Dana Gabbard’s rules of transit advocacy (2000 version)

In 2000 the industry group for public transit agencies in California, the California Transit Association, held its Fall Conference and Expo at the Westin Hotel near LAX. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about transit activists and our relationship with agencies, the legislature, regulatory entities etc. As a bonus I presented a list of 11 rules of transit advocacy.

Recently I stumbled across an old Word file where I had preserved it and for the edification of the readers of this blog present it below verbatim. How well do you think it has aged?

1) There are no magic bullets

2) Transit’s main purpose is to move people, not solve pollution, social equity, congestion, etc.

2a) Transit is a means (mobility) to an end (the destination), not an end in itself

3) Beware (and be aware) of unintended consequences

4)Things can always get worse; change should be for the better not just for the sake of change

5) The greatest challenge is changing perceptions

6) Parochialism will always rear its ugly head (aka “fair share”)

6a) Also NIMBYism

7) Never promise congestion relief resulting from a transit project

8) Always get the actual documents and studies; don’t rely on summaries or media stories about them

9) Everyone is a transportation expert, just ask them

I credited transportation professionals Jim Seal and Thomas Rubin as inspiring some of these points. They were kind enough to share their contemporary addenda to my 13 year old musings when I recently e-mailed both of them.

Mr. Seal suggested “Don’t bet that most transit governing structures will reward success and punish failure”.

Mr. Rubin had two inspirations:

“Yes, Mr. Director, the Board can vote to repeal the law of gravity, but that doesn’t mean that pigs will fly.”

“No man, women, child, or dollar bill is safe while the Legislature is in session.”

And here are brief bios of both gentleman. My thanks to them for their insights and good humor (you need a bit of that when you have been involved as long as they have with the often bewildering world of transit policy):

Tom Rubin is a consultant with over 35 years of experience in the transit industry as a senior executive of two of the largest transit agencies in the U.S. and as the founder and director of the transit practice of what is now Deloitte & Touche, LLP, which he grew to the largest practice of its type, serving well over 100 North American transit operators, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, state Departments of Transportation,  the U.S. Department of Transportation, and transit suppliers and associations.

James C. Seal is President of Jim Seal Consulting Services, headquartered in Santa Monica. He is a ground transportation consultant to private transportation companies nationwide. He specializes in competitive procurement, transit bill analysis, school bus transportation funding, public/private partnerships, and preparation of alternative fuel grant proposals.

Also my thanks to Amy J. Lai, Association Services Director for the California Transit Association, who kindly researched what year the Conference I attended was held.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Another Court Decision Goes in Favor of State Transit Agencies

|
Photo: Thomas Hawk In another rebuff to California’s practice of moving spillover funding from the State Transit Assistance (STA) fund to fill the hole in the state’s General Fund, a Superior Court ruled on Monday that the state had to pay back the approximately $1.2 billion it diverted from transit operators in the 2007-2008 budget […]

Troubling Silence on Transit in Gov’s State of the State Address

|
Photo: Justin Short, Office of the Governor Despite continued cash flow crunches facing nearly every transit operator in the state, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said absolutely nothing about transportation or fixing transit’s woes in his State of the State address today. Transit operators are still bracing for the expected budget proposal this Friday that would thwart […]

Times Columnist Wants a Regional Transit System, Mayor Agrees

|
Photo:Eleets/Flickr Earlier this week, Streetsblog discussed a piece by Times’ Business Writer David Lazarus on the problems that Metro is facing with its funding.  The piece was almost entirely opinion, and there was very little research besides Lazarus’ gut and experiences in the column.  Despite that, Lazarus helped bring the debate over whether or not […]

California Transit Association Recommends Long-Term Funding Ideas

|
Flickr photo: pbo31 The California Transit Association has submitted a list of recommendations (PDF) to the Commission of the 21st Century Economy, a "bipartisan" panel mostly appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, that call for establishing a "stable, predictable source of long-term funding" for the state’s public transit agencies.  “The latest budget shell game only reinforced what […]

LA Times: State Should Act to Save Transit Funding

|
An editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times takes the Governor, the Democratic-controlled legislature, and pretty much everyone involved in the dramatic showdown in state government to task for their role in stripping transit funding in the proposed budgets that are floating around Sacramento.  Sounding more like Kymberleigh Richards or Bart Reed than the flagship newspaper […]

Two Important Transit Bills Moving in Sacramento

|
(Ryan Wiggins is Transportation for America’s an on the ground in Southern California.  Last week he presented a primer on transportation funding at “Expanding Our Public Transit Options: Resources to Keep LA Moving Forward?” a Salon put on by Breathe L.A.  He was nice enough to share his notes with us in a two-part series.  […]