Virginia awards $5m in contracts to promote rail

RICHMOND, VA: Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation has picked a roster of firms to support several outreach programs, including promotion of Amtrak lines in the state. The contracts are collectively worth $5 million.

RICHMOND, VA: Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation has picked a roster of firms to support several outreach programs, including promotion of Amtrak lines in the state. The contracts are collectively worth $5 million.

The state has posted intent-to-award notices for CRT/tanaka, integrated agency Siddall, and media firm Spurrier Media Group. All three shops are based in Richmond, VA.

The contracts will not be finalized until later this month when a protest period comes to an end. Other firms including Porter Novelli, ICF, and advertising agency TMP Worldwide had shown interest in the account, according to state records. However, it is unclear if they submitted proposals.

There was no incumbent agency on the account. Amtrak Virginia previously worked with Pulsar Advertising on a campaign to promote train service from Richmond to Washington DC and other cities on the East Coast.

In addition to promoting Amtrak, the firms would manage and expand marketing activities for the department's Telework!VA and Try Transit Week programs, according to the RFP for the contracts.

Transit ridership in the state has increased from 180.9 million trips in fiscal-year 2010 to 196.4 million trips in FY 2012. Virginia's Amtrak routes had sizable ridership gains in fiscal-year 2012, compared with the previous year, with increases of 14.1% on the Washington-Lynchburg route and 11.9% on the Washington-Newport News line.

The state's rail-transportation department just announced that the Amtrak line that carries passengers between Washington DC and Norfolk, VA, has carried more than 70,000 riders since it began operations six months ago.

The winning firms will also be responsible for developing plans for other projects, including detailed timetables and suggested media-placement options. The contracts also outline the need for public-participation program support, as well as brand development. Department officials will receive media, public speaking, and communications training through the accounts, according to the RFP.

The Rail and Public Transportation Department will not assign specific work to each of the firms until the awards are finalized, according to sources familiar with the matter.

A representative from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation did not return requests seeking comment. The winning firms declined to comment until the protest period ends.

In February, the California Department of Transportation granted tmdgroup a $9 million, three-year contract to implement a PR and advertising campaign to promote ridership on the state's Amtrak lines.

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