Virginia Breeze

Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

Marketing New Transit

Reingold’s marketing and rebranding supported the launch and expansion of an intercity bus service for rural areas of Virginia. Today, Virginia Breeze Bus Lines connects communities across the Commonwealth, giving more residents an affordable and accessible option for traveling throughout the state.

The Mission

In December 2017, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) launched an intercity bus service — the Virginia Breeze — between Blacksburg, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. This effort tested the viability of providing affordable, accessible, state-subsidized intercity bus service in rural areas of Virginia that lacked public transit options.

In 2018, DRPT engaged a Reingold-led team to build awareness of and demand for the fledgling service. Success would build the foundation for maintaining the service and expanding it to other underserved areas of the state.

The Results

The surge in ridership and revenue on the Blacksburg-to-D.C. route, driven by Reingold marketing, exceeded DRPT’s most optimistic projections. With the service’s viability established, Reingold led rebranding and marketing that fueled expansion to four routes.

All four routes posted record ridership in fiscal year 2022.

Starting Strong

Reingold researched the potential market through target audience interviews, ridership surveys, social listening tools, keyword internet searches, an analysis of “lookalike” audiences for similar services, and examination of a 2013 statewide intercity bus study.

Based on this research, we devised a marketing plan and messages, then refined those based on responses from our target audiences: rural residents, older adults and retirees, riders with disabilities, low-income residents, and college students and staff. We then tailored our marketing tactics by audience to raise awareness of the service and drive ticket sales.

Image of a promotional poster for Martinsville

Ridership through the first 10 months of the Blacksburg-to-D.C. route exceeded state projections by 243%, with the state subsidizing less than 10% of the fare.

Rebranding and Expanding

In 2020, DRPT needed a rebrand of the Virginia Breeze to fit a planned expansion of the service. It also needed a marketing plan for two new routes. Reingold led this effort:

Partnering to Attract New Riders

To reach primary audiences — including rural residents, older adults, and retirees — Reingold identified and conducted outreach to target organizations to attract new riders. These partnerships include tourism centers, retirement communities, economic development organizations, universities, and businesses, as well as Washington Dulles International Airport, which is a stop on three of the four routes.

Reingold connected with over 300 contacts, established more than 45 partnerships to promote the service, and shipped over 3,000 rack cards.

Picking Up the Tempo

In late 2021, DRPT expanded the service again with a fourth route, the Highlands Rhythm. To launch the new route, Reingold devised a hybrid strategy featuring an in-person media event at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia, and a virtual bus tour that allowed the public to follow along on social media. Reingold also ran targeted ads on Facebook and promoted the service at locations along the route, using digital posters and radio, bus, and print ads.

As COVID-19-related restrictions lifted in 2022, Reingold ramped up digital advertising for the bus lines, with summer and fall travel campaigns. Our promotion of the “30% off for DRPT’s 30th anniversary” discount earned DRPT an APTA Award for “best marketing and communications to support ridership” from the American Public Transportation Association.

Reingold continues to support DRPT’s Virginia Breeze marketing efforts, contributing to year-over-year growth for the service.