Transit Advocacy:Building Broad CoalitionsRachel DiRestoExecutive Vice President of Center for Planning ExcellenceBroderick BagertLead Organizer, Together Baton Rouge (Industrial Areas Foundation)
Background• Baton Rouge has one of the lowest-funded and worst-performing transit systems in the country• Capital Area Transit System (CATS) holds a parishwide election in 2010. It fails 47% to 53%.• 2011: FuturEBR, a new comprehensive land-use plan for the Parish, put transit as crucial first-step toward long-term plan.• By 2012, CATS would face a major short- fall, and would either have to cut service hours by 46% or shut down entirely in July.
Background• In Feb 2011, Mayor Kip Holden asked Together Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Chamber to form a Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on public transit.• The BRC was charged with the following items: – Pulling together existing data and studies – Gathering extensive community input – Creating concrete plan of action for transit, including funding and political strategy – Considering all other factors that would impact FUTUREBR implementation and transit sustainability
Background: a stronger, citizen sector • In 2008, a group of black churches began building a broad-based, community organizing project. • In 2010, ―Together Baton Rouge‖ launched, with 40 member institutions representing about 50,000 people. • Called ―A new force in the community‖ (The Advocate) and ―the largest group of its kind I have ever seen in the city- parish‖ (Mayor Kip Holden). • Goal: Power and sophistication for the citizen sector.
Blue Ribbon Commission Broad community representation – no politicos or ideologues • Study based on ―peer cities‖, to show how Baton Rouge stacks up (poorly!) and how other places have built solid transit systems. • Reform options framed to encourage aggressive but politically realistic action. • Concluded with concrete plan, with data, analysis and political strategy, which became campaign
Blue Ribbon Commission• Recommendation 1 – Implement Transit Proposal Focused on Ridership Expansion• Recommendation 2 – Support New Public Transit Board Member Nominating Process and Criteria• Recommendation 3 – Overhaul Existing Public Transit Legislation, Reforming Governance Structure and Creating New Capital Area Transit District• Recommendation 4 – Create a Dedicated Revenue Source for Transit• Recommendation 5 – Launch Public Engagement Campaign and Election Drive
Campaign Baggage • CATS – not a trusted, reputable agency • CATS budget shortfall – system predicted to shut down in July 2012 • Campaign timeline shifted from Fall 2012 to April 2012 • Single issue campaign – other risks/issues
Campaign Components Decrease wait times from the current average of 75 minutes to 15-20 minutes Build 3 new transit hubs to replace ―spoke‖ system with ―grid‖ system Overhaul bus stops, with new shelters and benches Add GPS tracking to fleet, with exact arrival times accessible on cell phones Overhaul all signage for transit stops, providing detailed route and time information Increase service from 19 to 37 routes, expanding to high-demand areas that currently are not served (eg. O’Neal Lane, Coursey Blvd., Essen and Siegen Lane) Increase peak-hour buses from 32 to 57 Create 3 New Express Lines: Downtown to LSU; Florida Blvd (from Airline to Downtown); Plank Road (with service to Airport)
Baton Rouge Transit Coalition• BRC fulfilled its mission in 3 months, but many partners wanted to stay engaged• BRAC, CPEX, Together BR and CATS held regular working meetings• Fundraising efforts• Developed legislative components• Secured support by business, civic, faith and non-profit leaders• Developed website with facts and research
Governance An amendment to the CATS enabling statute and the City-Parish transit ordinance drafted that would create specific transit board member criteria such as leaders from education, healthcare, planning, human service organizations, transit users An amendment to the CATS enabling statute and the City-Parish transit ordinance was drafted that would create a transit board member nominating committee and process Amendments to the CATS enabling statute and the local transit ordinance have been drafted to remove the Metro Council’s veto over CATS operations
CORE ISSUE: DISTRUST ACROSS RACIAL LINES How we wonStep #1: Built the organization before the fight(Power before program). Built the organization before the transit campaign began. Developed trust through ―house meetings‖ and smaller local issue actions. Built base of hard money (dues and individual support).
How we wonStep #2: Huge campaign of citizen education (Civic Academies) Developed BRC analysis into compelling presentation. Trained team of leaders to conduct ―civic academy‖ sessions. Conducted (with partner orgs) 120 separate events, reaching more than 5,000 people. Education sessions CHANGED THE DIALOGUE.
How we won Step #3: Building the infrastructure to get out the vote. Built a GOTV army through Civic Academies and 1000-person assembly. Conducted detailed voter analysis. Precinct leadership structure and precinct teams. Intense, 5-weeks of GOTV (walks, phone calls, pews, yard signs).
Lessons Learned• This was a campaign led by civic sector – diverse partners• Know your partners roles and capacities• Communication is key• Did not waver from components – voters knew what they were buying• Outreach, outreach, and more outreach• Respond to opponents – but don’t waste energy• Focus on win – who will vote