by Dan Bartholomay, CEO, Rail~Volution
In December, I was asked to give the keynote speech at the Equitable Transit Workshop sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The workshop attendees included cross-sector leaders from three semi-rural, medium-sized regions. It may seem uncommon for rural areas to develop a regional collaborative around transit, but this workshop made clear that transit is as important in medium-sized regions as in metropolitan areas for creating access to opportunity.
The gathering was a chance for leaders to connect and discuss how working together could address inequities at a regional scale. My role was to share insights about what it takes to create an effective regional collaborative.
In my keynote, I laid out 5 keys to successful collaboration:
- Dream Big: Think Regionally Act Locally
- Focus on the Outcomes
- Collaborate and Innovate to Align Resources
- Engage the Community
- Evaluate and Communicate
At the heart of all of these concepts is the bedrock principle that collaboration is necessary to make change. The workshop in Philadelphia provided a strong example of what collaboration can achieve, with research from the Federal Reserve setting the table and a community foundation and regional partners picking it up.
Exhibit A: The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
They’ve been doing research over the years to help communities understand regional economic growth, including the implications of transit and mobility issues. Their new report, Accessing Economic Opportunity: Public Transit, Job Access, and Equitable Economic Development in Three Medium-Sized Regions makes a strong case for transit as a means to create regional equity. The report also has raised awareness that is leading to new partnerships to address job access challenges in the three regions it studied—Atlantic County New Jersey, and Northeastern and York Counties in Pennsylvania.
From the Federal Reserve Report: 3 maps showing neighborhood access to public transit and the location of employment in Atlantic County (left), Northeastern Pennsylvania (center) and York County (right).
Exhibit B: NEPA Moves
I was delighted to learn about work being done in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area. This area has developed a 100 member, cross-sector collaborative with private, public, and nonprofit stakeholders. Together, they are developing region-wide solutions to specific transit-related challenges facing the region. Housed at the Scranton Area Community Foundation, the collaborative is called, NEPA MOVES, and, indeed, they were ready for action. By employing collaborative strategies in every aspect of their work, they have brought the key players together to develop a roadmap to “move” transit in the region.
As I work in communities across the country, I see that solving regional problems or addressing challenges must be done through partnerships. The example on display in Philadelphia inspired me and confirmed that it is possible. It’s an example of best practices very much worth looking at.