Story # 55 Using Public Engagement to Create Ballot Measure Success
AC Transit’s Measure C1 Story (2016)
Alameda Contra Costa Transit Authority (AC Transit) is the largest public transportation provider in the East Bay Area of California, serving areas in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The bus transit agency provides service over an area of 364 square miles in 13 cities and 9 unincorporated areas with a population of over 1.5 million. They service a community need with nearly 200,000 rides per day, over 700,000 paratransit rides annually, more than 30,000 student school trips per day, and 51% of riders without a driver’s license. With a huge service area comes a huge voting population, with over 700,000 registered voters, and almost 500,000 likely to vote in a presidential year.
A critical portion of the AC Transit budget, provided for by a parcel tax approved eight years earlier, was set to expire. This tax, Measure V V, funded vital services to seniors and people with disabilities, student transportation, and trips from work to home. AC Transit is committed to the community they serve, and could not allow V V to expire. CliffordMoss and AC Transit began working together to engage the community on the possibility of renewing this critical funding stream 18 months before the November 2016 decision by voters.
Relationships matter. We worked together with AC Transit to identify five important tracks: 1) ongoing community relationships, 2) board engagement, 3) AC Transit staff engagement, 4) public stakeholder engagement, and 5) community opinion research and polling. CliffordMoss wanted to know: Was AC Transit committed to community engagement? Did they already have a relationship with their community and identified arteries of communication? The answer to both questions was YES! AC Transit had an external affairs team with three geographically assigned representatives with the sole purpose of building relationships with their diverse community areas. Our strategy was to continue to build these relationships, prioritize two-way communication, evaluate gaps, and improve!
In any relationship, you must LISTEN! Our public engagement program included a telephone town hall, issue-based collateral, a community survey, and “Transit Talks”- conversations with 35 groups amounting to 400 key community leader attendees. In every case, we were listening, and we heard the AC Transit community believed in keeping fares reasonable providing services to those most in need, and maintaining frequent bus service.
Armed with strengthened relationships and data on how their community felt, the Board unanimously approved placing the measure renewal on the ballot to ask voters to continue this critical funding source. Campaigns require time, money, and people. AC Transit had used their time wisely, and had a coalition of people who supported them, but their campaign committee had limited resources for a robust campaign in a competitive November 2016 presidential fundraising environment. Knowing this, it was key that CliffordMoss and the campaign committee orchestrated integration of the AC Transit measure (C1) into as many coordinated campaigns as possible. The C1 campaign was carried by multiple other issue-based campaigns, the Democratic party, the AFL-CIO phone bank and consistent precinct walks, AFSCME phone banks, and 12 candidate campaigns acros the region. The ultimate result – 82% YES, resounding voter approval to fund 20 more years of continued essential transit services.