S2E01: Transit Evangelism

Feb 24, 2022

Andy Keeton

VP Global Strategy

Between the Lines S2E01: Transit Evangelism

with Jerome Horne


Why will Transit Evangelism help save the planet?

Welcome back to a new season of Between the Lines!

On this week's episode of Between the Lines, we chat with Jerome Horne. Jerome leads TransitCenter's strategies around increasing representative leadership and inclusive decision-making in the transportation field, change that is essential to advancing TransitCenter’s mission to improve transit in ways that make our cities more just and sustainable. Additionally, he plays an important role in determining the best practices of agencies on rider engagement and works closely with our agency practice and advocacy teams to identify cities to target for replication of those practices.  

Jerome comes to TransitCenter with experience from IndyGo and Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning, where he worked in roles concentrating on proactive community engagement and the rider experience of using transit. At IndyGo Jerome's highlights include starting the Transit Ambassador Program, the Red Line Bus Rapid Transit Project, and revamping the system's wayfinding.

Recognized for his passion and dedication to the industry, he was recently named a Mass Transit Magazine 40 Under 40 honoree in 2020 and an American Public Transportation Association Emerging Leader Class of 2022 member.

Jerome is the founder and previous Board Chair for the Young Professionals in Transportation Indianapolis chapter as well as Deputy Director of Communications for Young Professionals in Transportation International from 2018-2020. He has also served as a Transit Cooperative Research Program Ambassador from 2018 - 2020.

He lives in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and enjoys taking walks through nearby Prospect Park. Jerome rides transit whenever possible, likes to bike, and curates his extensive collection of transit memorabilia known as the International Micro Museum of Transit.

Follow along more transit discussion with Jerome over at Twitter and LinkedIn and learn more about The International Micro Museum of Transit.

And check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify!


Episode Transcript

- (Voiceover) Commutifi presents "Between the Lines" with Andy Keeton. Each week, we explore the challenging issues transportations and man's management professionals face on their journey to transition commuters from driving alone to more sustainable, shared and active commuting habits. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlist on Spotify. This is "Between the Lines" with Andy Keeton.

- (Andy Keeton) Hi, everyone and welcome aboard to episode one of season two of "Between the Lines." Today, we have a really interesting kind of unique episode where we're talking with Jerome Horne. Jerome leads TransitCenter's strategies around increasing representative leadership and inclusive decision-making in the transportation field. He's a Mass Transit magazine 40 Under 40 honorees and a founder and previous board chef for the Young Professionals in Transportation, Indianapolis chapter. He rides transit whenever possible, likes to bike and curates this really cool extensive collection you can see behind him of transit memorabilia known as the International Micro Museum of Transit. He's all over social media. I've been following him for quite some time. I'm really excited to have you on. I thank you for joining us today.

- (Jerome Horne) Thanks so much, Andy. I'm excited to be here and looking forward to our discussion today.

- (Andy Keeton) Awesome, cool! So today, we're talking about this term, I've been kind of calling transit evangelism and how that's going to help save the planet. But before we get into what this means and why it's important to just evangelize transit and talk about it, make it cool, I want to talk a little bit about what you do as your day job, because that's important. That gives some good context to the conversation. So, can you tell me a little bit more about what you do at TransitCenter?

- (Jerome Horne) Absolutely! So first, I start by just giving people a little bit more context of what TransitCenter is. So, we're a private foundation. We're a private foundation based in New York City, but our focus is national. And really, we kind of focus on transit advocacy, transit policy and research and now, leadership development which is a new program area. And that is the new program area that I'm developing and leading. And so, you know, the emphasis for this is that we really think that the transit industry is at a time of critical junction where we feel a need to make some decision about how we move forward. And we know that leaders and who leads and how they lead is really important. Important to ensuring that we have better outcomes for our communities. So, my job is really focused on how do we increase representative leadership in the industry, having people that not only look like those who they serve, but also, have their lived experiences and also, highlight that, you know, anyone can be a leader, regardless of their title and position and level at the Transit agency and that's really about how you carry yourself and the positive influence you have.

- (Andy Keeton) I think that's so interesting all in, and I think it's really important. Can you talk to us a little bit more, I want to dive into that idea of representative leadership, having leaders, you know, look and have the same life experiences as the people they're serving. Why is that important? Why is that something that translate this easy really need to be focusing on now?

- (Jerome Horne) Yeah, well, I think, as with many things, the last two years have revealed a lot about our society and culture and that we see that there are many things that are unjust and unbalanced. You have transfers of very diverse groups of people, and it's important for that leadership to understand the lived experiences of those who they serve. And you know, that is not just, as I said, not just looking diverse, but actually, being diverse in how you lead. And so, that means, you know, taking into account and consideration of people who may not think like you, may not have the same ability level as you, different backgrounds. You know, using myself as an example, you know, as a gay black man in America, I'm very conscious of how I move to public space and how I may be perceived. And we know that on transit, in particular, many black and brown people are more likely to be stopped or harassed by police. So that's just one example of, you know, thinking about how representative leadership right to lead to better outcomes when it comes to safety and law enforcement and how we design public spaces, because different people, depending on how they show up, feel safe in different ways in our environments. And it's really important that we have a kind of holistic approach to thinking about how people navigate the world and how we design space.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah, well, I mean, that's really… Honestly, I mean, I'm excited to see you, what you and TransitCenter do as you work with. You know, TransitCenter is around the country because it is an important issue and you know, this topic on itself could be a whole absurd. Maybe, we'll have you back. A future episode down the line, we'll really just dive into this. But I do want to move on to kind of what we are going to talk about today be on this, which is this idea of transit evangelism. So, I kind of going from, like, making sure leadership is really building an inclusive and an effective and efficient transit system to… Let's actually just talk about transit, let's make it cool. Let's have this awesome museum behind you, I have, like, one map behind me. I'm starting to get more and more. I need to catch up to what you're doing, which is going never to happen because you have, like, the coolest background I've ever seen. But let's start with this. You love public transit, you talk about it all the time. Why do you love it? What was the one experience in your life, youth, that was like : "Oh, man, this is cool, I'm going to get started." Just talking in it, loving public transit. How did it get started? Why you love just talking about it?

- (Jerome Horne) Yeah! I'll start with sort of now. You know, I love public transport because I really believe it's the fabric that stitches our communities together, connects people to opportunity and where you can go, is who you can meet, what you can do and what you can achieve. So it's important that we provide the best transit service possible to allow people that access. You know, I fell in love with transit as a little kid. I was exposed to writing transit at a very young age in Baltimore. And I remember writing the cute Baltimore metro. And I was always thrilled when I could sit at the railfan window, at the front of the train. For those who don't know, railfan window is… It's a window that allows you to see directly out of the front of a train and see where you're going. And I remember being so excited because there was always this rush from me, went from the elevated section and plunged into a tunnel. And I don't know for a little tougher than that was just something that really got me going. You know, Thomas the Tank Engine, I probably blame that too. My dad bought me the first version of SimCity. So you know, I've always been fascinated by cities and systems and how things work together, and trains and buses, in particular, have always excited me.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah, that's… That's… Yeah, that railfan window, it gets a lot of us. I mean, like, not quite the same, but similar like. I remember the first time I visited London, …double-decker buses with, like on the top, you can sit right in front. I thought it so cool you could see the flake, the front of the bus and, like, see the city as you're moving around. A little different to be on the rail, but kind of experience as well. So I want to talk a little bit. Yeah, I think, within certain communities, within, like, the transit, the urbanism community, I used to see it cool and people love talking about public transit and bike, recognize how awesome and great it is. I mean, people are listening to this. Let me out! The people listening to this episode and this podcast are friends and interested in the same things. But outside of that community, public transit might have kind of a bad reputation. It's not something that's cool. But like cars are, and somehow, cars have become this really cool, like, part of our culture, I wonder if you have any thoughts on why individually-owned cars are like this, like, considered cool thing, but trains and buses, which, like, objectively, to me at least, like the technology is way cooler. Why are these not the same in the public opinion?

- (Jerome Horne) Oh, that's a such a great question! I think we'll do a whole episode on this. I think, you know, speaking from the American perspective, I think cars are so ingrained in the culture here. You know, it's seen as part of the American dream. To many people, cars represent freedom of movement and individuality and success. And I think that a big part of why transit is viewed, you know, negatively, is a… A lot of the communities that we've built are entirely built and tailored around car travel. And they really preclude other modes of transportation such as walking, biking or transit. And there's definitely a stigma about who rides transit and who it's for, especially outside of our largest cities. You know, transit is sometimes seen as social service and not as a vital part of the community. However, I think, you know, during the pandemic, it's been really clear that, we keep saying the same thing, but transit is essential and the people who they are moving is essential. But, it's even more than that, you know. I think, part of the challenge with getting transit to be viewed as cool as awesome, just the service levels. That exists. We have a lot of transit that is infrequent, meaning it doesn't run often. And in order to make it seem like a vital part of our transportation network and something that people can rely on, we really need to figure out how do we increase transit service. You know, the simplest thing we could do is double the amount of bus service that we're running in every city in this country, and that would have a big impact. So I think, because, you know, transit is not as, you know, frequent and not as present as roads are, you know, that's definitely a challenge to getting people to see transit in a new light. But, I really think that, you know, I hope the world begin to try a corner here as more people become aware of, you know, systemic criticism, the climate crisis and man y other things that are facing our society and transit can certainly be a tool to help mitigate.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah! I'll answer to all of your points. I think it's just a cultural impact of roads being what built a lot of the cities, particularly, in the West of the United States. It makes sense. Cars are, just ubiquitous and trains and buses are background, you know, needed for some people, but not for me, kind of thing. So, our job as transit enthusiasts outside of ensuring that public transit agencies continue to improve. We've been working with them to bring better services about, is potentially to help bring this awareness about why it's good to use public transit and why we should support public transit systems in our neighbourhoods. You may feel it's not something that I want to use personally. I think one interesting tool that you use a lot is social media. I know, honestly, you know, big on Twitter these days and I have been big in the kind of Facebook world as while when Facebook was maybe still cooler than it is now. But, with, like NUMTOT New Urbanist Memes For Transit-oriented Teens, which is really kind of, actually, the first big thing that I got into. I was like, that's really cool, there's so many people like me that like this. Can you talk a little bit about how you use social media, how you used it in the past, how you use it now? Does it help evangelize transit?

- (Jerome Horne) Yeah! I've loved that word of evangelize. Actually, in my Mass Transit magazine 40 Under 40, right up, transit evangelist was one of the way I was described. Yeah, social media… Yeah, yeah! Social media, you know, it is… I think it represents the best in-purse of society. But you know, when it's used for good, it can really have a powerful impact. And particularly, when it comes to transit. Certainly, I have used social media to try my best to spread the good gospel about transit and why is it so important. Ah, you mentioned NUMTOT, the infamous New Urbanist Memes For Transit-oriented Teens Facebook group. You know, I'm a moderator for the group and, you know, the group's definitely passed it's prime, but it has really served to build community. It has served as this place where people from all around the world, who think trains and buses are cool and cities are cool, can come together and got to share that common interest. You know, of course, there are great memes that are really funny. But you know, there's also been a lot of really interesting dialogues. And I think what's really great about the group is, you know, most of the people in the group are, they're just interested, they don't necessarily work as a planner or at a transit agency. But we've seen a lot of folks coming and decided they want to go to school for urban planning or that they want to switch their careers. And then, what's really awesome is that we have, you know, university professor that teach urban planning, that join the group. Ah, you know, people like Donald Shoup, you know who famously wrote "The High Cost of Free Parking" you know, join the group, and it's really been great to really spread the word and educate people who are disinterested in the subject matter and take it to a different level. I think one of the best outcomes of NUMTOT has been this spin-off groups. And most large and medium cities all across this country have a NUMTOT spin-off group that, you know, is more tailored to local conversations. And I think those groups are still where you find good dialog and healthy dialog about cities. But NUMTOT has been really just, you know, I think it grew bigger than any of us has expected it to grow in the New York Times, wrote a few articles on it, you know. Chicago Magazine, there's a paper in Australia that wrote an article on NUMTOT, so it's really been impactful. You know, I would say, Twitter is definitely another space. There's transit Twitter, there's planning Twitter, there's housing Twitter, there's Twitter for anything you can imagine. But, once again, another place to really build community, and one of the ways that I tried to do that, even on LinkedIn, which you know, I definitely have a more professional angle there, in LinkedIn. But, it's just share my passion. You know, and really, you know, ask interesting questions. You know just this morning, in fact on Twitter, I asked people, you know, "What does it mean to be an urban planner?," "Do you have to go to school to be considered a planner?" You know, and I really think it's important to reconsider who we consider a planner and how you can become a planner. Because, I am of the personal belief that you don't necessarily need to go to school, as I did not go to school for planning. So I use social media to kind of rock the boat sometime. Ask good questions, ask controversial questions. You know, thought leadership, and then as you mentioned already, I love to you know display my passion. by every time I ride transit, I'm tweeting about it, or I get a new part of my collection for my museum. You know, I tweet about it. And I think it's important especially on LinkedIn where I do have that more professional angle. I even tweet about my international or I post about my you know collection on LinkedIn sometimes. Because, I want to humanize myself, right. People see Jerome, the professional and what I do. But I think it's also important to go hey. It's really cool if you know really do like your job. And you're really passionate about it. That's okay too. I'm thinking about TikTok and how I could use that. We're already seeing Urbanist TikTok emerge. So I'm beginning to think about how I might use that medium.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah, TikTok's the new frontier for sure. I can definitely imagine some pretty good content coming your way. They're coming from you in the TikTok realm. I know this is all really good. It's something like I myself often find myself like, I like to lurk in the background of social media. And see all of what everyone else says. And I'm not one, I've never been one really to post on social media. I'm realizing like, hey this is actually a really good avenue to advocate for what I care about, what's just interesting in my life. It's something I want to do more. I think it's a good thing that a lot of people in the industry, and outside the industry are just interested in this should be utilizing. So, it's good to see what people like you are doing in the space. Just to kind of inspire us to get out there as well. You mentioned this, you talked about how NUMTOT the Facebook group helped kind of grow this community or at least bring the community together. I wonder over the years, since really you've kind of NUMTOT started, and you've been in this space. How have you seen this urbanism that as I like called transit nerd space kind of grow and this community grow? And how do you continue to see this growing in the future?

-  (Jerome Horne) Yeah well I certainly think the urbanism transit nerd community, has grown over the last decade or so, particularly with the rise of social media. I think many people are becoming more conscious of systemic racism, and how it's literally built into the fabric of our communities. And you can see this play out historically in urban planning, and transit, the climate crisis is getting worse and people are waking up to those realities. And I think they view transit as a tool to help mitigate that. And you know the cars have done a lot of damage to our communities. You know, and the ongoing rise of car crashes and pedestrian fatalities has many people questioning the roles that cars play in our society and built environment. So I think those are a lot of the factors that have contributed to a rise of the urbanist. And you know I think what's been really amazing to see is there's all these great YouTube channels out there now of people, some people who are actually planners, people who are not. People are just enthusiasts. And advocates putting out some really great content. And really kind of providing more mainstream, or getting the message out to the masses, about transit and some of the challenges that cities face. You know I think one way that I want to see this grow, is really talking about the importance of advocacy and organizing to make change happen. You know, it's great to understand about the 10 different types of metro chains. And China or the fastest high-speed rail train in the world, or you know… But I think what will really help, make the difference and help the community grow better is if we give people actual tools and advice of, how do you become an advocate, how do you become a better advocate. Things like building and organizing a movement, how do you build allies if you're a person that lives in a city and you want to see better transit. You know get to know the staff that work at your transit agency. A lot of times, there are people that work at transit agencies that are just as passionate if not more passionate. Then you are and I was one of them. So I could say that, when I worked at indigo in Indianapolis, I viewed myself as an internal advocate. And I aligned with a lot of our advocates on the outside. So I think it's really important that. We build this advocacy and organizing platform. So that, you know, we can be more effective. At putting the pressure on transit agency boards. Putting the pressure on elected officials. Making sure we get the right people voted in office that understand the importance of transit. And how it can tie the community together. So yeah, that's really what I want to focus on. And I think you know at transit center, that's something that we're really. I'm going to build and we want to build our capacity, to strengthen our advocacy efforts. Because we know that, that is one of the number one things that help us win the fight, for better transit.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah I love that idea, I mean I think that makes sense. Like you got to start with getting people interested, seeing that it's important. And then, really then, kind of taking that next step. And moving them into an advocacy role makes sense. So, it actually is a good lead into this question. Which is kind of going to be like almost a three-part question. So, the majority of people listening to our podcast. They're in the transportation space. In some way, they're professionals in transportation. They might not actually work for public transit, but they maybe work adjacent to it. We also have people who are just interested in transportation. And in transportation demand management (TDM) or in transit. And then we have people in the public transit agencies themselves. I wonder if there's kind of one thing that you can do if you're part of any of these three groups to keep this movement going, keep evangelizing transit, keep making transit cool. What is that one thing and maybe, it's the same thing for all three of them, maybe it's slightly different. What is that one thing?

- (Jerome Horne) Yeah I think the number one critical thing we can do to better evangelize transit, is to tell better stories about transit. And the impact it has on people's lives. You know I think from the transit industry perspective, we don't do a good job of telling our story. And we need to speak in clear terms that are relatable to more people. You know transit, especially those who work in the industry, they know or people that are adjacent to it. There are so many acronyms right, the FTA, DOT, NEPA and all these things. But you know I think that, if we can tell better stories and highlight real people's lives. And you know "this bus went from running every 45 minutes to every 15 minutes. And it allowed this person to keep their job." You know, because the transit all of a sudden became more reliable, and dependable, you know or, you know for example when Indianapolis one of the great stories is when we built our redline BRT, there were a number of young families that went down to one car, and they chose to live near the line. Because they wanted to have that lifestyle, where they weren't beholden to having car, where they felt like they actually had more freedom by getting rid of a car and being able to take transit. So, it's really just talking to people about how this impacts people's lives every day. And, we just need better ways to highlight those stories. And get them out there in front of people.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah I mean it reminds me like, I need to also be part of this. Like we should all be talking about our stories with trans as well. Like I grew up in a suburb, thought cars are what you did and you drove cars and it made sense. And then I went to college in Berkeley in California. And I was like "Wait people don't like drive to class, they just walk or they take the bus. This is so weird." Now I live in Montreal and I don't even own a car. I like sold my car I was like, they've got a public transit system I can use. And it's great. And I, I think my life's way better when I don't have to drive places. Really frees me up it allows me to kind of, you know I don't have to figure out where parking is. I don't have to like, have this selling my car on its own was like the biggest pain ever. Like this is the last time, I'm ever selling a car. I never want to own another car again. So yeah I mean that's a great point. Tell those stories of public transit.

- (Jerome Horne) And I'll just add to that, yeah, I selling your car, I was so excited to sell my car before I moved here to New York City. You know, I didn't even talk about it. I was like almost ashamed that I had one right. But, you know it was, to me, it was very freeing to be able to get rid of it. I was like no more insurance, no gas, no maintenance, it's Good-bye. But you know the caviar is I realize that you know, I'm an exception. I live in New York City, there is no other place like New York City. In this country that really has that level of transit. But even here in this city, right, we still have our problems and issues with the transit system and connectivity, But I think the more we can normalize it for people. And see that hey yes you can live a full and fulfilling life, without owning a car. You know, I think we'll get more support, for building better communities and more transit.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah I agree I definitely consider myself lucky and privileged to even have the opportunity to not own a car, or not have to rely on it. It'd be great to allow other people to have that opportunity as well. Okay so, I have you know we're kind of coming up on time here. But I have two quick questions to end us off. One is we can't have an episode with you on here and not talk about your international micro museum of transit. It's awesome like you said you post pictures about the new things you get. What is your favorite piece? What it like of all the maybe, you don't maybe, it's hard to pick one. it's like picking a favorite child. But what is that one piece that you're like this : "I'm so happy to have this."

- (Jerome Horne) Gosh well first, let me say, international micro museum of transit. for those who haven't heard of it or unfamiliar. It is my own personal collection of transit memorabilia, from all around the world. And actually I believe the name came from a suggestion on NUMTOT. I didn't have a name. Someone was like caught the international microwave of transit. I was like that sounds great. And if you want to follow it. it has its own Instagram and Facebook page. But, so the collection. I believe I have over 200 signs and 200 models of buses and trains. There's a number of maps, schedules, transit fare media, like tap cards and transit tokens. In terms of favorite, that's really hard to pick. But I am not sure if they're any of them are in view right now. But, so one of them is definitely I have this custom model of the Baltimore metro. That I had someone custom paint for me and was 3D printed. And I just love it because that's where I'm originally from. And as I shared earlier, I grew up on the Baltimore metro. And that's really where I first loved or fell in love with transit. You know I have a real sign from the New York City subway. That I actually bought from the MTA, from the Q line. I live on the Q line and so I love having a real sign from that. But there are so many pieces of the collection. It's really hard to like, it's like asking me what my favorite kid is.

- (Jerome Horne) Yeah exactly it's tough to do. Well definitely if you're listening to this. Follow the international micro museum of transit on social media. Then you can just see all these things. I mean it's so cool like you have these model, trains behind you. These signs I mean and this is like a small portion of it, it's really cool. Okay, so we have one final question. If you're new to the podcast, this is your first episode listening. This will be new to you but if you've been around for a while, you know that we always ask this one question at the end. Because we think, transportation, transportation demand, management public transit, all of this is really helping us work toward saving the planet. Whatever that means to you. But I want to hear from you in just a few sentences. Why will this idea of transit evangelism help save the planet?

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah how deep do we want to go? You know, I think simply put, you know transit evangelism will save the planet. Because it is absolutely critical and essential that we figure out how to lower the impact. That humankind has had on the planet and remedy. Past mistakes and fix systemic racism and allow people access to opportunity. You know, transit is absolutely one of the most essential things that we can do to make a big dent in the fight for a better world. And it's just important that we continue to bring awareness, elevate the message. And as I said a little bit earlier, connect to people in clear terms, so they can relate to about why it's this is important and why it makes sense to spend money, and invest in a better future for us all.

- (Jerome Horne) Well put nothing bad though and a great finish. Jerome, thanks so much for being on our episode, our first episode of the new season of Between The Lines. Really a great conversation. Like we both mentioned, there's probably, three to four different conversations that could come out of this. We could have a whole series on this. But it's been really interesting to talk about this. Where can people find you on social media? If they're wanting to follow you for more information.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah so people can find me on Twitter, that's @jahorne. Same thing on Instagram. Just feel free, I'm on LinkedIn, Facebook as well, so pretty much anywhere. If you just type in Jerome Horne and google, it's gonna it's gonna bring up my my profiles.

[Andy Keeton] Perfect, awesome. And for those people who are subscribed to our email list, we will include those links as well on those handles for you to follow and reach out to Jerome. If you have any questions, you wanna just talk more about it, I'm sure he's always happy to have those conversations. To those who aren't subscribed yet to our email list, it's easy to do it. You can do it at betweenthelines.io. You just get a quick email every time we have a new episode. We've got some really cool things coming this season, some partnerships with other organizations, really diving more into some of these important transportation topics, around the industry coming up this year. So definitely make sure you subscribe to that email list, you follow us, wherever you're listening to podcasts or watching it on YouTube. And it helps for us for sure if you give us a rating, give us a like that you… Yeah, it's always good to do that. It helps us make sure we're doing the right thing. Jerome, it's been great to have you. Thanks again for joining us. We will be in touch on social media and we're excited to see what you do at TransitCenter. Really important work you're doing there, and I'm really excited to see this kind of transformation across the country and the world. I'm really thinking about systemic racism and representative leadership. It's a really cool thing that you're working on.

- (Jerome Horne) Well, thanks so much Andy for having me on the show, and I look forward to future conversations.

- (Andy Keeton) Awesome, great.

- (Jerome Horne) Thanks everyone for listening!

- (Andy Keeton) I will see you next time.

- (Voiceover) Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of "Between the Lines" with Andy Keeton. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.