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vitaviatic

Triangle Citizens for Transit Options

Can it be done?   25 members have voted

  1. 1. Can a "grass roots campaign" kick transit "over the top" in the Triangle? (Your answers will be graded at a later date!)

    • #ell yeah!
      18
    • #ell no!
      4
    • Hung jury
      3

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15 posts in this topic

What we are trying to do here is to organize support to get mass transit implemented in the Triangle -- as soon as possible, and as efficiently as possible (not 15 years from now).

The idea is create a campaign through the media to show what transit really is like, and what it can do. Normally this is the responsibility of the transit agencies that intend to embark on a transit program, but we all know TTA's situation and the inability of that woefully underfunded agency to do anything on spec, such as a publicity campaign. By the way, this effort is not intended to point any fingers at anybody. I just know that this needs to be done, and that we need to figure out a way to get it done.

OK, so this is the concept, and I will try to be as precise as I can.

The Concept

* Create a series of PSAs (public service announcements) that depict a cast of imaginary transit riders going about their various ways in daily life. In this, you want to demonstrate several things: 1) that having access to a viable transit system, and using that system can de-stress one's life a great deal; 2) that utilizing transit contributes substantially to "green living", and is good for society as a whole; and 3) that transit can save the rider money. But those are just the obvious aspects. Among the not-so-obvious aspects of transit: 4) mass transit actually creates a completely distinct and sometimes intimate social network among riders who see each other on a daily basis, very much so on the morning commute, that a car commuter will never experience; 5) transit creates a sense of being in a community, even one as large and fragmented as Los Angeles, and lends a sense of structure to that community; and 6) restores an enormous amount of time to an individual's life in the form of time available to work or communicate (transit uses WiFi extensively), rest, play games alone or with others, or just chill.

* Through these PSAs, compile a network and mailing list of supporters and proponents of transit, via a website, call messaging line, or plain old snail mail. Contributions could be used to continue production and promotional activities, while petitions will be used to hit waffling politicians over the head with the fact that most of their constituents (and not necessarily the loudest) know that some form of viable transit is necessary for the Triangle to continue to prosper as an urban entity. Much like a political campaign, concentrations of small numbers can do a lot. For instance, $5 x 5,000 = $25,000, and could fund this thing, provided it was all volunteer efforts -- which it is intended to be.

* In order to produce these PSAs, we would utilize to the extent possible free and inexpensive resources such as community television (if that actually still exists in the Triangle), university students from Drama, Broadcasting, Engineering, and other departments at the Triangle's formidable list, and the equipment of other transit agencies and manufacturers for remote shoots. Students can incorporate this type of a project into term projects, theses, air checks, or simply into building a resum

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With the STAC report being presented soon, I figured now (and in this thread) would be as good a time and place as any to try to inventory what options we have to mount a grassroots campaign.

PSAs media delivery

  • print - University newspapers - Technician (NCSU), Chronicle (Duke), Daily Tar Heel (UNC), others?

  • - Independent? N&O? Others?

  • - yard signs, Dix 306, renew Raleigh, various political candidates

  • - signs in storefront windows, a la Sparkcon. Would they be on board?

  • radio - WKNC (Raleigh), possibly WSHA (Raleigh), WXDU (Durham) and WXYC (Chapel Hill) and others.

  • TV - Raleigh Public Television (Cable channel 10), maybe WRAL, WTVD, WNCN, News 14, etc.

  • internet - YouTube for video PSAs

  • - blogs for advocacy, and distribution for images/other media for print.

  • - Viral marketing at its finest. Geocaching potential rail stops?

Time to go home, but wanted to write this while I was thinking about it.

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I think it might be a better idea to look into groups or associations that have already formed; those that have the same or very similar ideas to those discussed in our transit forums. Starting a new grassroots campaign from scratch is a more arduous process than maybe working with one of these groups who have already done this initial work.

The group I have personally been involved with (although not as much I would like) is WakeUp Wake County. Some of you have probably seen them in the news the last couple of years arguing for higher transfer & impact fees. Recently they've been organizing forums on how to deal with the drought.

One of their founding members is Bob Geary, who as many of you know, is a strong supporter a regional transit system. They haven't become too vocal on transit yet, but they are in favor smart growth and TOD. They generally don't favor increases in sales taxes, but in the case of funding public transit, I'm sure they'll be for it. Here's a link to their transportation page.

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One thing that needs to be done is neutralize the John Locke Foundation's PR campaign by directly addressing their bogus claims and specious "experts". Until now the transit folks have been passive lambs.

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PSAs media delivery

  • print - University newspapers - Technician (NCSU), Chronicle (Duke), Daily Tar Heel (UNC), others?

  • - Independent? N&O? Others?

  • - yard signs, Dix 306, renew Raleigh, various political candidates

  • - signs in storefront windows, a la Sparkcon. Would they be on board?

  • radio - WKNC (Raleigh), possibly WSHA (Raleigh), WXDU (Durham) and WXYC (Chapel Hill) and others.

  • TV - Raleigh Public Television (Cable channel 10), maybe WRAL, WTVD, WNCN, News 14, etc.

  • internet - YouTube for video PSAs

  • - blogs for advocacy, and distribution for images/other media for print.

  • - Viral marketing at its finest. Geocaching potential rail stops?

Time to go home, but wanted to write this while I was thinking about it.

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I think the biggest problem with a grass roots campaign is the current perception of transit in the Triangle. A perception that was severely damaged by the 12 years of the TTA screwing around with proposals, plans, cutbacks, and oh spending $120M and not having one tangible thing to show for it. The end result was a thumbs down by the Feds which to the general public made the TTA look like a bunch of overpaid idiots. It's a sad situation because the TTA started the rail project with a great deal of public enthusiasm, especially when they ran the demonstration DMU. It's a case of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams. So this is the starting point of any such campaign. At least at face value, the STAC recommendation look like a warmed over version of the TTA failure so any campaign such as this needs to point of why it will be different this time.

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I think the biggest problem with a grass roots campaign is the current perception of transit in the Triangle. A perception that was severely damaged by the 12 years of the TTA screwing around with proposals, plans, cutbacks, and oh spending $120M and not having one tangible thing to show for it. The end result was a thumbs down by the Feds which to the general public made the TTA look like a bunch of overpaid idiots. It's a sad situation because the TTA started the rail project with a great deal of public enthusiasm, especially when they ran the demonstration DMU. It's a case of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams. So this is the starting point of any such campaign. At least at face value, the STAC recommendation look like a warmed over version of the TTA failure so any campaign such as this needs to point of why it will be different this time.

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I can say that there are efforts underway right now to bring together a broad coalition of groups to support this transit plan. If any of you have contacts of transit-supportive organizations to conatact or other transit-PR ideas, send me a PM.

The STAC plan may not be ideal to everyone, but at some point you have to stop with analysis paralysis and move forward. The leadership in the region charged the STAC with studying the transit issue, and they deliberated for nearly a year, devoting countless hours of their time to studying in excruciating detail the elements of a consensus plan for the region. (Don't you think they thought of pretty much every issue?) I think we are at the point where you must decide: if you support transit in general in the Triangle--whether you agree with all of it or not--the time to get behind this plan is now. If this effort doesn't succeed, you will see an even longer wait and transit may be setback for many years to come.

I'll try to let people know when/where to provide input, but in the mean time, write an op-ed to the N&O, email/write/call your elected officials (especially in Wake County), city, county, and state, and let them know they need to support transit AND a method to pay for it.

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The John Locke Foundation has had *no* problems running a grass roots campaign with propaganda produced by one bought and paid for "expert" who hasn't attracted positive reviews from students.

I didn't know that following FTA recommendations and being forced by FTA to change ridership calculations to a model that has been proven to underestimate time and again is considered "screwing around with proposals." I also am glad to learn that land bought for stations is not a "tangible asset", let alone one that has likely gained value over the years. Broken promises made by Senator Dole didn't help -- "TTA should be should be held to the old standard" became "umm, you don't meet the new standard, too bad." I think voters need to treat Dole the way she's treated us, but that's another post.

I didn't know delaying a project makes it broken or unfulfilled, but again, what do I know?

Somehow, applying for fed money in pieces (Charlotte) isn't "broken", but when the Triangle does it, it becomes a broken plan?

The starting point of the campaign is:

- oil and gas have risen to new highs, even accounting for inflation, and no signs of going down.

- NC DOT does not have enough revenue to pay for the new and expanded roads needed to control existsing congestion, let alone planning for the future.

- train transit has now been shown to work in a medium density corridor in the state of North Carolina, not Atlanta/DC/ Northeast.

- the region is one of the highest percent population gainers in the country

- we are at a point where it is more efficient to build up than the traditional sprawl model of building out.

- the accompying expanded bus system will make using the system easier and more accessible to more people.

- more areas (UNC to Durham, North Raleigh) will be served in earlier stages.

The mass transit plan is even more relevant than it was 10 years ago. A lot more people live in the area now -- the Triangle now has more residents than the Charlotte area did when received approval. And there are more residents within walking distance of stations, with more on the way.

If this board is going to focus solely on the (distorted) negatives as to why we should not work to make a metropolitan area more urban, then I don't know why it is called urban planet. If that is the case, I need to reevaluate my time and energy spent here.

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....

I didn't know that following FTA recommendations and being forced by FTA to change ridership calculations to a model that has been proven to underestimate time and again is considered "screwing around with proposals." I also am glad to learn that land bought for stations is not a "tangible asset", let alone one that has likely gained value over the years. Broken promises made by Senator Dole didn't help -- "TTA should be should be held to the old standard" became "umm, you don't meet the new standard, too bad." I think voters need to treat Dole the way she's treated us, but that's another post.

I didn't know delaying a project makes it broken or unfulfilled, but again, what do I know?......

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Well, certainly some of this negative PR plays into public perception, and the negative PR is a serious speedbump to be taken by whatever agency gets eventually pegged for these projects. It may be TTA, it may not. It may be NCRR vis a vis a contractor, Amtrak anybody. However, as I stated the idea for this campaign would start at a way lower level than some of us policy wonks would delve into regarding financing, etc. We just want to show people in the Triangle, who have never seen a serious transit service at work, unless they have been to other transit meccas, what it's like just to be on one. Again, it's hard of enough to ask for a general public tax support for something when they don't have a very good idea of what it really is. We're not talking Yankee transplants here -- we're talking natives who make up the majority, who have only seen buses blocking their lane, and a handful of people riding them.

It doesn't have anything to do with lack of intelligence or sophistication. It's just the fact that, if mass transit isn't there, then who is going to think about it, or how it changes things other than the shills like Cox and O'Toole telling them that they are going to be robbed for an expensive plaything for somebody else. Indeed, many people in that area would have a panic attack at the mere thought of having to rely on transit because it is so unfamiliar to them.

That's all we're trying to change here. The politics, the funding, the logistics -- somebody else way above my pay grade can have those problems. But it won't even get to the level of needing to address those problems until you can change the public opinion of transit from being a fiscal nuisance to a social and economic perogative to the point that people actually begin asking for it.

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...... But it won't even get to the level of needing to address those problems until you can change the public opinion of transit from being a fiscal nuisance to a social and economic perogative to the point that people actually begin asking for it.

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There is no "public perception" of transit around here. There haven't been any polls conducted that I know of since the TTA *withdrew* its application for federal funding. The application never failed. It *would* have failed the stricter guildlines put in place, but it never got that far.

Few people get JLF faxes and/or emails, but the right/important people get them -- news editors in TV and print. They are too willing to quote verbatim from a "study" by Hartgen without reporting from any other sources. Watch as this "report" that claimed the only way to relive congestion is through various road improvments turned into this WRAL story that claimed too much money is spent on mass transit. Their propaganda is lended credibility via news organizations that regurgitate press releases.

It isn't a matter of boiling the ocean. We need to fight fire with fire, or at least hoses to put fires out. Right now that isn't happening. It won't happen if we tell ourselves that public perception is what the Art Popes of the world tell us it is.

While there was a vote to repeal the transit tax, it failed.

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I didn't vote because I am simply not sure. I do think that a "grass roots" effort will finally get some voices into the media for the pro transit side, and maybe even force some big names into the media, corporate leaders etc. But I don't think grass roots efforts will convert anybody to pro transit beyond the "well, transit is great if it gets some cars off the roads I use" camp. The lions share of people in this city will vote for transit if it costs them virtually nothing and gets cars off the roads they use. This is of course quite the opposite of how it actually is designed..the backbone for an alternate growth model of dense nodes of mixed use buildings through the center of the region. I realize the STAC plan has circulators and node-feeding bus routes etc, I think this new portion is still lost on the Joneses of the world.

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