2017 Crossing Safety Initiatives Grant Project Report

 Overall Project Summary and Timeframe

This competitive crossing safety grant helped us to truly maximize our Rail Safety Week activities and outreach to reach a greater number of drivers in Minnesota – and beyond – including drivers of all ages as well as CDL and truck drivers and drivers of tractors and other farm equipment.  Our goals included reaching drivers through different formats and venues in as many parts of the state as possible, and generally increasing awareness of the SeeTracks? Think Train! safety message. Through nearly 30 events and presentations during the month of September alone we spoke with nearly 5,000 people directly in addition to the Minnesota State Fair; by leveraging media opportunities we got our message played for thousands more; and our existing partnerships helped us to further maximize the number of people who interacted with our safety messages during the month of September and beyond.

July 1st, 2017 – Our initiative began with our Intox-Box partnership which launched the 15 second ‘Can’ PSAs on as many as 70 Intox-Box units (interactive breathalyzer program helping patrons of bars and restaurants make safer decisions before getting behind the wheel and onto the road) across the state, several in Wisconsin, and stills/graphics on units in as many as 12 other states where space allowed. The Minnesota units alone resulted in our PSA being played over 700,000 times each month from July 1st through the end of September.

July 28th, 2017 – We next arranged with our partners at ScreenVision to run our 30 second ‘Can’ PSAs in 8 theaters and on a total of 59 screens across the state. These PSAs were seen by a “time in seats” audience of 368,640 over a 9 week period culminating during US Rail Safety Week.

For the fourth consecutive year we requested a month-long safety Proclamation from our state Governor’s Office. This year we focused on the month of September to accentuate the first ever US Rail Safety Week. Because the beginning of September fell right in the middle of our State Fair we launched our efforts a week early to promote not only our new booth location at the MN State Fair, but also our month full of activities and awareness raising efforts.

August 24th, 2017 – Our Minnesota News Network interview can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/minnesota-news-network/mn-matters-08-25-17

August 25th, 2017 – A continuing partnership with Chet’s Shoes (Red Wing Boot Co) and the Salem Media Group gave us yet another interview opportunity which aired at 5PM the first Friday evening of the State Fair. Through this partnership the first 1,200 visitors to the radio station’s booth at the fairgrounds were given gift bags including See Tracks? Think Train! items and our 30 second ‘ST3’ radio PSAs were aired 140 times on AM980 and AM1280 during the course of the State Fair (August 24th-September 4th)

As expected, this year’s Great Minnesota Get Together was a record-breaking attendance year and in large part due to our new location we spoke directly to well over 30,000 visitors with thousands more seeing our See Tracks? Think Train! banners and our partner’s locomotive simulator. The simulator featured a new narrated video depicting what it’s like to be in the locomotive cab when a train is involved in a grade crossing collision, how long it takes for the train to come to a stop, and the aspects of the situation that the train crew must deal with. Our new booth location often saw the tail-end of long lines waiting for the ice cream and milk shake stand and had less nonprofit/educational competition than our previous location.

September 1st, 2017 – In addition to the Minnesota State Fair and to best achieve our goal of reaching more adult drivers we leveraged our new and existing partnerships to attend, promote, and augment at least 30 activities directly reaching new audiences during the month of September. The combined activities of MNOL, our OLAVs, Board of Directors, and Partners directly reached an estimated 5,000 people during the month of September including US Rail Safety Week. Activities ranged from school presentations and driver’s education classes to professional driver education and general public outreach at a variety of locations.

A short list of some of these activities includes:

September 23rd, 2017 – We launched US Rail Safety Week with an appearance by the See Tracks? Think Train! mascot at the Minnesota Transportation Museum reaching over 100 directly with games and prizes as well as great social media engagement and support from our partners

September 24th, 2017 – Our partners at Metro Transit activated enhanced enforcement efforts several times throughout the month and especially on the 24th in order to reach out to and help educate special event commuters for the first Vikings home game of the season. 

September 25th, 2017 – Nearly 410,000 people who saw the #USRailSafetyWeek post on social media thanks to the Thunderclap initiative started by OHOL and supported by MNOL and several other states.

Additionally, MNOL Executive Director partnered with the Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture on interviews with the Brownfield Ag Network [hear it here: https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/national-rail-safety-week-good-reminder-harvest/] and the Red River Valley Farm News Network to reach out to farmers and agricultural workers about making safer decisions around tracks and trains as harvest season moved into full swing.

September 26th, 2017 – Operation Clear Track had 4 departments in Minnesota sign up to participate and media advisories were sent out to 15 outlets initially and to our entire contact list following the initiative. 

September 27th, 2017 – On Wednesday we participated in 4 activities in the southeastern part of the state including outreach at Winona State University and got coverage in the Winona Post [link unavailable], the Winona Daily News [http://www.winonadailynews.com/news/opinion/letters/jeanine-black-rail-safety-week/article_25b9fc6e-f45f-5f7c-bccd-89a128b626fa.html], and The Winonan [https://winonan.org/7179/news/organization-educates-students-on-rail-safety/#photo] as well as the Lake City Graphic

 September 28th, 2017 – Transit Thursday focused on light rail and commuter passengers, but was also planned for the evening commute to capture the attention of special event travelers as well.

September 29th, 2017 – On Friday we partnered with our colleagues in Wisconsin to raise awareness to drivers and pedestrians in the Duluth/Superior area. Our Minnesota event reached hundreds of scenic train trip riders at the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

September 30th, 2017 – Saturday we honored our partnership and commitment to working with the CDL drivers in our state by participating in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics event in Forest Lake.

Partner matching description

 Approximately 64% of this $56,346.00 project came from In-Kind and matching contributions, partnership support, and State Program Budget funds.

The remaining 35% in the amount of $20,000 was the requested for grant funding from Operation Lifesaver, Inc via this Federal Railroad Administration Competitive Crossing Safety Grant.

In particular, our media partners made great efforts to help us maximize our outreach efforts, but the time and dedication of our Board members, volunteers, and partner organizations – all of which cannot be accurately reflected in this report – are what truly enabled us to succeed in accomplishing what we set out to do. Below is a detailed description of the contributed value that helped maximize the investment made by the Federal Highway Administration and Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

ScreenVision, in addition to offering us their lowest standard rate possible to air the 30 second ‘Can’ PSA for our 9 week campaign on 59 screens in 8 theaters, included an additional PSA play per day for the ENTIRE DURATION of the campaign. This resulted in 14,868 more plays of our PSA essentially doubling our campaign, only these in-kind PSAs were played during a less-attended time frame for a total matching value of $4,059.

MNOL contracted the airing of OLI’s 15 second ‘Can’ PSA to play on 30 Intox Box units during the full months of July, August, and September. As in-kind support, Precision Kiosk Technologies guaranteed the PSAs on an additional 30 units with as many as all 70 units (in Minnesota) and several in Wisconsin playing the PSA in rotation as space allows each month (estimated $3,000-$4,000 in-kind value). Additionally, Intox Box inserted static versions of the ST3 ‘Can’ ad into the rotation on Intox Box units in 12 additional states (OH, LA, CA, WI, MI, CO, NC, SC, GA, TX, NY, IL) at no charge for the duration of the campaign as well (this was an additional $5,000 per month value).

Chet’s Shoes sponsored a total of 140 PSAs across 2 AM stations and each of their online streaming counterparts. The approximate value of the in-kind spots was $2,500. By participating in this partnership we were also provided with social media coverage, a live radio interview, as well as a presence in the giveaway bags to the station’s live audience.

Our partners at the Minnesota Transportation Museum not only helped to support our OLAV team members at our State Fair booth with their own staff and volunteers, they also covered half of the booth cost for a matching contribution of $1.064.

No less than $1,000 worth of supplies were contributed to our efforts from Canadian Pacific, BNSF, Union Pacific, and Metro Transit

Approximately $1,202.00 of additional funding for supplies was provided out of the general Minnesota Operation Lifesaver budget.

This spreadsheet details each component of the grant project, it’s updated budget information as well as the total reach and outcomes

2017 Competitive Crossing Safety Grant initial page

 Project Evaluation

  • MNOL received no less than 6 presentation and event participation requests as a result of our outreach and activities during the project duration
  • MNOL saw a nearly 10% increase in our social media followers during the project duration
  • MNOL gained one new contributing partner and no less than 6 participating partners during the duration of the project
  • Due to insufficient staffing the results of our non-scientific study during the Minnesota State Fair resulted in a smaller data set than we had anticipated however, the results were as follows:
    • 80% of responders had not previously been aware of the ENS signs or where to look for them
    • 90% of responders did not know they could use the contact number on the ENS sign to communicate with the operating railroad if there was an issue at the crossing
    • 90% of YOUTH responders pledged that they WOULD tell a friend or family member what they learned
    • 80% of responders answered ‘yes’ that they had learned something they did not previously know
  • MNOL plans to continue monitoring unsafe motorist reports from participating railroads over the course of the coming months with a focus on areas where we had high event participation. At this point only 1 unsafe motorist has been reported in a city where our activities took place during the project period.
  • Both the MNOL and OLI website’s have seen a general decrease in page visitors. However, the rate of visitors to the MNOL site decreased from the summer months to the fall months during our project duration over 10% in 2016, but only by 6% in 2017. The best news is that due to our efforts to drive most people to the OLI site versus the MNOL site, from August to September of 2017 there were 52% MORE sessions and 58% MORE new users from Minnesota!

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