By Matt Wilson, @WilsonSTComms
The city of Toledo, Ohio probably hasn’t been on your mind lately. But I would urge Peninsula elected officials to take a few minutes to think about Toledo, specifically its mayor who has pledged to ride the bus to work once a week during his entire term.
As told by the Toldeo Blade, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz walks five minutes to a bus stop, hops on board a bus and then heads to the downtown government office. The reason? He wants to “lead by example” by creating a conversation about transit in his city.
“Sometimes we just have to break out of our old patterns to do things to move the community forward,” Kapszukiewicz told the newspaper, adding he’s looking to generate enthusiasm for improving the local transit agency, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA).
Publicity stunt? Photo-op? Just plain good ol’ PR/optics? There are plenty of cynical ways to look at what the mayor is doing, but I am reminded of a recent blog post by a certain someone that highlighted some of the overlooked benefits of riding public transportation.
In the case of an elected official, what a great way to meet constituents and get a fresh look at a city from a micro, rather than a macro level. It would seem like a good opportunity to meet people from various occupations, parts of the city and socioeconomic statuses and hear their thoughts and concerns about, not just transit, but the city/region as a whole. What a neat way to take a different, fresh look at city infrastructure and the nature of transportation in the city, and broader region.
I’d imagine, too, that the mayor’s interactions with residents aboard the TARTA bus are a lot more raw and real than if he were doing door-to-door campaigning or shaking hands and chatting at a city-sponsored event. I’m sure many of his rides have been quiet and joyless, but I’m sure he’s heard plenty interesting things from residents.
The mayor could look at this sort of information gathering as a form of multitasking during a commute, which for most of us is unproductive time. I’ll be sure to check in later this year to see if Mr. Kapszukiewicz got much out of his bus rides.
Are there any local elected officials who are interested in trying something similar? Your motivations don’t have to be the same as Mr. Kapszukiewicz, but taking the occasional SamTrans bus ride or a Caltrain might give you a fresh look at your constituency or state of your city.