Looking forward to 2018

As an eventful year draws to a close, I wanted to express my gratitude to the people who have encouraged me in the start of PA for Transit:

  • the many transportation and community leaders who took the time to talk with me about the opportunities and the need for an advocacy group for public transportation,
  • GoBurgh, who hosted me at their monthly forum on transportation in Pittsburgh,
  • the generous folks at Azavea who took the time to talk about how we can better use data and mapping to build the case for transit, and
  • Campbell Thomas for providing a home for PA for Transit in their unique office community.

I am particularly grateful to the donors who have made a gift to PA for Transit. Your support, and confidence in the potential of this idea and this group, gives me strength and hope for a prosperous 2018 for transit advocacy.

There is a lot of work to be done — it’s exciting and a little intimidating. 2018 promises to be an exciting year!

Want to get on board? There is still time to make a year-end gift.

Pennsylvanians for Transit Goals

The first step to creating a great transit advocacy network is to draw a map — our strategic goals. Below are pencil lines drawn on our map that will evolve as we engage with coalition partners and riders. 

Mission

We support public transportation because it connects people to jobs, connects Pennsylvania communities and prepares us for a prosperous future. We seek sustainable Pennsylvania funding for transit and advocate for service improvements to make transit even more efficient.

Goals

Statewide Support

Build a strong transit caucus in the Senate and House that will support sustainable funding for transit that meets the mobility needs of Pennsylvania communities

Delaware Valley Transit Coalition

Build community support for initiatives that will make SEPTA service faster and more convenient

Recruit Leaders

Recruit community transportation leaders and educate them on the transit funding and decision-making process, prioritizing constituencies that have historically been excluded from transportation planning

PA Transit Stories

Move beyond policy wonkiness and tell compelling stories of how transit helps Pennsylvanians and supports our economy

Build a Strong Organization

Build a strong statewide organization with a sustainable revenue stream

Every Place Counts Leadership Academy

One of the goals of PA for Transit is to recruit community transportation leaders, especially from constituencies that have historically been excluded from transportation planning. The Federal Highway Administration has produced The Every Place Counts Leadership Academy toolkit, a promising tool for educating community leaders on the transportation decision-making process.

We want to test how well The Every Place Counts Leadership Academy works here. We are looking for volunteers to participate and for a community group who would be interested in hosting. Ideally, we would have 10-20 participants in our first workshop in December or January. Please contact Alex Doty (alex@pafortransit.org or 717.745.7101) if you are interested.

The Every Place Counts: Leadership Academy

The Every Place Counts: Leadership Academy was created to provide key background information and tools for emerging transportation leaders and other stakeholders who have limited experience with the transportation decision-making process.

LEARN * ENGAGE * MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Do you have a transportation idea, problem or challenge? Do you want to participate in the process of making decisions about transportation plans and projects? Do you currently have little to no experience with these types of decisions? Then the Toolkit is for you!

  • Get involved in a meaningful way in the process of making transportation decisions in your community, region and state
  • Take a proactive approach to improving transportation in your community
  • Get involved early and often
  • Learn who to contact and when
  • Understand how transportation is planned, funded, designed, built and maintained
  • Find answers to common transportation questions

Ideas for Improving Bus Service in Philadelphia

Improving the efficiency of bus service is great for passengers -- getting people to their destination faster and more dependably. Improving efficiency is also great for the transit system and the taxpayer -- faster buses means more frequent service can be run with the same number of buses. This is a virtuous cycle -- the faster the bus is the more people will choose to ride it.

A coalition of local transit advocacy groups has made a number of recommendations for improving New York City bus service that could be useful in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh:

  • Allow all-door boarding by changing how fares are collected
  • Redesign indirect routes
  • Right size the distance between bus stops
  • Adopt better operational methods to keep buses on schedule
  • Design streets to prioritize buses, including optimizing traffic signals and creating bus queue-jump lanes at intersections

The in-depth analysis by these groups is based on research and thoughtful engagement with riders. There is no comparable group of advocates in Philadelphia. There are people who have ideas, as in this recent opinion piece by Jon Geeting, and there will be more ideas generated at a forum hosted by the Inquirer today. Ideas are an important beginning — but they are only a beginning. We need to figure out how to convert the interest in improving bus service into a campaign that generates proposals that SEPTA can take action on.

Making the Case for Transit Funding in Pennsylvania

As more and more people come to rely on public transit the funding for transit is under threat. The outlook for overall transportation funding is challenging — less money coming from the federal government, a state government facing formidable budget deficits and little local funding, especially in Greater Philadelphia. For transit the outlook is worse — in 2022, the Turnpike’s funding for transit will drop by $400 million. Replacing that funding will require action from a state legislature that is skeptical of funding for transit. We need to build robust support for transit funding from Greater Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and find more allies across the rest of the state.

The transportation challenges Pennsylvania faces in the coming decades can undermine every effort to increase jobs, address climate change and reduce poverty. There is a national infrastructure crisis — billions of dollars in deferred maintenance and road systems designed for the past rather than for the future. At a time when significant investment is needed, Congress seems unwilling to take action. We need to build the case for strong state support for multimodal transportation and explore creative ways to find more local funds for transportation.

A strong multimodal transportation network, through increased mobility:

  • Creates jobs
  • Saves lives
  • Addresses inequality and can help strengthen transitioning neighborhoods
  • Makes our communities more resilient to climate change
  • Connects communities to each other and improves access to public spaces and civic assets

Planners and policy experts see the need for transportation funding. But we are not making a compelling case to the public. Much like building the case for the Circuit trail network, we need to find ways to communicate a vision for how better transportation will improve the lives of people in Pennsylvania.

Like the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition, we need to bring together a broad coalition. That coalition is best hosted/convened by a neutral party that can recruit a wide range of partners and that is not viewed as a special interest that will gain from transportation funding.

This campaign has a number of elements:

  • Public speakers series
  • Build a coalition and host regular meetings of coalition member groups
  • Develop winning messages
  • Explore potential new funding sources for transportation, especially transit
  • Training of policy ambassadors — from CEOs to community activists — to make the case
  • Building a list of supporters

This transportation campaign will be built on the success and lessons learned of:

  • Next Great City: creating a coalition that articulates a policy agenda and wins support through public events and speaker series
  • Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition: building a coalition that includes industry groups, chambers of commerce, unions and non-traditional partners in health and active transportation
  • Better Bike Share Partnership: engaging neighborhood groups and training community ambassadors
  • The Circuit: creating a decade-long campaign to build support for the vision of a 750-mile trail network that identifies potential new funding sources

Transit funding advocacy should be a high priority because:

  • Turnpike transit funding drops $400 million in 2022
  • Ride sharing and autonomous vehicles can help or hurt transit and we need to figure out policies that increase mobility for all

We can no longer predict when transportation funding legislation will be taken up. Building a network of advocates takes years. The new normal is that we may have only weeks to gear up for legislation. We don’t know when we will need a network but when the storm hits we need to be prepared.