Develop a political marketing strategy towards decision makers and key stakeholders since Public Transport is highly dependent on political awareness, support and decisions.
Political marketing is one of the important Ps of public transport marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion, Process, Personnel and Politics). It aims at creating a good knowledge about public transport and positive view of public transport among decision-makers (councillors, and leading management officers) within a municipality. Effective political marketing may result in favourable conditions for operation and further development of public transport in the local discussion.
On the other hand, putting no effort into political marketing might result in the development of new shopping centres where public transport is ‘forgotten’, residential neighbourhoods where no fast bus routes can be created, lack of interest in investing in free bus lanes, reduction of budgets etc.
The impacts of politics on HQPT are manifold. First of all because (in most cities) a substantial amount of the operational deficits are publicly financed. However, there are also many other aspects in which politics can contribute to successful public transport, for example:
Land use planning and development creating favourable circumstances for public transport (high density development along public transport corridors, bus routes, bus stops etc.).
Traffic demand management in favour of sustainable transport modes (car free zones, parking policies, Park & Ride, mobility management).
Infrastructure measures (bus lanes, traffic priority measures, renewal of central bus stations and bus stops) etc.
Given the many potential direct and indirect impacts it is important to create awareness and conviction amongst decision-makersof the importance of public transport for the harmonious development of cities and for citizens’ quality of life.
Giving a ‘recipe’ for political marketing and lobbying is not possible. There are many differences in local circumstances and the political and decision-making cultures (between cities of different size, between countries etc.). Operators and public transport authorities should continuously communicate with political decision-makers, business leaders and journalists on local public transport issues and the expectations of the citizens while proposing mobility solutions.
It is important to have up-to-date knowledge about the relevant actors and developments:
Which relevant local, regional and national departments and policy-makers can be identified?
Are there relevant local / regional platforms or committees in which the public transport authority or operator should be involved?
Which other private stakeholders or organisations (for example, real estate developers, neighbourhood committees etc.) can be identified?
Which are the relevant local developments and policies in which the ‘voice’ of public transport should be heard also at an early stage of the process (development of new residential areas or shopping centres, local urban transport plans etc.).
One should realise that knowledge about public transport among local politicians is normally similar to the knowledge of citizens. Providing decision-makers with adequate information and gaining their interest in HQPT issues is an important aspect. Some options are:
Special information meetings
Organise site visits to their own public transport system or other good practice cities
A company brochure
Involve them in the Board of Customers (Guideline 5.3 Board of customers)
Political marketing requires a proactive attitude, rather than just responding to developments and processes already going on. Only giving a response to a draft city or neighbourhood plan, rather than seeking to influence it at an early stage might be too late.
Sint-Niklaas (Belgium): Due to strong local political support and interest in HQPT the following developments were achieved:
The creation of a north-south bus corridor through the city between the rail station and a mall on the southern fringe of the city
The implementation of ‘basismobiliteit’ since 2003. A totally new bus network layout has been created with the introduction of city lines
Tariff measures in the frame of "the third payer" politics of the Flemish Government and of Sint-Niklaas.
Brighton & Hove (UK): A main policy has been to engage with the public at a very local level. The Managing Director is involved with many local organisations and is well known by the local press, local politicians and local authority staff. Civic and fund raising activities result in the company’s name appearing in the press once or twice a week, generally with creditable reports. The company also has a good relationship with local radio in the area, and the two music-based commercial radio stations both carry local stories about buses and fares in their news bulletins.