Transit Agencies Pull Out All the Stops for “Dump the Pump” Day

L.A. Metro Transportation Authority CEO Art Leahy smashing a gas pump yesterday. Photo courtesy of Gary Leonard, L.A. Metro

L.A. Metro Transportation Authority CEO Art Leahy smashing a gas pump yesterday. Photo courtesy of Gary Leonard, L.A. Metro

The perks of public transportation will be more tangible than usual today, the ninth annual “Dump the Pump” day. More than 135 transit agencies across the country are taking part in the campaign, attempting to lure drivers out of their cars with free rides and all sorts of promotions, contests and schwag.

In Los Angeles, they literally demolished a gas pump. Atlanta and Greensboro have hosted scavenger hunts on train and bus routes. Dayton, Ohio, is blocking cars from a stretch of Main Street today. And in Chicago, the White Sox mascot, Southpaw, has been popping up on commutes all week.

The American Public Transportation Association first launched the awareness campaign in 2006, when gas prices shot above the $3 mark. “Dump the Pump” is meant as a one-day boost to the ongoing effort to promote the environmental, financial, and health benefits of choosing transit over driving.

APTA, which teams up with the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council for “Dump the Pump,” is particularly focused on transit’s financial benefits. According to APTA’s latest Transit Savings Report, an individual can save an average of $10,187 a year, or $849 per month, by using public transportation instead of driving.

Though it’s a low-key affair in many jurisdictions, with stickers and handouts, some campaigns “go all out,” said APTA spokesperson Virginia Miller.

Chicago White Sox mascot "Southpaw" at a train station. Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox/MLB

Chicago White Sox mascot “Southpaw” at a train station. Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox/MLB via RTA

In Chicago, the Regional Transportation Authority’s collaboration with the White Sox this year shows the effort getting more sophisticated. In addition to the transit-traveling mascot, the RTA paid for “Dump the Pump” promo ads at U.S. Cellular Field, which appear on TV screens during games.

RTA spokesperson Susan Massel says her agency wanted to promote the campaign in a way that appealed broadly to Chicagoans – not just city-dwellers, but those throughout the six-county region. “We called the Sox, and they were very into it,” she said.

In Columbus, Ohio, the transit authority teamed up with Yelp. Along the city’s free circulator bus route, riders can hop off for discounts and freebies at more than 20 businesses.

In the San Francisco area, Caltrain has commitments from various elected leaders, like Daly City Mayor David Canepa, to ride the commuter train today and tweet about their #dumpthepump experiences. It’s reminiscent of the way elected officials in many places have embraced Bike to Work Day.

More than 20 transit agencies are offering free rides to mark the occasion, according to APTA. And numerous agencies have sponsored contests and raffles. In Los Angeles – where Metro CEO Art Leahy yesterday attacked a gas pump, which was later bulldozed – a photo contest featured public transit scenes on Instagram.