Transportation for America has been in hiding. Perhaps you’ve noticed.
The coalition of over 500 organizations that came together to advocate for policy reform and adequate funding in the transportation reauthorization seemed to disappear for a little while after the dust settled on MAP-21. T4America, often called simply T4, provided analysis of the bill and helped reformers figure out how to make the most of it. And then T4 kind of went away.
The coalition was technically a campaign of Smart Growth America, and once the bill it was organizing around had passed — and was a pretty big disappointment — the group tried long and hard to figure out its next move.
Yesterday, Transportation for America announced that it had figured it out.
During the four-hour re-launch event T4 hosted in Union Station’s Columbus Room yesterday, there wasn’t much talk about organizational restructuring. Instead, panel after panel of mayors, MPO executives and other local officials talked about the challenges they faced and the solutions they’ve discovered as they sought to build stronger, more sustainable urban places. (More on that in a separate post.) But if you listened closely, you would learn all you needed to know about T4’s new direction.
“Some of the best decision-making and most courageous leadership is occurring at the local level,” said John Robert Smith, former Republican mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, and co-chair of Transportation for America. “That’s why we believe that more of the decision-making — and authority and accountability — should rest at local leadership.”
In the last go-round, Transportation for America tried to frame itself as a middle-of-the-road, agenda-free big tent, a broad coalition of disparate organizations asking for common-sense solutions for the nation’s transportation — and fiscal — problems. But somehow, it didn’t work that way. On the Hill, they were still seen as liberals trying to get everyone out of their cars.
They realized that their message resonated a lot more, and they made more inroads, when they brought local leaders to talk with their members of Congress.