Keeping BART Safe & Reliable
Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) Measure RR Success Story (2016)
When BART began service in 1972, it was a leap forward in rail engineering, pioneering the use of space-age materials, autonomous signaling, and at the time, the world’s longest underwater tunnel. Decades later, that once revolutionary infrastructure was worn out; phantom electrical issues, faulty signaling switches, and worn out rails were causing delays nearly every day throughout the system. Something had to be done.
As part of a massive effort to evaluate the state of every single capital asset, BART management calculated over $9 billion in unmet “fix-it-first” repair needs, but had only found sources for half of that need. Management and the BART Board agreed; they would need to go to the 2 million voters in their three-county district to approve a bond.
Enter CliffordMoss in 2015. We joined BART to help guide a deliberate process toward placing a measure on the ballot. The foundation of our work was a belief that people support what they help create. BART invited key stakeholders and the public, ranging from transit advocates to car commuters and from the business community to social justice groups, to join the conversation. The process included surveys, an in-depth expenditure plan, and 315 community presentations and stakeholder meetings. CliffordMoss worked with a qualified pollster to test how voters perceived bond measures of various sizes. Based on the intersection of interests between what the District needed and what local voters would support, BART placed a $3.5 billion bond measure on the November 2016 ballot.
With Measure RR officially on the ballot, the campaign phase began. With a three-county service area covering both dense urban regions (San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley) as well as many suburban and rural areas, the YES on RR campaign needed to convince two key constituencies—people who rode BART regularly and people who lived far from any station—that a safe and reliable BART system was worth their investment and their vote.
Adding to the complexity of the election environment was a fierce opposition campaign spearheaded by one of the region’s state senators and the editorial board of one of the major local newspapers. It was vital that the YES on RR message rise above the noise of the opposition. Whether voters were reached by direct mail; a phone call or text message; a door-to-door volunteer; a TV, radio or newspaper ad; a yard sign or in-station BART ad; or an online banner or video ad, every message targeted to voters included the same disciplined refrain: Keep BART safe and reliable.
A strong field program staffed four offices around the Bay Area for nightly phone banks and weekly walks, including one office focused on Chinese-language calls. In addition, the YES on RR campaign partnered with local measures and candidates to incorporate their volunteers into the RR campaign for a combined effort.
Leaving nothing to chance, in the final four days leading up to Election Day, YES on RR coordinated with six other campaigns across eight offices to unleash a volunteer army that made thousands of reminder phone calls to supporters and left tens of thousands of reminders on voters’ doorknobs. Happily, on Election Night, Measure RR passed with 70.5% support, guaranteeing the funds BART needed to modernize and restore reliability.