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Public Agencies Get In on the Pokemon Hype

The American Canyon, Calif., parks and rec department and Napa County transit system both gave shout outs to the new augmented reality game that has taken the country by storm to use public resources and collect Pokémon.

by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif. / July 20, 2016

(TNS) -- At least two Napa County agencies are riding the Pokemon Go wave, tapping into the nationwide craze to bring people where they’d like them to go.

The city of American Canyon let the public know that Pokemon characters were likely to appear at last Sunday’s Farmer’s Market. The ploy worked, though a technical glitch prevented it from being as successful as it might have been, Parks and Recreation Department Director Creighton Wright said.

“We posted a Facebook ad soliciting interest in Pokemon Go! for the Farmers Market,” Wright said. “Through the game we can ‘lure’ Pokemon to specific Pokestops, of which the Boys and Girls Club is one.”

Hope Rodriguez, the manager of the city’s weekly Farmer’s Market, also posted a lure on Sunday morning in hopes of bringing Pokemon and gamers to the site, in the parking lot near the Phillip West Aquatic Center.

“We heard that the game server was having some problems on Sunday morning, so the turnout might not have been as great as it could have been,” Wright said.

“It was a success,” Rodriguez said. “I set the lures and had several folks walk through the market after stopping by the Pokestop. Unfortunately, the weather was a little too much to actually have folks out there for long. But, it was so cute to see all the kids running around catching Pokemon.”

Wright said it was “definitely something to try again.”

The idea came from city marketing consultant Heather Piazza and City Manager Dana Shigley, Wright said. “Hope jumped on board excitedly about the idea,” he said.

Also firmly on the Pokemon Go bandwagon, Napa County’s bus system, Vine Transit, is offering a free transit day on Saturday inspired by the Pokemon Go game “as a way to get kids (and adults) more familiar with transit,” agency officials announced.

“We have free USB chargers on the new bus and free WiFi — pretty much the perfect combination for kids to play the game and learn to ride the bus a few weeks before schools starts,” they said. “We expect a great turnout considering how many routes go to places where Pokemon are populating (downtown, parks, etc).”

All Vine Transit fixed-route service will be free on Saturday, July 23 in Napa Valley, “to encourage and inspire new riders to explore their community — or even win prizes,” according to the announcement. “The promotion is not limited to just Pokemon Go players — All riders are encouraged to hop on a Vine bus and explore the valley, or just take the Route 10/11 to the ferry.”

For a full list of routes and schedules, visit Vine Transit’s website, or visit the Facebook event and invite your friends, officials said.

“This is not only fun for people playing Pokemon Go, it’s a great way for new riders to learn the transit system in a relaxed, stress-free environment,” Napa Valley Transportation Authority Executive Director Kate Miller said. “We’re hoping that once people see how easy transit is, they’ll start taking the bus to work or simply for daily trips around Napa.”

Players who spot Pokemon on Vine buses, at the transit center or near a bus stop can also “tag” NVTA or Vine Transit on Facebook and Twitter. The user who finds the most Pokemon will win a gift card and a free bus pass, they said.

Miller said riding the bus around Napa is not only one of the safest, greenest ways to travel in the region, it’s also one of the safest ways to play Pokemon Go on the road.

Vine Transit’s system ridership has been increasing since it was revamped in 2012, and could break more than 1 million riders for the first time in at least a decade, Transit Manager Matt Wilcox said. Vine Transit recently added nine new buses to its fleet, each equipped with state-of-the-art technology and comfortable seating he said. “The new buses are also equipped with USB chargers, and even our old buses have free WiFi, which is perfect for playing games or surfing the Internet without draining your phone,” Wilcox said.

Many of Vine Transit’s routes also go directly to downtown Napa — “which just happens to be where many of the game’s creatures and ‘gyms’ are available to the public,” according to the release.

Miller said, “If people have fun playing Pokemon Go on the bus, and walking around the Valley, then that’s even better. We’re always looking for ways to promote transit and other ways to alleviate the congestion on our roads.”

©2016 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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