The Role of Mobility Managers as Advocates

  • Author: Judy Shanley, Easterseals, NCMM & Cara Marcus, National RTAP
  • Date: April 26, 2021
A woman in a wheelchair smiles at the camera, while sitting at a large table during a meeting.
Source: NADTC Photo Resource Gallery

Mobility managers are often described as the “boots on the ground’ professionals who address the mobility and transportation needs of a variety of riders, particularly individuals with disabilities, older adults, and those with low income.

Often, to ensure that they have a full bag of solutions, mobility managers must “make the case” for new or varied transportation service and create innovative and flexible solutions to address the unique challenges that riders face. Among the long list of skills that mobility managers use to create viable community transportation solutions are advocacy skills.

Recently, NCMM and the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP) collaborated to update a long-standing National RTAP product, Advocating for your Transit System technical brief. As indicated in the textbox below, transit managers and mobility managers can work together to identify the community forums that are the most appropriate to support advocacy.

Advocating for your transit system is one of the most important tasks of a transit manager and board. Effective advocacy involves creating coalitions of individuals, entities, and organizations that can assist you and your governing board in ongoing outreach activities. Building local support for transit is critical. Successful transit providers will be those agencies that build coalitions to coordinate available resources, consolidate service to eliminate duplication and communicate effectively with their community. Increasingly, mobility management networks have become the community forum for advocacy and coalition building.

 

Advocacy versus Lobbying

Advocacy is not lobbying. The National Council of Non-profits offers the following distinction. Lobbying is communicating with decision makers (elected officials and staff; voters on ballot measures), about existing or potential legislation, and urging a vote for or against. All three components of this definition are required: decision makers, actual legislation, AND asking for a vote. Federal dollars, including those that may support salaries, cannot be used to support lobbying. Conversely, the Council describes advocacy as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports, or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.

It includes public education, regulatory work, litigation, and work before administrative bodies, lobbying, nonpartisan voter registration, nonpartisan voter education, and more.

18 Tips for Advocacy

The following tips can be useful for transit and mobility management professionals to inform, educate, and advocate in their communities. Even better, is when human service and transit professionals collaborate to facilitate the consideration of accessible community transportation services.  

  1. At every opportunity invite elected and appointed officials to visit the transit system. 
  2. Send copies of your newsletter to elected officials, major businesses, Chambers of Commerce, and local service clubs.
  3. Post the transit service days/hours/schedules/fares in houses of worship, libraries, and on public bulletin boards. 
  4. Use your website to inform the community of all aspects of service and operation.
  5. Ask directors of human services organizations to write letters in support of transit services. 
  6. Work with community mobility management networks for their ideas regarding advocacy and implementation. 
  7. Never miss or turn down an opportunity to speak on behalf of the transit agency and its service. 
  8. Create a recognizable presence by developing and using a logo and branding that is consistent and visible on each vehicle. 
  9. Form coalitions with entities that may also have transportation vehicles to create cost or operational efficiencies. 
  10. Share information with other agencies that provide services to customers in the community.  
  11. Consider selling maintenance services to other entities with vehicles.
  12. Combine driver training with one or more agencies.
  13. Explore the possibility of cost savings by including the city or county motor pool in with the agency’s maintenance.
  14. Decorate the bus for a local parade, involving people who might otherwise never participate.
  15. Transport passengers to community-sponsored events on holidays or weekends.
  16. Work with the emergency operations center to supply vehicles during a crisis or emergency.
  17. Offer to transport homeless individuals to local shelters during inclement weather.
  18. Advocacy is not a one-time event.

 

Judy Shanley, PhD. is the Easterseals Director of NCMM. Cara Marcus, MSLIS, is the Resource Center Manager for National RTAP.

We’d love to hear from you!

Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Kirby Wilhelm (wilhelm@ctaa.org).