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.
Despite the fact that everyone uses some mode of transportation, a recent article in Governing Magazine explored the transportation community’s failure to engage “everyday Americans,” in the need for transportation investments. There is too much at stake – jobs, money, infrastructure – for people to ignore these critical issues. If we want policymakers to make smart transportation decisions, they need to feel pressure from their constituents. The article finds that we aren’t reaching “everyday Americans” because the messages that the transportation community has been using doesn’t resonate with them. How do we fix this communications challenge?
Last week, Amtrak service in western Michigan and northern Indiana reached speeds of 110 miles per hour, marking the first expansion of regional high-speed rail in the U.S. outside of the northeast corridor. Other states seem eager to follow, and more upgrades within Illinois are already planned.