Elizabeth Richards is the owner of Elizabeth Richards Consulting. She is a transportation veteran, with experience in both public and private sectors, and makes a persuasive case for involvement in public policy.
1. How did you get involved in public policy?
I had been on our Chapter board in other roles. When the Policy Committee Chair position became available, I decided to make the switch. I’ve always found public policy very interesting, and I’ve been involved with it to varying degrees throughout my career. Policy affects us all (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively), but it is not always obvious. Policy development is fascinating and often mysterious. Being engaged in the process is important to influence the direction it takes and the impact it has on people and organizations. Supporting policies that encourage the use of multiple modes should be important to all of us in the TDM field.
2. What do you see as posing the most significant opportunity or challenge to TDM on a federal (or state or local) level?
There are several challenges: 1) Keeping a sustained, consistent message that will have impact, given all the “noise” in the current federal legislative environment. 2) Within ACT we have such a diversity of membership (employers, TMAs, public agencies, vendors, etc.) and range of issues, it’s a challenge to make policy issues relevant to enough members so they engage in the back and forth needed between advocacy and ‘street level’ input. But TDM has always been a field where people share information to help each other, which creates opportunity: communicating, working together, and drawing on each other’s experiences help move programs and services forward faster.
3. What do you see as the future of public policy?
Staying abreast of and influencing the direction of emerging technologies affecting transportation will be important. Along with traditional issues, TDM professionals need to understand these rapidly changing developments and how related policies affect people’s movement and access to jobs and other destinations.
4. What is your take on the role of ACT in public policy?
ACT’s role is to advocate for policy that supports the use of non-drive alone modes for commuting (and other travel) purposes – and particularly for policies that are not strongly advocated through other organizations. Some modes have strong advocacy elsewhere, whereas multi-modalism, car/vanpooling do not, so I think these areas should be given some extra attention by ACT. ACT should be a resource and help connect policy-makers at state and local levels so that we can learn from and support one another.
5. Why should ACT members get involved in public policy?
If you want to shape policy that can affect you, your job as a TDM professional, and your clients or employers who are commuting, get involved. If you’re new to this, you will learn how policy is developed and when your voice and efforts to engage others help. Real world input is needed to not only develop effective policy but also to make it visible. Examples of how policy affects real people are persuasive. Federal policy needs input from all parts of the country. State and local policy benefits when people understand what’s happening elsewhere and learn from one another.
6. What outside interests do you have? Are there any details about you that might surprise ACT members?
I’m a Niners fan through thick and thin. I’m also a big reader of real books, family-oriented, and somewhat of a homebody now. There was a time when I travelled extensively, enjoying a wide variety of transportation throughout the country and world. I’m one of those oddballs who enjoyed the transportation field from the beginning of my now decades-long career in the private and public sectors with transit, city, and regional agencies. Much has changed over the years but on-going change keeps it interesting!