Public transportation group to make its case to Congress

WASHINGTON: The American Public Transportation Association is hosting a legislative conference beginning March 11 to give senior transit officials the chance to explain to Congress the important role the industry plays in the US economy.

WASHINGTON: The American Public Transportation Association is hosting a legislative conference beginning March 11 to give senior transit officials the chance to explain to Congress the important role the industry plays in the US economy.

The conference is one strategy the organization is using to try to secure federal funding for public transportation. Much of its communications efforts have focused on the “Public Transportation: Takes Us There” campaign that launched in 2009.

The group has ramped up its work on the campaign in recent weeks with the hope that Congress will pass a new Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act. The original law expired in 2009, but it has had numerous short-term extensions since.

The campaign is also taking place as lawmakers and the White House debate ways to cut spending to reduce the federal deficit.

The organization has also launched an aggressive press-outreach initiative involving media calls with key transit officials from around the country. During the legislative conference, some members of the media will conduct radio interviews and desk-side briefings.  

The association has also worked to grow its social media presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“For politicians and their staffers, the biggest influence is their constituents,” said Mantill Williams, director of advocacy communications at the organization. “It's one thing for associations to tell them things, but the touchpoint is when you can get someone to share how public transportation is there lifeblood; it's a very powerful emphasis.”

The group is also encouraging consumers to create user-generated content.

“We've found that mobilized supporters feed off each other in positive ways by sharing their own stories with each other,” John Cangany, VP of social media at APCO said in a blog post on the strategy. His agency is assisting the organization with the campaign.

The association is also providing media training for consumers, posting templates on the campaign's site, www.PublicTransportation.org, on how to create an effective news commentaries or plan a media event.  

The group is receiving support from transit organizations around the country.

“We rely on the federal government for $1 billion a year in dedicated funding. It's the bedrock of capital program in that it's so reliable,” said Aaron Donovan, media liaison for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York State.

Last year, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) received $232 million in federal funds, which is 50% of its capital funding.

“Without this revenue source, future capital projects could be in jeopardy,” said Catherine Hosinski, a CTA press officer. “We support the efforts of APTA and sister transit agencies nationwide in their efforts to promote the use of public transit and its benefits.”

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