Atlanta, GA- We just returned from two days at the Transportation Excellence Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. It was wonderful to meet public transit advocates from around the nation and learn about what’s happening. While our national politics remains polarized and immobile, on the local level necessity still brings people together.
We heard from advocates in City after City who had helped resurrect seemingly dead public transit initiatives which required tax increases because they did the face to face work needed to persuade people that their cities needed to put in the effort and resources to help everyone move beyond gridlock. Many people have begun to move beyond transit to work on the critical links between community and the transit system: walkable transit oriented development, pedestrian and bike safety, education and the needs of Senior Citizens.
Hungryneck Straphangers participated in a very energized grass roots activist forum on Sunday afternoon focusing on our efforts in the recent special congressional election here, Farebox to Ballot Box. While we weren’t completely successful in getting both candidates to focus on the transit issue, it turned out that our efforts here were viewed as a significant experiment in advancing how transit in inserted into the national public political dialogue. Our post cards at the bus stops effort to get candidates to ride was very well received and will clearly be replicated across the country. The non partisan approach to reaching the electorate with focused questions on the transit issue was also received with favor.
An incidental reference to our current benches at the bus stops effort also raised a lot of interest.
Joining us in Atlanta were members of the Midlands Transit Riders Association from Columbia, SC. They’re currently pushing for full implementation of the improved and extended transit system for the Midlands approved by voters in the November 2012 referendum there, in which their efforts delivered the margin of victory.
On Monday we participated in an round table discussion about building a pro public transit grass roots advocacy network in the Southeastern US, under the leadership of Americans for Transit. Activists from Columbia, Atlanta, Tampa, Charlotte, Raleigh and Texas all participated.