RTA hires $45K PR consultant to tell story about need for system repair cash

The RTA has awarded a public relations firm a three-month, $45,000 contract “to build on its foundation of priority initiatives by developing innovative ways of reaching budget goals and defining more specific objectives within the priority initiatives,” according to a Tribune story:

RTA Chairman John S. Gates Jr. said in an interview Friday that Hill & Knowlton will help enunciate the need for the CTA, Metra and Pace systems to be restored to a state of good repair, by obtaining more capital-improvement funding.

“The story on our state of good repair issues system-wide is not well known,” Gates said. “We need to do a better job of telling it to the public and the legislature.”

I suppose that may be true, but the question is whether the RTA needs an outside firm with a no-bid contract to get that job done.

Gates also mentioned that Hill & Knowlton will help “build up an electronic constituency for transit” using social media like Facebook.

It’s definitely true that the CTA could use help with connecting with riders on social media. On Facebook, there is a CTA page that is not being managed by the CTA. I guess in a sense I can’t blame them, because I could see it devolving into a big bitch site.

As for Twitter, Harper Reed and Dan X. O’Neil have done the heavy lifting for the CTA on pushing out its service alerts. They’ve written some code to tweet service alerts posted on the CTA site via Twitter handles for each rail line (ie. ctared) and via the general ctatweet.

Of course, judging by how frequently the #cta search term pops up on my TweetDeck, the CTA probably needs help monitoring that feed.


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  • A classic bit of pinstripe patronage!
    $45, 000 down the toilet, never to be seen again.

  • Scooter, I edited your comment to delete the name-calling. I've warned you before about that. Besides, this is the RTA's doing, not the CTA's.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    We know what Gregory and Gaffney are, and apparently now also Molly Sullivan, and even Aaron admits that Claypool lied at least once. Even Rodriguez exposed one of Huberman's deceptions. Maybe we can move beyond that to discussing it only when relevant. Usually it is, but not today.

  • It is the RTA's doing, but it just points out how dysfunctional the governance system is here. Apparently (1) more money being blown on consultants (2) undoubtedly to start another "Moving Beyond Congestion" campaign for a tax hike (3) with an ostrich mentality.

    If the real problem is that CTA isn't controlling its social media, Pace seems to be able to manage its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. For that matter, neither CTA nor Pace is doing such a good job of getting information out on their own websites.

    Scooter's diction one way or the other, at least you are starting to see the kinds of scams pulled by various transit agencies around here, including enriching consultants.

  • Gotta love the government spending our money to tell us why they need more.

    If I were one of the fine folks behind the Twitter feed, though, I'd think long and hard before contributing another unpaid hour trying to help out the RTA. If they're going to respond to your hard work by completely ignoring it, and instead handing fat checks to, most likely, an out of touch geezer who's going to tell his secretary to get "the Facebook" on the phone, then what's the point?

  • In reply to darkwing:

    There is a point to darkwing's comment.

    When CTA was campaigning for "more funding" in 2005, Tony Copolletta was providing the CTA with free services on the "Save Chicago Transit" site he was operating (yeah, I know that some will say that there was some organization also behind it, but you get the idea). You don't see that today.

    Also, I'll bet that the real problem is that there is not any federal transportation bill, but one would assume (despite all 4 boards having lobbyists) that the RTA could get that message to Durbin, and even Kirk, without hiring a consultant. And, as darkwing points out, it is the "government spending our money to tell us why they need more." The Red-Purple consulting contract is not much different in that regard, in that it was issued without a source of funding to start construction.

    For that matter, the concrete lobby does an effective enough job for the Tollway that the Tollway isn't spending money on PR campaigns. I guess no one has a similar interest in CTA/Metra construction.

  • Scooter: Noelle retired from the CTA in June.

  • This seems a bit redundant with the Active Transportation Alliance's new Riders for Better Transit campaign.

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