2018 Competitive Safety Grant Project Report

Overall Project Summary

Our 2018 targeted safety outreach campaign took the passion of our volunteer team at events over the course of three months, some new and some we’ve been doing for the past several years, and combined it with our first program ever using both delayed geo-fencing and quantum digital display ads to reach both area-specific audiences as well as a large portion of the population statewide. The overall project cost was just over $45K and the reach topped 4.4 Million digital impressions in addition to no less than 40,000 people reached through our on-the-ground outreach efforts and events. The project launched in West Central Minnesota in July and being able to close out the three month long project timeframe with the second annual Rail Safety Week enabled us to reach even more people with an even stronger message including custom #stoptracktragedies wristbands that will help to continue spreading our message long after the events have ended.

Project Timeline

July 1st: Launched geo-fencing program focused on targets in the Moorhead and Detroit Lakes areas of Clay and Otter Tail Counties

July 27th: Before the end of the month we went north to coordinate with our geo-fencing areas in person. Loco Days is a multi-day community event in the City of Dilworth, where BNSF has a large yard operation, and is directly adjacent to Moorhead (and Fargo) where trains traveling through the area as they cross between the Minnesota and North Dakota border are a common sight. We facilitated a safety presentation during the Loco Days Youth Day to 200 kids and parents and allowed the youth to sign our “safety pledge” banner. Our volunteers spoke with parents and gave out additional giveaways and information to families from our booth for the remaining hour of the event. That evening the ST3 mascot was asked to participate in the children’s parade as part of the weekend’s festivities where approximately 30 youth and their parents presented their own parade down the neighborhood streets to the main event area where the festival rides, games and other activities were occurring. Including the youth and parents who participated approximately 50 people saw and interacted with our ST3 mascot.

July 28th: The most attended part of Loco Days is the approximately 2 mile long parade with as many as 10,000 viewers this year! With the help of our partners at the Red River Valley and Western Railroad, a crash car display trailer owned by OL of the Dakotas, BNSF’s ST3 mascot along with our volunteers tossed out “lifesavers” candies and 3,000 #StopTrackTragedies wristbands – and could’ve given more!

August 1st: We adjusted our geo-fencing program to locations all along the LRT Green Line and other large areas of St. Paul as well as Coon Rapids and Elk River

August 1st: We received our first update on the Quantum Display and geo-fencing program. During the month of July alone our digital outreach efforts brought 31,299 sessions, out of which 23,514 were new users to the oli.org site.

August 3rd-12th: One of the most concentrated ways for us to share our rail safety message with St. Louis County residents – and beyond – is the Day Out with Thomas event at the North Shore Scenic Railroad in Duluth. This stop is typically the 3rd largest in the country for the “friendly engine” with well over 20,000 attendees each year. This year our volunteer team reported a total of 3,686 direct contacts over the duration of the event!

As info, because of the geographical spread for this particular project we chose to serve our audience in several of our target areas of the state including St. Louis County/Duluth via the quantum display only due to the geographic area being too wide to effectively reach our desired targets via the geo-fencing.

August 23rd – September 3rd: Our booth space, made possible by the help of our partners at the Minnesota Transportation Museum, at the MN State Fair helped us directly speak with at least 30,000 people about making safer decisions around tracks and trains. The event included a great show of partner support including a radio sponsorship by CHETs Shoes and custom Rail Safety Week branded shoe horn/back scratchers donated for the partnership by BNSF.


September 1st: We adjusted our geo-fencing program, keeping the majority of the City of Elk River and adding large portions of Minneapolis as well as Winona

September 1st: We were successfully granted a Rail Safety Month Proclamation from the Governor of MN for the month of September and promoted it as we closed out the MN State Fair


September 14th: We received our second report on the success of our digital outreach campaign with just over 1.5 Million impressions for the month of August. Based on the information collected, we adjusted our geo-fencing locations to add back in much of the area around the LRT Green Line, especially the area in which it goes through the University of Minnesota Campus to ensure that students still adjusting to being back on campus for the school year would have the opportunity to be exposed to our safety messages.

September 22nd – September 30th: To close out our grant project on a high note, we worked with our volunteer team and many partners to successfully recognize the second annual Rail Safety Week. Just some of the activities we engaged in that tied into our outreach project included:

Saturday, September 22nd: Based on timing and availability, we kicked off our RSW activities at the first ever Urban Safety Fair with law enforcement, first responder, and community partners at the Little Earth Village of United Tribes in Cedar Field Park. To no less than 50 attendees who stopped by our exhibit, we gave out #StopTrackTragedies wristbands, lifesavers candies, information and more, and we set up an interactive game to help visitors visualize how far it is to stay at least 15 feet from the tracks when waiting at a crossing. This neighborhood is less than a block away from the LRT Hiawatha/Blue Line in South Minneapolis.


               Tuesday, September 25th: Metro Transit law enforcement conducted a surge of their ongoing efforts to enforce safer behaviors on and around the LRT trains, tracks, and stations in support of Operation Clear Track. An email blast featuring our MNOL/Metro Transit joint safety message was also sent to over 126,000 email subscribers of the Pioneer Press to ensure it was received in advance of Transit Thursday.

Wednesday, September 26th: With partners Miller Ingenuity and CP we visited 5 locations across Winona including a preschool (25), Kwik Trip (150), Winona State University (500), an after-school program (75), and a HyVee grocery store (150). We directly spoke with 900 people in addition to the media coverage (one of our OLAV team members arranged for daily editorials in the local paper) and social media outreach we were able to achieve.

Thursday, September 27th: On Transit Thursday, thanks to partners BNSF and Metro Transit approximately 1,500 transit riders were greeted by the ST3 mascot and Metro Transit’s mascot, Skip Traffic, and were presented with a gift bag filled with safety items and information


Partner Matching Contributions

The overall budget for all aspects of the 3 month long outreach effort totaled $45,628.43 with this $20,000 Competitive Safety Grant generously offered by the Federal Railroad Administration accounting for 44% of this total and the $25,628.43 total matching contribution combining program self-funding, in-kind, and other partner contributions making up the remaining 56%.

Our largest single source of partner matching funds came from AdTaxi directly whose contribution to help us reach out outreach effort goal totaled $14,835 above and beyond our paid project costs of $15,000. This included 560,000 additional impressions added to our quantum display ad campaign, a ¼ page full-color ad in the Sunday edition of the Pioneer Press to kick off Rail Safety Week, and a coordinating transit safety focused email to over 126,000 email subscribers in advance of our Transit Thursday activity plans.

Other valuable partners also helped a great deal in ensuring that we would have the supplies, funding, and support that we needed to make the corresponding series of events successful. BNSF in particular sponsored a limited edition shoe horn/back scratcher featuring our Rail Safety Week messaging that was added to special AM Radio audience gift bags thanks to a State Fair PSA sponsorship from CHETS Shoes/Red Wing Boots.

Additional in-kind help including extra supplies for our State Fair booth and Rail Safety Week Events in addition to volunteer time and more also came from BNSF, CP, UP, Metro Transit, Twin Cities & Western, Red River Valley & Western, CN, FRA, Amtrak, Minnesota Transportation Museum, North Shore Scenic Railroad, Operation Lifesaver of the Dakotas, Minnesota Safety Council, City of Dilworth, Miller Ingenuity, and HyVee of Winona.

And an extra special thank you to BNSF for allowing us the use of one of their See Tracks? Think Train! mascot costumes for many of the project related activities.


Project Evaluation
Our initial AdTaxi partnership guaranteed us over 2.6 million impressions with over 48% of them coming from in-kind matching spots and other forms of outreach.  Our actual impressions for the full three-month project ended up coming in at well over 4 Million!

  • Our final reach for quantum digital display ads was 3,720,505 impressions resulting in 2,019 clicks and an additional 2,502 conversions (View through conversions are people that saw the ad, did not click, but later went to the site). Of the sessions engaged, 852 were new users to the OLI.org website (original estimate of 1.125 Million paid and 560,000 in-kind)
  • Our mobile ads were served a total of 606,182 impressions resulting in 2,579 clicks (original estimate was 600,000 with no in-kind matching available)
  • Our ¼ page color ad (see program documentation for an image) ran on Sunday, September 23rd kicking off Rail Safety Week. Sunday papers have the highest circulation at an estimated 284,000 (source: Wikipedia; latest update March 2013)
  • We were given the opportunity to share a display message via email blast to all of the TwinCities.com email subscribers. The email was sent to 126,548 subscribers on Tuesday, September 25th and was shown as being opened within that remaining week by 10,548 individuals and resulting in 119 clicks to the OLI.org website (original estimate of 125,000)

We initially estimated that our outreach at events throughout the state and project timeframe would impact approximately 35,000 people in key areas and we ultimately shared our safety message with approximately 40,000 total with thousands of additional impressions as well. Breakdown details by event can be found in the project timeline.

In July we directly impacted 3,250 in addition to 10,000 or more impressions from other parade viewers and post-event social media.  In Duluth our volunteer team directly spoke with 3,686 of the over 20,000 visitors that came through the event over the course of 7 days. During our fourth year at the Minnesota State Fair, the volunteer team from Minnesota Operation Lifesaver and the Minnesota Transportation Museum worked hard to speak to 30,000 people in addition to 10’s of thousands more who saw others carrying around our see tracks? think train! paper fans or walked by our banners, signs and messaging on their way to the best ice cream shop on the fairgrounds. During Rail Safety we participated in many events, several of which tied in with our geo-fencing and outreach program because of their proximity and targeted audience. Including the very first Urban Native Safety Fair in Minneapolis, our outreach efforts in Winona, and Transit Thursday we directly impacted 2,450 people during Rail Safety Week just via activities related to this outreach initiative.

Thanks to the generosity of our partners at CHETs Shoes/Red Wing Boots and the Salem Media Group, we were again blessed with 140 thirty second PSAs run on two AM radio stations throughout the duration of the State Fair garnering us countless terrestrial listeners as well as approximately 200,000 online streaming audience members.

For reporting purposes we’ve been tracking all incoming inquiries from the duration of the project and month following. To date (October 31st): 5 requests have been fulfilled for events resulting from contacts made as a result of this outreach initiative – each of which reached hundreds of additional people; we’ve been contacted by 2 individuals who had seen our display ads; 2 individuals inquired about volunteer opportunities, but have not yet completed the process; and a representative from a promotional company who saw us reached out about the possibility of reduced rate outreach or other ways they could partner in the future to help share our safety message.


At the time of this report only preliminary incident data and news coverage is available for the project timeframe and immediately thereafter. Based on this limited data it appears that likely at least 3 fatalities occurred during the 4 months from July through the end of October in or very near to one of the geo-fenced or project related areas. Based on unsafe behavior reporting received (BNSF and UP) it appears only one report was submitted during the project timeframe and within proximity to our project and/or geo-fenced areas. While we are disappointed by these numbers, what these reports indicate is that we have even more work and even more refining of our audiences and outreach methods to do. Our take away is increased motivation for sharing our message with even more people across our state and beyond, and specifically to continue working in these areas and with the audiences including individuals under 30 and between 45-55, especially men.

During the project timeframe (July 1st – September 30th) our social media following for Minnesota platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) increased by 61 followers or over a 5% increase. Our social media posts also achieved over 38.6K impressions during the project period. (If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!)

Last, but not least, based on professional recommendations, both the geo-fencing and display ads linked to the OLI.org website versus one of our social media platforms as was initially planned. Of the 4,453,235 total digital impressions from the project there were 4,717 actual clicks to the OLI.org website reported by AdTaxi (numbers only as of October 12th)

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