Civic organizations—the independent think tanks, community groups, and advocates in your city—can play a valuable role in developing and delivering on your transportation agenda. Civic leaders have more freedom than elected officials to explore and launch new ideas. They can be a conduit for new ways of communicating ideas, whether yours or theirs.
Strong, well-organized transportation advocates exist in some cities. Many other civic groups don’t think of themselves as transportation-related organizations but have realized that transportation innovation is key to their other objectives. For example, a business association that spends most of its time promoting its members’ retail businesses may recognize that better transit is one means of drawing new customers.
The relationship between civic groups and elected officials is a dynamic one, with some groups likely to support transportation reforms, others inclined to oppose them, and many that will work with you on some issues but not on others.
Ideally, you can cultivate a coalition of civic leaders who will support the city when it undertakes difficult initiatives but then push the city to do even more. Transportation changes, like bus-only lanes and changes to parking, can lead to pushback. If constituents begin lobbying the city to maintain the status quo, it becomes essential for other citizens and civic leaders to continue demanding more change, giving your staff the political space to keep changing the transportation system.