The Iowa Department of Transportation asked SSTI for assistance building public support for a gas tax increase to fund critical repair and maintenance work. SSTI contracted with Spitfire Strategies, a strategic communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and foundations, to help Iowa craft effective messaging that would resonate with policymakers and key stakeholders. Based on SSTI and Spitfire’s work in Iowa and recent polling, this paper outlines how transportation professionals can gain support for a “fix-it-first” approach to transportation policy. It highlights messages and tactics that have effectively garnered voter and policymaker support and presents lessons learned from the Iowa Department of Transportation.
SSTI and Spitfire Strategies worked with the Iowa DOT to develop support for funding system preservation. Spitfire researched what messages would appeal to voters and decision makers, then wrote a plan for Iowa DOT to make the case for funding maintenance.
On April 3, the Southern California Association of Governments unanimously adopted a 25 year transportation plan that focuses on transit, road maintenance, walking, biking, sustainability, land use, and reduction of greenhouse gases. Local officials and citizen’s groups alike hailed it as a significant change in strategy for a region notorious for clogged freeways and the worst air quality in the nation.
A new report from the U.S. Department of the Treasury says that Americans are wasting gas and time every year due to traffic on congested roads. Maintenance costs due to poor road conditions add additional financial burdens to family budgets. In total, the report estimates that insufficiencies in the transportation system and lack of transportation options cost over $100 billion in time and money. However, many news stories have focused only on deficiencies in the road network and missed another message in the report: the need to give commuters alternatives to being stuck in traffic.