Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let's Go For Another Spin

At its November 2006 meeting the RTA Board approved the retention of Resolute Consulting LLC " to manage and implement the community outreach and public relations element" of the Moving Beyond Congestion effort. The contract amount was $789,862.

On the agenda for the August 23d meeting of the RTA Board is a resolution extending Resolute Consulting's contract. The agenda unhelpfully does not specify either the length or amount of the extension.

What's your assessment of the "community outreach and public relations" work done on behalf of the Moving Beyond Congestion effort by Resolute Consulting?

I must confess that when I saw that the posted information about the public hearings about the preliminary Moving Beyond Congestion plan (remember those?) contained driving directions but no information on how to travel to the hearings by transit I formed a quite negative impression. (Post here.) But who's perfect?

14 comments:

jackonthebus said...

I don't know the terms of the consultants' engagement, but the "Strategic Plan" that was released by the RTA was a joke. It also does not seriously enter into the discussion of SB572, except that the RTA picked a couple of taxes from the smörgåsbord of options offered. For instance, Pace backed off from its list of express corridors in the Moving Beyond Congestion report (such as 394 to the Loop), and focused in its South Cook-Will Restructuring proposal more on eliminating overlaps, such as by converting the 355 Loop runs into Metra feeders. No one now hears about the "Partners for Transit." (BTW, I did hear Mayor Daley on the radio saying that the Governor should come to an agreement with the legislature about the transit funding bill, and don't assume that he would be blamed for the sales tax increase).

It seems like many of our transportation dollars go to consultants, whether for this, New Start analyses, or whatever. The only consultant's report that seemed to have much merit was the mandated paratransit plan, by another firm, which at least discussed the capital costs of establishing an efficient dispatch system, the pros and cons of purchasing equipment vs. contractor capital, and using paratransit as a feeder to mainline accessible services.

jackonthebus said...

A Tribune link to Daley's comments.

I might have gone overboard if that consultant was only responsible for the outreach, and not the whole plan, but the outreach must not have worked if it is down to Daley having to say this.

Anonymous said...

Rob Nash is a good guy, but it's less public outreach than building a coalition consisting of suburban mayors and chambers of commerce. This is behind the scenes and so you don't know about it.

If you blame Resolute/MBC for not building a huge public support base, go ahead. But I don't think the public is in a position to be energized over an unsexy issue such as transit, especially when larger statewide and national issues loom so large. Perhaps real fare hikes and service cuts need to happen in order to wake them up.

For what it's worth, there is an SB 572 rally scheduled for next Tuesday at the Thompson Center plaza featuring Mayor Daley, DuPage County Chairman Bob Schillerstrom, various legislators, and labor. This event was put together by Resolute. You should attend--it's scheduled for 11:30 am.

Anonymous said...

Here's what we received in Springfield from the MBC/RTA.

Nearly 2,000 residents and almost 100 businesses/chambers of commerces responded with letters. Only about 30 municipalities responded with MBC drafted letters.

I was at the initial kick off for MBC in July 2006 and remembered asking the Communications Director at the RTA about the approach to getting public responses. And I quote, "We are taking a top down and top up approach to increasing public support."

The sad thing about it, is that I've done market research to put myself through college. I'm pretty sure, I could of gotten 2,000 public responses in one month, not in one year!

I wonder what the contract with Resolute entail?

I have to disagree with the previous post; you NEED public support. If it was just about the businesses and chamber of commerce support - are they going to put pressure on the GOP legislatures to support SB572?

Also, I received the email for the rally - it's good to know the consultants are the ones putting it together; not the legislatures supporting SB572.

MsM

jackonthebus said...

I wonder how that response compares to that generated by Coppoletta's and Pace's "click here to send a message to your legislators" sites. I also wonder why a consulting firm has to stage an event with Daley and Schillerstrom. Did Daley need their help to get WGN radio's and the Tribune's attention yesterday? And with this vast lobbying machine working, why has there been no action through the third month of being in overtime session?

Regardless of whether the "public outreach" was effective, RTA should have spent more effort crafting a credible strategic plan, rather than the Moving Beyond Congestion report, and making a legislative proposal some time before the end of the regular legislative session--not in late May.

Anonymous said...

Jack, SaveChicagolandTransit.com has sent over 30,000 messages to legislators.

Also, it would be great if you would stop refering to it as "Coppoletta's" site. It was a group effort of no fewer than five people plus the financial support of the generous donors to the Transit Riders' Alliance.

jackonthebus said...

I know how savechicagolandtransit.com originated 2 years ago. Maybe others have subsequently joined.

Also, if a private site generated 30,000 responses, why is the RTA spending taxpayers' money to fund consultants who generated only 2,000, if we accept Anonymous's and MsM's figures? Especially if neither has moved the legislature to act sufficiently in advance of the now impending "crisis?"

Anonymous said...

http://www.savechicagolandtransit.com/aboutus.asp

outerdriveexpress said...

Jack,

The MsM # for MBC messages refers to paper letters I think. MBC's website has generated in the ballpark of the 30,000 messages on SCLT.com, if you count electronic messages.

jackonthebus said...

Outerdriveexpress: I don't know about that. CTA's home page had a link to SCLT, but RTA has its own "Contact Your Legislator" form at http://movingbeyondcongestion.org/signup.html.
There were a lot of other ways to find out about savingchicagolandtransit.com, including the home page of chicagobus.org, and the Wikpedia CTA page. As I noted that savechicagolandtransit.com predates Moving Beyond Congestion by at least a year, I don't see how you can attribute MBC driving traffic to SCLT.
And that gets us back to the question that regardless of whether Moving Beyond Congestion was using the private site or not, what the blank were the consultants doing? The other web authors and administrators mentioned didn't need a consultant to add a link to their sites, and so the consultant can only be credited with getting 15% of the action the volunteer site got, if the above numbers are correct.

Again, why are the taxpayers paying for PR events to lobby the legislators? We previously discussed whether Pace's lobbying email was appropriate; at least Pace didn't need a consultant for that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the 2,000+ responses were from MBC letters sent to Springfield.

Not heard of the 30,000 from the SCLT website.

I have to admit, I was rather dismayed at the rather low turnout of the MBC.

MsM

outerdriveexpress said...

Jack, no. SCLT.com sent 30,000 electronic messages. The 2,000 MBC messages were paper letters. It's a lot harder to get people to write paper letters than click on a send button!

In addition to those paper letters, MBC had a web service that sent electronic messages. I don't know exactly how many they sent, but when I spoke to Rob Nash in May MBC had already sent some 20,000.

You're right to say that MBC had nothing to do with driving traffic at SCLT.com. I said that MBC "generated in the ballpark of the 30,000 on SCLT.com." That was an unclear statement. I should have written "MBC generated a number in the same ballpark as the number that SCLT.com generated." Hope that clears things up.

MsM, as for not seeing these messages, that was 30,000 among individual legislators so any one did not see 30,000.

Anonymous said...

Something from the Daily Herald on $3 million in RTA lobbying money, which, in retrospect, was well spent (sarcasm).

Anonymous said...

From the inside...

The Moving Beyond Congestion effort has resulted in over 30,000 messages being sent to the Governor and legislators, 2,000 formal letters from organizations that were drafted by MBC and nearly unanimous editorial support for SB 572. More than one legislator contacted MBC/RTA and asked that messages stop being sent because they were overwhelming in number and they fully understood the urgency to act. In addition, the MBC and RTA Web sites have also experienced unprecedented hits since the program was launched. Save Chicagoland Transit is a great site and their effort has been very helpful, but CTA linked to its site and they are clearly responsible for much of their traffic. We all share frustration that personal politics and tensions in Springfield have delayed a long-term solution, but the lack of progress is not the result of a lack of outreach.