Effective advocacy is an exercise in persuading the right people to make the right decisions. For transit campaigns, winning better service hinges on both identifying the officials accountable for agency performance (which isn’t always obvious given the complexity of transit governance) and gaining access to information that can point the way toward specific policy reforms (which can be difficult if the agency isn’t transparent about performance data and project management).To navigate this terrain, it’s useful to plot out the transit agency’s executive structure, oversight mechanisms, and transparency practices.
With its Open MTA report, the good government organization Reinvent Albany has produced such a guide for the nation’s largest transit agency.
Broadly speaking, the Reinvent Albany report seeks to answer the following questions:
- Who possesses executive authority at the transit agency, and how is it exercised?
- What are the relevant external sources of government oversight, and how are they applied to the agency?
- What are the agency’s own mechanisms to disclose information to the public, and how can they be improved?
The Open MTA report deeply examines a single (very large) agency. But the exercise of mapping executive authority, outside oversight, and transparency systems can and should be replicated by transit advocates in other cities.
If you’re campaigning for more reliable service or smarter capital investment, you need to know where to apply political pressure to trigger action. To set goals for a campaign and to make specific asks, you need access to information from the agency — like accurate measures of service quality or the terms of contracts with vendors.
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