Andrea Leary, Executive Director of Merrimack Valley TMA in Marblehead, MA, has seen for herself how providing information to government officials can bring about real policy change. She’s an enthusiastic proponent of ACT’s Public Policy Committee.
1.How did you get involved in public policy? What connection does it have to your job/career/other activities (especially those related to ACT)?
I originally became involved in public policy because of a threat to TMA’s in Boston that happened around 2004. The state department of transportation was moving forward with a policy that was detrimental to the Massachusetts TMA community – notably supplanting private investment in TDM services with public funding. At the time there were 10 TMAs in Massachusetts. We joined together under the banner of MassCommute – The Massachusetts TMA Council to gather and publish aggregate data related to the significant amount of private investment (approximately $12.5 million at the time) in TDM that would be lost. The data also captured the considerable outreach to corporate members and their employees and gains in vehicle travel miles reduced, individual car trips eliminated, and decreases in CO2 emissions that would be lost if the TMAs were replaced by a statewide public–only funded model. We then held a series of meetings with elected federal, state, and local officials, as well as with federal and state transportation agency administrators. In the end, these meetings led to a reversal in state policy that developed into a productive and successful collaboration between TMAs and the Commonwealth’s state department of transportation for the last 10 years!
2. What do you see as posing the most significant opportunity or challenge to TDM on a federal (or state or local) level?
I see funding for mass transportation as a challenge. With limited resources and crumbling infrastructure, there are many barriers to expanding systems and paying for improvements. But I also see an opportunity in discovering how new technology can be used to move more people in a less costly way and to make the most beneficial use of our current fixed infrastructure assets.
3. What do you see as the future of public policy?
There is always going to be a need for practitioners in various industries to work collaboratively with decision-makers to shape public policy. People who know and work within an industry (in our case, TDM professionals) can provide guidance, insight, and information to officials and funders to advocate proactively for cohesive public policy in order to provide a roadmap for future investments.
4. What is your take on the role of ACT in public policy?
For me, support with public policy initiatives is one of the biggest value-adds that I receive from my ACT membership. I see the role of the ACT public policy committee as two-fold: 1) to identify policies – be they at the local, state, or federal level that provide opportunities or threats to our industry and develop appropriate statistically-driven responses that support and benefit industry members; and potentially most critical, 2) is to build relationships with policy makers and promote our industry successes to them so that when the time is right we can market and promote these positions to the appropriate people.
5. Why should ACT members get involved in public policy?
I think that useful lessons can be learned through public policy. Public Policy Committee work supports professional development. The tools that you learn while participating in ACT’s public policy initiatives are transferable and can help to strengthen and develop skill sets required for a variety of jobs.
6. What outside interests do you have? Are there any details about you that might surprise ACT members?
I’m a people person – probably not so surprising to people who know me. My favorite thing to do is to spend time with family and friends. When I’m not working, if it’s nice weather you can find me tearing up a golf course (pretty much literally) or out on our boat – hauling “lobsta” traps. My bucket list includes visiting as many PGA tour courses as possible. I put a huge checkmark on that list this spring when I was fortunate enough to attend The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia this past April!