Virginia Department of Transportation HOV Lanes

The traffic around Washington DC is among the worst in the country.

To meet the traffic demand, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) built one of the largest High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane systems in the US. Designed to carry more people in fewer cars than a conventional lane, the HOV lanes simply were not attracting significant numbers of carpoolers. In fact, motorists complained the HOV lanes often looked empty. The system was seen as wasteful and useless. So VDOT came to Siddall seeking help in warding off potential criticism as well as legislation that could completely eliminate the HOV system.

Through focus groups, we learned that telling commuters they’d save time carpooling just wasn’t a strong enough message. They wanted to know exactly how much time they would save. This led to the creation of a multi-year campaign utilizing television, radio, print and highly-targeted direct mail. Each message offered specific time savings from a number of popular origins to specific destinations. We even helped create a database-driven website known as HOVcalculator.com that let residents enter where they live and where they work and instantly discover how much time they could shave off their commute. In the first two years of the campaign, HOV volumes on the newest segment of the system increased by 500%. Volumes on I-95, the most heavily traveled segment of the system, more than doubled. More importantly, instead of criticizing the HOV system, the public is now using it.

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