Sharing the Value of Transit

A recent conference call led by American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President Bill Millar provided information about the impact on the economy if the government continues to delay a federal transportation authorization bill. During the question and answer session, Millar mentioned that APTA is in the process of meeting with each of the 109 new members of the 112th Congress. Something that was particularly discouraging that he shared, “We’re finding that many of the new members are simply not familiar with the full scope and range of investments that the federal government makes. “We have found some examples where some of the new members don’t even realize that the federal government invests in the nation’s highway system, for example.” I didn’t say it was surprising, just discouraging. Coming from a state divided by whether a rail line connecting the Midwest is a necessity or a waste, I talk to people everyday that are adamant about the burden such a boondoggle would impose. And this is further being fueled by opinions that are ramped extra high during the current state of politics. Educating the public how transportation funding works isn’t easy as so many people have their minds made up. A great thing about the transit industry is that many of the people in it are passionate about what they do and they do what they can to promote it, not just while working or when their job mandates it. With the prolific use of social media, agencies have been doing a lot to pass along valuable information to the public. Many times after one agency posts a link to a great story highlighting the necessity or benefit, I'll see several others pick it up and share it to all of its followers. And while the suppliers to the transit industry are often posting about advancements at their company or with their technology, they too share information that simply provides insight on the financial impact of public transit. Now most, if not all, of the suppliers’ “friends,” “followers” or “fans” are probably already in the transit industry and know of the value, it’s a quick way to share information that can get passed along by all of us to continue to share that information. APTA recently started a page on Facebook that does just this; it’s Business Arguments for Public Transportation. If you haven’t  already, sign on and join in the conversation. Just from me “liking” a comment here and there on the page, those feeds then show up to everyone I’m friends with: those in the transit industry, and friends and family, including people not supportive or understanding of what transit offers. Since signing on, there are several friends of mine that aren’t in the transit industry and they have chosen to “like” the page. We may be fighting for the attention against things like “Farmville,” the Super Bowl, videos of cats playing pianos, etc., but every bit helps. During the APTA conference call, Millar admitted that there is a lengthy education process in front of us. He also said APTA has been urging all of its members, whether public or private sector, to share the stories we all live day-to-day about the impact long-term investment has and why the federal government investment, particularly at this time when the nation is trying to move out of the recession, is a good deal for the nation and a good deal for the tax payers. Using all of the resources available to us will help spread the word about what a vital necessity our industry is and the impact it has on the environment and the economy.