Best Practices: The importance of the private sector's role in transit industry advocacy and how members can get involved

March 12, 2020
From the March issue's "Best Practices: Targeted Advocacy" section: Ray Melleady details the importance of sharing the transit industry's impact on the private sector.

EXTON, PA. - Currently in Washington, D.C., there is growing bipartisan interest in advancing the surface transportation reauthorization bill that will fund public transit and highways for the years to come. Business members play a vital role in advocacy efforts for public transportation. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) has worked closely with APTA staff and members on reauthorization recommendations and through targeted advocacy efforts that are focused on addressing the shortfall in revenues that support public transportation.

In 2019, this advocacy effort included focus on U.S. Senators in 10 states. The basis for selection was senators with senior committee assignments who have decision authority over transit-related legislation. This outreach included 400 business members representing 266 companies with private sector jobs in the targeted states. Formal letters from these business members and companies with dozens of signatures to each respective senator were followed by direct visits in Washington and state offices. In the end, each of these senators understood the connection between public transportation investment and private sector jobs. Of the 20 senators included in this effort, only three voted “no” on the Jones-McSally amendment. The amendment protected transit agencies from a $1.2-billion cut to funding in Fiscal Year 2020. In advocacy, progress is incremental.

Building from this effort, in 2020 the BMBG Legislative Committee has identified six states that will be the focus for reauthorization advocacy and where there was a “no” vote on the Jones-McSally Amendment. It is our belief that direct efforts from the business community will favorably influence future transit-related voting. In other words, this is a focused effort by the business community to connect the dots between transit-related programs and private sector jobs within each respective state and especially those states with ranking members on key committees.

Using APTA’s Public Transportation Industry Footprint Tool, the BMBG identifies all business members within the targeted states along with a champion to coordinate written communication and in-person meetings with members of Congress. Advocacy efforts will be scheduled during the APTA Legislative Conference in March followed by the Business Member Fly In scheduled for June 3, 2020. The objective of this outreach is to ensure that members of Congress and their staff understand the connection between public transit funding and private sector employment.

Our primary goal as APTA business members is to facilitate the growth of long-term, sustainable and reliable funding for public transportation in the United States. To that end, the BMBG is laser focused on efforts to secure votes in support of pro-transit legislation. The BMBG is a powerful player in advocacy because we are collectively stronger than any individual company and we have an obligation to support the industry from which we all benefit.


Ray Melleady is executive vice president of USSC Group, an APTA Executive Board Member and APTA RCA Council Chair.