December 21, 2009
Check the classifieds in this issue for information about numerous managerial and supervisory positions!
Communicating the Many Benefits of Public Transit
BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor
Who knows the many benefits of public transportation? The readers of Passenger Transport certainly do. But do they take full advantage of the stories they have to share about those benefits?
That’s the question M.P. Carter posed rhetorically in her first speech as APTA chair at the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando, and that’s why she has made “Telling Our Story” her signature initiative: to ensure that APTA members continue to tell their stories—far and wide.
The goal? By educating even more Americans about the benefits of public transportation and generating more enthusiasm about its value to individuals and communities, APTA and its members will spur action for increased support and funding for public transportation at both the local and national levels.
By now, readers may have already seen the Telling Our Story icon that appears on this page and the APTA and publictransportation.org web sites. That icon represents this initiative’s strategy: to build stronger emotional connections with public transit through personal stories and testimonials; use social media tools to educate and activate stakeholders and younger adults; create more opportunities and generate ideas and easy-to-use tools to mobilize and energize members; and develop stronger relationships with partners and coalitions.
“This strategy takes our campaign ‘to the streets’ to engage local and regional communities that can best provide a firsthand account of how public transit benefits their lives and how communities’ economy and sustainability will suffer if adequate funding is not appropriated,” said Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, co-chair of the Telling Our Story Task Force, APTA vice chair-marketing and communications, and director, project development, for Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Stories can focus on success in marketing, communications, outreach, or advocacy. Transit agency officials can talk about how they promoted their system or handled challenges. Business members can discuss or even demonstrate innovations in the industry.
What’s exciting about Telling Our Story is that “storytellers” can share the benefits of public transit in many directions, as in:
* Tell your local legislators your stories of how public transportation benefits their constituents—riders!—to encourage them to increase transit funding.
* Tell the public about transit’s many benefits to let them see how taking public transportation can cost them less and help the planet at the same time!
* Tell land developers how your company can form a partnership to help create transit-oriented development.
* Tell us at APTA your stories of the challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them – to aid us in advocating on your behalf to Congress.
The message? Three Es and a Q, which translates to: Public Transportation Takes Us There: Economy, Energy, Environment—all leading to an improved Quality of life.
We began this endeavor in October; our latest effort was to launch this initiative online on such social media as Facebook (go here and click on the “Telling Our Story” logo).
You can join in the conversation, too. In addition to using Facebook, APTA posted the winners of its Dump the Pump online video contest and exhibited “Telling Our Story” at AARP’s Annual Expo and the National League of Cities meeting. In addition, we worked with APTA’s business members to release a new report, The Case for Business Investment in Public Transportation. This report, which targets investors in public transit infrastructure, has proved to be an effective development proposal tool.
Start 2010 off on the right track with “Tell Your Story to Congress District Days”—Jan. 6-8—designed to take place while members of the U.S. House of Representatives are home on recess.
We urge all APTA members to contact their Congressional representatives on those days. The timing is critical because it is expected that Congress will focus on a second economic stimulus bill in January, and the goal is to ensure that funds for public transit are included by APTA members telling their stories, connecting public transportation with job growth.
While all the details are available online (just click on the Telling Our Story icon here), here are just a few suggested activities.
Agency members could:
* Invite the representative to tour a project funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money, highlighting the number of jobs created or supported by this funding;
* Invite the representative to a ground breaking, contract signing, or ribbon-cutting ceremony for an ARRA project;
* Invite the representative to ride the bus or train and, in the course of the ride, talk about how many people ride public transit to commute to work; or
* Schedule a meeting at the district Congressional office to discuss local projects that need funding. Unveil a project rendering or have local advocates accompany you to the meeting.
Business members could:
* Invite the representative to visit your manufacturing plant and meet with employees;
* Schedule a meeting at the district Congressional office to discuss a project you are engaged in—and the impact those projects have on job creation or support; or
* Invite the representative to meet with you and other local business leaders to discuss the outlook for the economy in 2010.
Wondering what information will work best as complements to the story you have to tell? Plan to use some of the communications aids that APTA has prepared in its Telling Our Story tool kit—such as fact sheets and sample press releases.
From APTA’s offices, we will continue to issue monthly reports on how much money people save by riding public transit; we will feature stories and testimonials online and in print; and we will continue to highlight stories about people, agencies, and businesses in Passenger Transport.
In the longer term, we will develop Telling Our Story activities around Earth Day’s 40th anniversary in April 2010, Dump the Pump Day in June, and APTA’s 2nd Youth Summit, also in June.
So join us in Telling Our Story—online on Facebook, through e-mail to APTA staff, and everywhere and anywhere you can where you live.
It’s our story, and we’re sticking to it!
Telling Our Story Task Force Roster
Mattie “M.P.” Carter, Commissioner, Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis, TN
Task Force Co-Chairs:
Tom Costello, Assistant Managing Director, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL
Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, Director, Project Development, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Atlanta, GA
Task Force Members:
Debra Alexander, Assistant Executive Director, Capital Area Transportation Authority, Lansing, MI
Bonnie Arnold, Director of Marketing and Customer Service, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL
Vicki Bowman, Marketing Manager, Motor Coach Industries, Inc.,Schaumburg, IL
RoseMary Covington, Assistant General Manager of Planning and Transit System Development, Sacramento Regional Transit District, Sacramento, CA
John Cowman, Board Member, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX
Greg Evans, Board Member, Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR
Jerry Franklin, Vice President, Executive Affairs, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX
David Longo, Acting Associate Administrator, Communications & Congressional Affairs, Federal Transit Administration, Washington, DC
Morgan Lyons, Director, Media Relations, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX
Cynthia Jones Parks, President, Jones Worley Communications, Atlanta, GA
Stan Rosenblum, Division Vice President, Jacobs, New York, NY
Mike Scanlon, General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, San Mateo County Transit District, San Carlos, CA
Dave Turney, Chairman, President, and CEO, DRI Corporation, Dallas, TX
Aaron Weinstein, Department Manager, Marketing and Research, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Oakland, CA