HARTFORD –— Anybody can ride a bus line, but how many people get to name one too? Now one of Hartford's most prominent transportation routes is giving riders such an opportunity, as the Star Shuttle becomes the subject of a "Name That Shuttle" contest.
Through this Sunday, anybody can submit a potential new title through the Hartford.com home page – even if you have never used the bus before. A judging panel will select five finalists, after which the public has one week to vote for the winner.
"Most other cities have busses with names like 'Downtown Circulator," said Jordon Polon, Director of marketing for the Hartford Business Improvement District. "We deserve something better than that." Polon cites as an example the Charlotte, North Carolina "Molly the Trolley."
The idea for the contest was conceived at a recent marketing meeting after a name could not be selected. "We had a dozen possibilities and a stalemate," Polon recalled. "During a renaming, there is usually a groundswell of unsolicited ideas anyway. So why not actually take one of them?"
"To my knowledge, our department has never been done anything like this before," said Phil Fry, Assistant General Manager for Planning and Marketing at CT Transit. "The route serves mostly Hartford visitors rather than actual residents, making it all the more important to market the line well."
Hartford's contest has already received over a dozen submissions through publicity from Twitter posts and Facebook updates. Fry said the new name will take effect in mid-to-late September.
"The shuttle is primarily used by conventioneers," said Polon. "Through this contest, we want to make the shuttle feel like it belongs to the people of the city."
No changes are currently planned for the bus route itself, which connects major city attractions including the Convention Center, Bushnell Park, XL Center, Union Station, Science Center, and Wadsworth Atheneum. The free service employs two busses, runs 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 3-11 p.m. on Saturdays, with a vehicle reaching each stop approximately once every 12 minutes.
The panel selecting the contest's five finalists includes Polon, Fry, CT Transit Marketing Administrator Gretchen Gregg and General Manager David Lee, Capital City Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jim Abromaitis and Director of Communications and Public Relations Terryl Mitchell Smith, and Senior Assistant to Hartford's Chief Operating Officer Jonas Maciunas.
The "Star Shuttle," running since September 2005, was named after Hartford's slogan "New England's Rising Star" premiered in November 2001. The slogan proved unsuccessful, with banners and signs featuring the tag line largely removed from the city. The marketing campaign cost roughly $1.5 million while used, and MetroHartford Alliance CEO Oz Griebel admitted the slogan was "designed for a different time."
Hartford last year paid consulting firm Cundari Group $200,000, partially through city funds, to create new ideas for re-branding the city. Last July they revealed three final contenders: "Hartford: Make Your Own History," "What's Your Hartford Moment?" and "Hartford: What Do You Want To Do Today?"
However, the city decided to delay their final selection and implementation until after the state launched its slogan "Still Revolutionary" in May. Hartford has not yet selected a final marketing campaign.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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