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Thursday, March 09, 2006

An Act of Amazing Grace

Marty Allen (TxDOT) & Jon Mitchell
(ET Wheelers & Walkers) at GETTA Meeting

TYLER, TX: I saw something yesterday that I never thought I'd see. So as not to embarrass anyone, I'll just say that what I saw was an act of courage and grace. I won't say who did it because it might infer that this person was not a person of courage and grace once upon a time. I don't intend that impression at all, so lets just leave it anonymous. If you've followed the course of the East Texas transportation initiative, you know how contentious the process of bringing consumers and consumer advocates into the regional transportation planning process has been. There's been name-calling, incessant maneuvering and a lot of distrust between elements of the provider community and the consumer advocates.

I think we've reached the turning point in this process. At a tri-lead agency meeting yesterday all parties agreed that it was important for the new 33 member steering committee be given the opportunity to find its own voice and to facilitate that, the tri-leads elected to step back and let a neutral presenter facilitate the meeting. East Texas Council of Governments deserves a lot of credit for putting their own interests behind those of the communities of the region they serve. It is terribly tempting for transit providers like ETCOG to protect their turf and go to extraordinary lengths to control the process. ETCOG has made a public decision not to do that, but to let the steering committee do its work and to serve the committee rather than control it.

For an organization like the COG, that's not easy. It WILL mean more work, more trouble and probably force them to do things that are uncomfortable and difficult.

GETTA (the consumer/provider coalition) and TxDOT are to be congratulated for steadfastly insisting that the steering committee be independent and at the top of the organizational pyramid for regional service planning instead of being an isolated "advisory" branch - easily by-passed if they get too frisky.

So things are looking pretty strong for regional coordination in East Texas. Maybe next we can get a one-stop ride broker coordination scheme going. It's probably too early for that, but who knows. We've got a steering committee now. Anything could happen.

Tom King
East Texas Just Transportation Alliance

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you're a good
person is like expecting a bull to not charge you because
you're a vegetarian. - anonymous

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