Did you know that the federal government funds more than 80 programs that gives transportation assistance to low income families, seniors, children and people with disabilities? That's a lot of programs for the public to navigate and the government to keep track of.
In 2004, President Bush signed an Executive Order to address the problem. The Executive Order formed, United We Ride, a federal interagency initiative aimed at improving the availability, quality, and efficient delivery of transportation services.
The interagency program oversees activities and makes recommendations that advance the goals of the Order: simplify customer access to transportation, reduce duplication of transportation services, streamline federal rules and regulations that may impede the coordinated delivery of services, and improve the efficiency of services using existing resources.
The Council is composed of the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Justice as well as the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration and the Chairperson of the National Council on Disability.
Doug Birnie is the team lead for the Transportation Department's Federal Transit Administration's United We Ride program.
He was part of an ODEP hosted webcast, Policy Development Think Tank Webcast: New Strategies for Successful Collaboration. DorobekINSIDER host Chris Dorobek moderated the conversation.
3 Main Obstacles
- Prior to the United We Ride, one street in a neighborhood might have 3 government vehicles from 3 different programs picking up 3 different people. We wanted to streamline the process so one car could pick up all three people. Save time and resources.
- The programs were also very siloed. One car would take you to the doctor another would take you to the bank etc. This left gap in coverage for many people.
- The vast number of programs made it almost impossible for people to successful navigate the best possible solution for them.
United We Ride Fixes
- The Executive Order brought together 11 different departments from across government to work on the problem.
- Added a public participation element. For a longtime we weren't hearing from the people affected. The use of social communication revolutionized the process. We no longer had to only hold in person townhall meetings we could do them online. The conversations could go on for months and be much more robust. We had to reach out to interest groups to get the right people involved, and we have to monitor the conversation to keep it focused. But the discussions have proved to be much more meaningful.
- Coordination between agencies: everybody has different regulations. That's why it's important to get a community manger on the local level involved to help navigate the regulations.
"Open government is really all about participatory government," said Birnie.