CTA Penny Rides tradition: MillerCoors hops on

Posted on December 5, 2012


Tom Long, MillerCoors CEO, and Forrest Claypool, CTA President, at Penny Rides launch.

Tom Long, MillerCoors CEO, and Forrest Claypool, CTA President, at Penny Rides launch.

MillerCoors signs $1.36 million CTA contract in an effort to prevent DUIs by offering free New Year’s Eve transport.

MillerCoors and the Chicago Transit Authority launched a promotional campaign Tuesday for this year’s Penny Rides program, offering free CTA rides on New Year’s Eve to discourage commuters from drunken driving.

“When Miller Time ends, Penny Rides begin,” Tom Long, MillerCoors CEO, said at a press conference Tuesday launching the campaign. The company is covering the one-cent fare that has previously been offered.

“Drunk driving is completely preventable and we encourage all to plan ahead for a safe and memorable New Year’s Eve,” Long said. “Great Beer, Great Responsibility” is MillerCoors tagline for the campaign.

“I never used it before on New Year’s Eve but wouldn’t be averse to doing so,” said Mike Mathews, a Chicago resident. “I’m sure cabbies don’t like it but they probably get enough business on New Years. Probably prevents a handful of DUIs.”

The CTA has offered Penny Ride for over 25 years, but MillerCoors is the first corporate sponsor.

Tammy Chase, CTA representative, said MillerCoors involvement is a good thing. She says it will help promote and cover CTA costs of the program (especially the loss of revenue), which creates less of a dependency on fares. Chase also said with the help of MillerCoors, this year’s advertising is much more expansive than before.

Chase said the sponsorship was made possible by a change in CTA regulation on alcoholic advertisement.

“At MillerCoors we believe that with great beer comes great responsibility and there’s no excuse for drunk driving,” Diehl said. “We have a long history of providing free rides to our consumers during the holidays.”

The first Miller Lite free ride program was 25 years ago in Milwaukee. MillerCoors also sponsors free rides for different holidays and events such as Halloween in Tennessee, on Derby Eve in Kentucky and Spring Break in Panama City. This is the company’s first partnership with the CTA, though in the past they’ve offered free shuttle service train stations.

It is not a new discovery that holidays yield a higher rate of alcohol-impaired driving and fatal accidents. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report in 2009 cited that New Year’s Eve DUI fatalities are 150 percent higher than on an average day. In Illinois alone, there were 298 DUI fatalities this year, ranking it 29th in the nation, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Lambrini Lukidis, a CTA representative, said nearly 150,000 rides are taken on New Year’s Eve and estimated operation and labor costs for the Penny Ride program is $192,000. Lukidis said there have been sponsors in the 80s and 90s, but these sponsors never had naming rights, making MillerCoors involvement more expansive.

“Several companies and associations including Miller Brewing paid the ‘penny’ fare, while CTA absorbed the operating and labor costs,” Lukidis said. “This, however, is the first official naming rights program that completely funds the entire operations of the special program.”

MillerCoors will be paying the CTA roughly $200,000 a year for a three-year contract, Lukidis said.

Long, at the press conference, presented an art display of 8,000 pennies to CTA President Forrest Claypool that will be displayed at the Clark/Lake station through New Year’s Eve to help advertise the program.

Artwork of 8,000 pennies displayed at Clark/Lake station to promote Penny Rides
Artwork of 8,000 pennies displayed at Clark/Lake station to promote Penny Rides

There will be 150,000 fare cards with the company tagline sold over the next month along with a month long campaign along the CTA system. MillerCoors will also sponsor the Twelve Bars of Christmas Pub Crawl, a popular pub-crawl in Wrigleyville, this Saturday where MillerCoors will distribute cab vouchers and promote Penny Ride, Diehl said.

The free rides on New Year’s Eve will be in effect from 10 pm to 4 am. “This sponsorship ensures the continuation of the CTA Penny Rides program, offering our customers a convenient and safe way to celebrate the New Year,” Claypool said.

“Each ride represents an instance in which a person has made the wise choice not to drive and drink.”