Editor's Notebook: Transit’s story in communities

Nov. 29, 2022
Of the five questions to answer in a story – who, what, where, when and why – effectively sharing “why” helps an audience understand motivation behind an action.

If you attended the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) TRANSform Conference this past October in Seattle or have read recent communication from APTA, you are aware of the focus and encouragement from the association to tell transit’s story.

APTA noted the historic investment included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act coupled with high expectations of the industry will require sharing transit’s positive impact on communities and will be critical to the industry’s future success.

The 2022 midterm election in early November is another reminder of why sharing transit’s impact within communities is important.

The 2022 election was another success for transit ballot initiatives across the United States. In a round of up of results, the APTA reports voters approved 14 of the 19 transit measures put before them.

The measures passed are in addition to the 15 that have already been passed by voters in 2022, bringing the total to 29 out of 36 wins for transit, which APTA says is an 80.56 percent win rate and represents billions in transit investment.

Among the measures approved in November are a tax on high income earners in Massachusetts, with a portion of the revenues supporting transit investments, a more than $52-million bond in Arlington County, Va., where transit will benefit from the funds and various millage renewals in Michigan.

These measures could not have been successful without an effective storytelling strategy, and with final results of key U.S. House of Representatives races still being tallied as of this writing, there is yet another reminder of why it’s important to share the industry’s successes.

Congress currently has 69 freshman members in the House and nine in the Senate. The 118th Congress, set to commence in January 2023, is expected to have an equivalent number of new members. These elected officials will shape policies impacting transit, as well as influence how much the federal government will invest in this industry.

I’m reminded of an event when I worked in the rail industry where a freshman U.S. Representative toured a facility of a manufacturer in Iowa. The U.S. Representative was touting the business diversity within his district and noted he learned about a new business nearly every day, pointing to the manufacturer’s product and exclaiming, “I didn’t even know this was here!”

Now is the time to let them know you are here.

It’s time to showcase what and how agencies deliver services, and why they deliver these services. When it comes to communication basics of who, what, where, when and why, I would argue answering “why” is the most important to creating a meaningful connection to a message. It gives a target a chance to understand what you’re doing, as well as the motivation and drive behind an action.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.