Well, not exactly, but in the old saying about man bites dog being news, last Friday the estimable RunKeeper team put on a PR stunt / stupid human trick / arch critique of Boston public transit in which some guys raced a Green line trolley for four miles or so. Spoiler alert: the B line trolley came in 4th.

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Thoughts on what this says about the T

  • It’s easy to say that RunKeeper picked an easy target, but the finish was close and the trolley held the lead much of the time. I expect the longer the course the better the odds for the T.
  • Public transit that competes with other modes, like buses and the surface green line, and obeys the traffic laws is always at a disadvantage to modes that have exclusive ways, like subways, and modes that don’t obey the laws, like jaywalking pedestrians, red light running cyclists, and massholes. I don’t expect that the runkeepers stopped at red lights unless they absolutely had to.
  • The T frequently gets no respect, but it seems there’d be no harm in them participating in this event. Maybe putting their best operator at the head of the trolley in question or having Beverly Scott live tweeting from the Trolley? The T operators could use some positive PR, and It’s not like people who think the Green line is slow are going to change their mind because it beat some runners, or people who think it’s just fine will switch to running because it lost.

Thoughts on the marketing value of this event

  • Runkeeper got a ton of attention showcasing the key functions of its app with a good humored challenge to an easy target. (see above on that point)
  • It’s a win even if Runkeeper loses, though the odds of that are slim since they chose the battle field and the terms.
  • Live coverage made it an event, and that only further highlighted Runkeeper’s real time features.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is repeated annually or sooner vs other targets in other cities. And if any other fitness app tries it, everybody will know Runkeeper did it first.

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Could the event have been even better? Probably, I’d certainly want to see the T get in on the act and be more than an anonymous bugaboo target. Maybe making the event a charity race would make that more palatable to the T, or at least embarrass it into making a comment of some kind. A charity run (with a partner like FirstGiving maybe?) would generate even more PR and maybe open the field to more runners, Runkeeper membership required, of course.