rapidly motorising countries. Understanding the symbolic attachment assigned to car ownership and use may help stem ownership rates and the feedback loop it engenders with use.

According to Dr Moody, providing high quality alternatives to the private car and finding a way to connect them to an individual on a symbolic and emotional level are essential. Taking away car ownership implies a penalty – therefore something needs to be offered in return. An implication for policy-making is the need for public transport rebranding that sells its attributes. These selling points vary depending on the target user, and include its social and time saving value, as well as sustainability benefits.

“Couple service and fleet improvements with marketing to better connect to the things that local people care about”

AC Transit in Berkeley, California recently introduced a fleet of battery-electric buses are an example of better branding of buses that could have the potential to elicit bus pride. Joanna emphasises that sustained efforts at selling the bus fleet’s sustainability advantage and delivering high quality service to match, is needed. She also talks about the success of London’s Mind the Gap campaign. This branding has opened up opportunities for revenue streams (merchandising) that helped overcome potential cost barriers for marketing and added to the available funding to reinvest in the quality of London’s transit network.

Related publications

Moody, J., and J. Zhao. (2019). Car pride and its bidirectional relation with car ownership: Case studies in New York City and Houston. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 124: 334-353

Moody, J. (2019). Measuring car pride and its implications for car ownership and use across individuals, cities, and countries. Doctoral Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Cambridge, MA.

MIT Energy Initiative. (2019). Insights into Future Mobility: A report from the Mobility of the Future study. MIT Energy Initiative: Cambridge, MA.

Find out more about

Eudy, L. 2018, Image of California’s battery electric bus, [image]. In Metro Magazine 2018, AC Transit’s hydrogen fuel-cell bus evaluation surpasses targets

Researching Transit is brought to you by the Public Transport Research Group, part of the Institute of Transport Studies in the Monash University Department of Civil Engineering.

Music from this episode is from https://www.purple-planet.com

  • Date March 29, 2020
  • Tags Attitudes, Behaviour, Boston, branding, Bus, Car, Economics, New York, Perceptions, Podcast, Sustainable, Urban, USA