Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rx for the RTA - Part 1

The period of shock and disappointment many of us felt after November 8, 2016, should be behind us by now. Sure, many of us are still not happy, but it's time to look to the future.

Transit funding in Southeast Michigan failed that day, but only by less than 1% of the overall vote. What can we and the RTA do for the future? We - the transit advocacy community - have many and differing ideas, but we each need to throw our ideas into the pool and let the best ones float to the top.

I have lots of ideas, based on my interaction with the RTA over the last few years and my contacts with people in the Washtenaw County area. We'll see if any of them float. I'll give you the first few today, and put the rest up bit by bit.

Prescription 1: Do not take the "defeated" pill

Time is actually on the side of transit. First, because transit funding gurus have found that the best predictor of success on a transit ballot issue is failure on the previous attempt. And more fundamentally, people don't like to vote for an agency they have no acquaintance with. AAATA and SMART both won recent funding requests with over two-thirds majorities. People know them, see their buses on the street, and some even ride them. That can't be said for the RTA. But neither advocates nor RTA staff and board should let their heads hang down. Megan Owens struck exactly the right note Monday night (January 30) at the Transportation Riders United  (TRU) Annual Meeting, where she maintained that 2016 was an "excellent" year for transit in Southeast Michigan, and pointed to numerous advances.

So my first prescription for the RTA is to cheerfully do as much as possible, as openly and publicly as possible, and get back on the ballot as soon as possible - that's November, 2018.

Prescription 2: Swallow and digest the election results

Where did the vote go in favor of the RTA? Where did it go against? Talk with the anti-transit communities and find out what they want. Talk with the areas where the vote went in favor - find out what they liked, and what RTA could do better.

Don't allow past mistakes to be repeated. Specifically, don't air messages that could be interpreted as negative to SMART, DDOT, AAATA, or the People Mover. Don't allow a public relations firm to take charge if they have no experience with transit initiatives. Probably no single firm has the expertise needed: knowledge of Southeast Michigan, and a track record of success with transit proposals. Probably a team of two firms would be the best solution.
To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Please sign my Petition to give to the RTA to improve mass transit as explained under Option One or better. See