Lawrence, MA. A fresh splash of color has hit the Merrimack Valley and, perhaps surprisingly, the source is the local transit authority. The first hints of the rebranding of the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) as MeVa-Merrimack Valley Transit are the bright new buses, bedazzled in coral, aqua and yellow that can now be spotted along local roadways. MVRTA will officially unveil its new look buses, logo and name at a ribbon cutting event on Thursday, October 20 at the Buckley Transportation Center in Lawrence.
The impetus for the rebranding started over a year ago, when then-newly-appointed MVRTA Administrator Noah Berger and Communications Director Niorka Méndez-Almonte started going to community groups to access where the service was doing well and where it was falling short. Through their conversations, it quickly became clear that MVRTA was invisible to many of their potential riders. As Berger notes, “people who could use our service either didn’t know we were here or thought of us as irrelevant. For many reasons, our vehicles blended into the woodwork—of course it doesn’t help that we have the same color scheme as a mail truck!”
With a goal of increasing visibility and ridership, MVRTA put together a diverse focus group and began asking what the community wanted their buses to look like. Participants originally hailing from the Caribbean and Latin America shared that they were used to colorful, dynamic buses that do a much better job of getting people’s attention. Working with Studio Six Branding, which had been successful rebranding other transit authorities such as the Hop in Boulder Colorado, the focus group, along with additional stakeholders including drivers and riders, settled on a new design and name in May that better reflects the cultural and linguistic richness of the area, with special homage to what makes the Merrimack Valley unique and special. The colors are inspired by housing in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, while subtle ripples and water droplets honor the Merrimack River and abstracted clockfaces mirror the clocks adorning many of the area’s historic mill buildings.
The new name, MeVa, short for Merrimack Valley, was seen as hipper and easier to say than MVRTA. With the tag line “Let’s go/íVamos!” prominently displayed on the buses, the system is especially welcoming to its many Spanish-speaking riders. Méndez-Almonte proudly observed that: “Being Latina, born and raised in the Dominican Republic, I feel connected to the new brand, the cheery and happy colors perfectly reflect the Hispanic culture. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way.”
The new look is much more than mere cosmetics and supports a dramatic campaign to improve service, including going fare free systemwide back in March, doubling frequencies in Lawrence beginning last month, optimizing routings and adding bus stops. Through September, ridership is up 97.9% since going fare free and growing. Nine of the newly wrapped buses have been plying the streets of the Merrimack Valley since last week and the area has taken notice, as evidenced by posts of sightings on social media as if the new buses were exotic birds. After the initial launch, the authority will continue to work on wrapping the rest of the fleet. MVRTA was established back in 1974 and has had the same look ever since. It is time for a fresh look that reflects and supports a new, responsive and welcoming twenty-first century transit service.