Transit wins big in elections! (and Trillium plays a part)

It was great to see U.S. voters come out in support of transit in a big way in the 2008 election. Here in California, some notable victories included Proposition 1A, a $10 billion bond measure for California high-speed rail, Measure R for transit in Los Angeles County, and Measure Q for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit.

I’m proud to report that Trillium volunteered to be part of the Measure Q victory for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, a proposal for a half-cent sales tax to fund commuter rail service along the congested 101 corridor in Sonoma and Marin Counties and connect to San Francisco Bay Ferry service.

The Yes on Q campaign wanted to be smart about their online outreach, so they asked for some help and advice. Especially because there are a few universities, junior colleges, and tech companies in the area, I suggested that creating a Facebook group might be a good way to recruit volunteers and supporters.

So, here’s what we did: created a Facebook group called “Vote SMART: Sonoma-Marin Transportation for the 21st Century”. The title of the group and its description were all carefully considered to concisely communicate the benefits of SMART and encourage people’s friends to click on the group name when they saw it come up in their newsfeed.

There were already a few SMART facebook groups out there (both for 2008 and 2006). I reached out to each of those groups, encouraged their members to join the new one, and asked the group admins to shut down the old ones. It’s great to see spontaneous grassroots groups forming, but our goal was to marshall supporters in one place, while still allowing grassroots participation.

The strategy worked. It didn’t take more than days to have a few hundred members (now up to 781), and volunteer coordinators were able to use the Facebook group to recruit phonebankers and folks to walk neighborhoods.

In the end, Measure Q was passed by the necessary super-majority of 69.5% of voters. Way to go Marin and Sonoma voters!

There are a lot of other ways of using social networking tools for transit information, advocacy, and community-building. One example I like is BART’s Twitter feed. Get in touch if you’d like to talk about other possibilities and ideas.

Aaron is the founding principal of Trillium Solutions, Inc. He brings experience that includes 12 years of web-development with 8 years in public transportation, with knowledge of fixed-route transportation, paratransit, rural transportation, and active transportation modes. Aaron is a recognized expert in developing data standards, web-application design, digital communications, and online marketing strategy. He originally developed Trillium’s GTFS Manager, and has played a key role in the development of the GTFS data specification since 2007.