File photo

The colorful ads will be displayed on Big Blue Bus panels, affixed on light poles in Santa Monica and shared across social media.

“Rush hour can be happy hour.”

“Go almost anywhere for $1.75.”

“Explore like never before.”

The messages are the backbone of GoSaMo, a new city-backed marketing campaign to promote mobility that is rolling out in conjunction with the arrival of the Expo Line’s anticipated extension to Santa Monica.

With the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority promoting the new light-rail line as a means for regional access to the beach, local officials want to encourage residents and professionals on the Westside to consider the train as one of several alternative modes of transportation in a metropolitan area known for its car culture and traffic-jammed commutes.

The marketing blitz follows City Council’s approval of a one-year, $500,000 contract with GOOD Worldwide Inc., with the possibility of a short extension. The company is helping city officials with the development and implementation of “an overarching campaign focusing on mobility within Santa Monica,” according to a city report. The City solicited bids for the project in November.

As people across the region anticipate the opening of Expo Line’s 6.6-mile extension from Culver City to Santa Monica, officials are hoping to take advantage of the moment to inform locals about transportation options around town. Their efforts include paid advertising, social media engagement, public relations and business outreach.

“This campaign is about how to get people who live or work in Santa Monica changing their behavior,” GOOD marketing manager Joe Vandenorth said.

The campaign includes a variety of activities surrounding May 20, the first day for passengers on the Expo Line, when station celebrations will feature TAP card giveaways. Big Blue Bus is offering free rides that day, and the local Breeze bikeshare program will be available at no cost May 19-21.

“It was our goal to make integration between our existing transportation networks seamless with the arrival of Expo,” Mayor Tony Vazquez said in a press release. “To really address mobility, it had to be about so much more than Expo. We want to make Santa Monica the leading example of pedestrian and transit-oriented lifestyles in Southern California.”

Activities have also been organized over the next few months to encourage people to test out the new train for leisure trips and get people excited about the variety of transportation options in Santa Monica. So-called try-athlons in July will introduce people to the areas around the new light-rail stations in group tours or self-guided visits. A pop-up mobility kiosk will provide locals with information about using the new transit services.

The campaign also has a major digital component. A new website, smgov.net/GoSaMo, aggregates information about transit options. Information will be distributed across social media.

Meanwhile, local businesses will get involved by posting decals in their windows with simple directions to the nearest Expo Line stations, Big Blue Bus stops and Breeze pods.

“We all have a stake in this,” City mobility manager Francie Stefan said. “This is a really exciting example of how amplifying communication around these issues can really help us all. … It’s about people being out on the street, having resources at your fingertips and being supported by your community.”

Stefan acknowledged that public transportation won’t make sense for all Westside residents or for every commute, but she said the campaign will hopefully nudge the Westside away from its transportation monoculture.

“When you have that diversity of options,” she said, “the whole system works better.”

jeff@www.smdp.com