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Advocacy Campaign Gains Traction Nationwide; APTA's Initiative Supports Federal Authorization for Transit

Quick! Think “public transportation.” What comes to mind first? If you answered “growth,” you’d be among the vast majority of Americans who said it is their top priority, according to a recent Pew Research Foundation poll.

Communities of all sizes are transformed by public transit, and now APTA is using that reality in its new national public advocacy campaign, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows.” The campaign was featured during a Bus & Paratransit Conference panel discussion led by Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations officer, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI.

The advocacy campaign has two goals: Generate public support for a strong federal transportation authorization bill in the short term, and create greater engagement with the public transit industry over the long term.

Local public transit systems and businesses are already adapting the “Community Grows” message to reach their riders and advocates, other stakeholders, and policymakers. “We specifically designed the program so that it can speak to people at the local, state, and national levels,” said Kalczuk, a member of APTA’s Board of Directors and chair of APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee. “The ads are customizable and work well as part of other already existing marketing ­campaigns and ad buys,” she added.

As an example, she pointed to ­Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Morgan Lyons, DART’s assistant vice president, external relations, said, “We used our ongoing ad buy and just added some things from the [‘Community Grows’] campaign.”

Other systems and businesses have made similar variations, said Lyons, also vice chair of APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee, such as Connect Transit in Normal, IL. “We used APTA’s campaign and put our brand on it and engaged our stakeholders,” said panelist Andrew ­Johnson, Connect Transit general manager.

Johnson showed the conference attendees shirts his system created using the logo of the national campaign on the front and the words “Connect Transit” on the back. Johnson and his team handed out the shirts to participants at a local St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Similarly, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) replaced its regularly scheduled print advertisements in the Fort Worth Business Press with “ready to customize” ads from APTA’s campaign. “We submitted the ‘Community Grows’ ads to our print and online contacts as a public service announcement, used the Facebook art on The T’s Facebook page, and placed the ads on the sides of T buses,” said Richard Maxwell, The T’s assistant vice president, marketing and communications.

In addition, the “Community Grows” campaign is integrated with APTA’s advocacy recruitment program, Voices for Public Transit (VPT). By using new information collected from social media, the campaign targets individuals who are predisposed to support public transit. Once they visit the website, VPT provides tools to take their support to the next level—petitions, information, and ways to stay involved with public transit issues year-round.

Another novel aspect of the advocacy campaign is its focus on young people. For example, The Rapid bought advertising on Pandora, an online music program frequently used by millennials. “Young people are supporters of public transit—they get it, and we are reaching them in new ways,” Kalczuk said.

Morgan Lyons, DART in Dallas; Jennifer Kalczuk, The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI; and Richard Maxwell, The T in Fort Worth--all members of the Marketing & Communications Committee--share a laugh with Connect Transit General Manager Andrew Johnson as he shows off the shirt his agency made to promote APTA's advocacy campaign, "Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows." 

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