Oct 14, 2021

CLEVELAND, OH – The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Holiday Train is the proud recipient of the First Place Award in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2021 Annual AdWheel competition. The winning entry “Greater Cleveland RTA’s Holiday Trains: Social Media: Best Marketing and Communications to Support Ridership or Sales” focused on the joy brought to commuters in light of the pandemic.

The award was presented virtually at the annual APTA Marketing & Communications Committee meeting in early October.

“In a year where nothing felt normal, RTA worked to spread a little holiday cheer to those in Northeast Ohio,” the winning submission stated. “Much of 2020 was spent discouraging ridership of transit due to COVID-19, and RTA was no exception. We all had a rough year, so to help raise the spirits of residents who have been quarantining for months and stuck in a rinse and repeat pattern of daily life – RTA introduced the festive Holiday Trains.”

Due to the popularity of the Holiday Train last year, RTA plans to debut the Holiday Trolley in 2021! The Trolley will make its first appearance from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday, November 27, on Public Square, just in time for Downtown Cleveland’s Winterfest holiday lighting ceremony. Holiday trains will also be in regular service from November 27 through December 31 on the Blue, Green and Red Lines.

Beth Castelucci, RTA’s Supervisor of Marketing Development was the creative force behind the idea. “From late November until New Year's Eve, RTA's Holiday Trains were in service on all three rail lines (Red, Blue and Green). The trains were decked out with interior and exterior lights and festive décor on the inside. Santa even made a few appearances onboard! He passed out toys to children on the nice list, while his RTA elves helped keep Greater Clevelanders safe by passing out free masks, hats, gloves and sanitizer to all passengers,” she said.

Engagement on social media was particularly high during this time, she explained.

“The #holidaytrains hashtag was used nearly 100 times to track engagement. Our average views on Instagram stories are typically around 150, and each #holidaytrain post and story netted over 250, and some up to 300 views per photo/video,” Ms. Castelucci said.

“Many riders expressed interest in tracking the trains via Twitter using the designated hashtag. Videos and pictures were shared on all of our social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) as well as on YouTube. The three YouTube videos amounted to more than 800 views in just a few weeks. Comments were generally very positive, and the community challenged us to decorate buses as well in 2021!”

“2020 brought many new and awkward lifestyle changes: a global pandemic, state-wide curfews and shutdowns, a run to buy up all the hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and a "new normal" that included wearing a mask and social distancing from others”, Castelucci explained. “RTA worked to create a festive atmosphere that would help to brighten the days of Greater Clevelanders throughout the region and help remind them of the reason for the holiday season,” she said.

“This campaign was awarded First Place in the AdWheel competition because RTA achieved just that. By allowing our teams to continue with the Holiday Trains in 2020, we brought joy to thousands and helped to mask up the region in the process,” said RTA CEO and General Manager, India Birdsong.

The 2021 Holiday Trains will go into service on November 27. To schedule the Holiday Trolley for an event this season, please contact the marketing department.

Media Contact:

Linda Krecic