Building Community-Led Change, Shifting the Culture of Transit Agencies
ioby and TransitCenter believe civic innovation begins with an investment in resident leadership.
The improvements, relationships, and knowledge-building of Trick Out My Trip support the “civic vanguard” model of innovation, in which citizen leaders pressure and inspire the leadership in city government or the transit agency. The leadership then, in the short term, adopts citizen-generated ideas, and in the longer term, alters their decision-making framework to permit and support these kinds of citizen-led projects.
In this model, a civic vanguard—or neighborhood leader—brings forth ideas for improving transit, makes them palatable to city leadership, and demands a change. By raising money for transit improvement projects from their neighbors and demonstrating solutions that they would ultimately like to see replicated across the transit system, the Trick Out My Trip leaders have filled the role of civic vanguards. These ten resident-led projects are at once a proof of concept and, because they are citizen-funded, strong evidence of the community’s demand for action on the part of their transit agencies.
Nowhere was this process more clearly demonstrated than in the case of TimelyTrip, where the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) was so inspired by the idea that the agency’s top leadership decided to invest in replicating the project across the city. By helping to bring about systemic change at the top tier, this project had a profound impact on agency culture. In the case of the project on Brooklyn’s 4th Avenue, leader Grace Freedman’s success hinged on the buy-in from top city officials, who agreed that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) needed to be more transparent and quicker to make change. Grace considers that the MTA heeded to pressure from the community and city leaders by initiating a public conversation: evidence that the culture of the transit agency is starting to shift.
By helping to bring about systemic change at the top tier, these projects had a profound impact on transit agency culture.
The civic vanguard model holds that this change in culture at the leadership level eventually produces individual leaders within the transit agency—“agency champions”—who take these new priorities seriously and push every level of the agency toward change. These champions develop new permitting standards, improve community engagement processes, and change internal procedures in order to quickly and effectively respond to communities’ demands. They also play a role in facilitating and, often, expediting implementation of resident-led projects. Every Trick Out My Trip project was successful, in large part because of these individual champions within transit and city agencies.
TransitCenter and ioby believe that these individual champions are capable of inspiring agencies across the country to embrace the idea of resident-led change. Partnerships like the one between ioby and TransitCenter for the Trick Out My Trip campaign offer a glimpse at what is possible when residents tap into the collective power of their communities and take action to improve their transit experiences.
For many Americans, public transit provides a critical link between home, work, school, family, and recreation. Transit makes a tremendous contribution to the health of our cities, reducing congestion by keeping cars off the road and helping to keep the air cleaner. And taking a bus or train can also benefit riders personally, inserting short walks into our days for a healthier lifestyle, and connecting us socially to our fellow passengers.
While transit ridership is now at its highest in 60 years, investment in transit management and service is stagnating.
Unfortunately, few transit riders look forward to their daily commute. While transit ridership is now at its highest in 60 years, investment in transit management and service is stagnating. And it shows. Across the country, our bus routes often look exactly as they did 60 years ago, even though the patterns of where we live, work, shop, and recreate have long since shifted. Long waits, delays, and unpredictable service is a normal experience for many riders. And people who rely on transit the most—those with disabilities, seniors, and families on a tight budget—often bear the brunt of service inadequacies.
ioby helps neighbors grow and implement great ideas one block at a time. Our crowd-resourcing platform connects leaders with funding and support to make our neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun…ioby believes that it should be easy to make meaningful change “in our backyards” – the positive opposite of NIMBY.
We spark innovations and support policies that improve public transportation for riders, businesses and communities. Better urban transit and increased ridership – along with housing affordability, good community design, equitable economic development, and other low-carbon modes of transportation such as walking and biking – are essential ingredients in urban vitality. Improving mobility for all will better the environment and public health through cleaner air and reduced carbon pollution, bolster the economy and increase access to jobs, and contribute to social equity and stronger mixed-use neighborhoods.