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We’re building a coalition around the value transit brings to our region

April 27, 2023

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This post is one in a series exploring the Agenda for Action and Advocacy in  Transit is the Answer, the RTA’s new regional transit strategic plan. Together with our partners, working toward the items on this list will move us closer to the plan’s vision of a public transportation system that is safe, reliable, and accessible that connects people to opportunity, advances equity, and combats climate change.

On April 25, the RTA hosted a Transit is the Answer Coalition Kick-Off open house. The event served as a networking opportunity with transit riders, advocates, agency staff, community leaders, and other transit stakeholders. Attendees learned more about the RTA’s 2023 priorities, along with how to provide input, take action, and stay involved.

Attendees also learned more about the first coalition meeting, which will take place virtually on Tuesday, May 9, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. with an optional 30-minute networking session until 11 a.m. The RTA’s Transit is the Answer Coalition will advocate for sustainable transit funding and help shape the future of the system. The group of riders, advocates, agency staff, and community leaders will hold quarterly hourlong virtual meetings to develop and pursue strategies for strengthening the transit system and making it more useful for all residents. This initiative is a continuation of the robust engagement that informed the development of Transit is the Answer, the five-year regional transit strategic plan approved in February.

All are welcome to join for an update on the RTA’s planned 2023 activities and a discussion about a potential program for expanded free or reduced transit fares for people experiencing low incomes. Registration for the meeting is required and open now.

Building a coalition around the value transit brings to our region is one of the items in Transit is the Answer’s Action and Advocacy Agenda. Transit is the answer to many of the region’s most urgent challenges but is threatened by lack of sufficient operating and capital funding after years of disinvestment and a pandemic. Our region’s current transit funding structure is also overly reliant on fares. Together this leaves our transit agencies to face an existential crisis that neither fare hikes nor service cuts alone can solve while preserving a useful and equitable system.

The Transit is the Answer Coalition will help to win sustainable funding for transit and build a better system for everyone who relies on it.

Why this is important

Public agencies in the United States have been under pressure from advocates and riders to improve their outreach and decision-making methods for decades. The pandemic and social justice movements of the last few years have led many agencies — including the RTA — to reconsider how to effectively engage with taxpayers and riders. This has led to a number of changes in the way that RTA has involved stakeholders, including intentionally inviting a broader and more diverse group of voices to participate in projects and making compensation available to people who do; expanding our communications channels and following to ensure that our work is shared as broadly as possible; and increasing staffing and resources in governmental and external affairs.

The work of developing Transit is the Answer in 2022 included many forms of outreach and stakeholder working groups. This work made it clear to RTA that a wide variety of stakeholders want to be more involved in strategic planning work. The same work has also made it clear to RTA that any lasting change in transit or transit funding cannot be done in isolation but must involve a broad coalition of stakeholders with overlapping and unique interests. Continuing this level of engagement throughout implementation of the plan will provide coalition members with the opportunity to provide input on the RTA’s methods, hold us accountable, and measure our progress.

One of the key questions the RTA consistently posed in our conversations with riders and residents of the region over plan development is, “Why do you value transit?”

We heard a lot about the measurable and harder-to-quantify value that transit brings to our region. Transit gives freedom and independence to people with limited mobility or who don’t own or have access to a car. Transit connects our communities and is a place where people from all walks of life come together. These unquantifiable benefits — how transit shapes the character of our communities and our region — support the value that we can put into numbers — the emissions reduced, the economic impacts, the savings for households and families.

The RTA will need partners from across the spectrum of businesses, riders, and communities we serve to join in a campaign to change the way our region thinks about and funds transit.

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