Transportation Tips: Learn the Basic Structure of your Transit Agency's Board Meetings

Photo: Riverside Transit Agency

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

The Transit Coalition's "secret formula" to our campaigns and mission is pretty simple: Take the facts and calculate a fair and just solution to solve our transit mobility problems. Our mission is for you and I to mobilize and passionately demonstrate community support for the economic development and continuing operation of improved transportation.

A significant portion of the very facts and information we get originate from the very public records and documents themselves with the help of agency staff, Coalition Field Studies, your input and the media. One example I found this week is that the Riverside Transit Agency has more plans ahead as far as service changes based on data from its Board and Committee agenda packets--more specifically, RTA's updated Short Range Transit Plan proposed. I'll go through and present what I believe will be important to you next week.

The press has been pretty quiet on this matter, which means you and I need to get the information from their sources and use whatever forums we have to keep the public informed of what is happening. I want to emphasize that we don't just preach to the choir; several of the very decision makers and their staff follow us through the social media sites. That's why I welcome productive debate and disagreement here.

We should all have a general understanding of how our transit agencies operate starting from the top. Such public entities are governed by a group of elected officials which is known as the Board of Directors. Select members of the Board serve on different standing committees overseeing specific areas such as finances and administration. Agency staff works under the governing Board and presents recommendations to it for approval. Under the Brown Act, each meeting involving the deciding Board members are to be open to the public with the exception of a segment known as closed session. Confidential matters involving agency personnel, labor negotiations, pending litigation, and property negotiations are closed to the public.

Prior to each public meeting, agencies must notify the public at least three days in advance by posting a notice and an agenda of the meeting under the Brown Act. With the advent of high speed internet, accessing this information remotely is easier than ever. Such documents and full agenda packets can be downloaded and read with a click of the mouse. As transit advocates, we should take a moment to see what goes on behind the scenes of our public agencies. Obviously, I'll present some of the more important facts found to this blog as I know most of us simply don't have the time to go through the numerous pages in a typical agenda packet, but do take a moment and skim through these public documents yourself and use whatever forums you have to keep the rest of the public informed of important transit-related news. Here are some links you should consider adding to your bookmarks:

RTA Board & Committee Agendas -
RTA News & Publications -

Omnitrans Meetings & Agendas -
Omnitrans News & Events -

Meetings and Agendas -
Metrolink News -