Capital Area Transportation Authority
Strategic Crisis Communication Planning
Goal: Create a thorough crisis communications plan for new CATA leadership that will help carry them through future crises.
The Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, is the main form of public transportation offered in the greater Lansing area. CATA buses also connect Michigan State University with the community and are an affordable mode of transportation for residents and visitors.
In fiscal year 2018, passengers took 10,384,586 trips on CATA, with almost half of those coming from paratransit services. The Authority’s governmental membership includes the cities of Lansing and East Lansing, and the townships of Delhi, Lansing, and Meridian.
Martin Waymire reviewed past CATA media coverage and researched 50 potential different crises affecting transportation providers, including traffic accidents, management missteps, route cancellations, and crimes. After reviewing the crises, we drafted a list of questions to ask CATA’s leadership that helped us create a crisis communications plan.
Action Plan & Communication Overview:
In early 2018, CATA underwent a significant management change when a new CEO took over, resulting in a commitment to make CATA more transparent and accountable to the audiences they serve. After struggling with public trust issues surrounding overtime pay, unpaid taxes, and general transparency, Martin Waymire began work with CATA in late 2018 to assist them with a shift in their crisis preparation and public relations strategy.
When work began with CATA, they did not have a crisis communication plan and notification structure in place. After assessing the current structure and team capacity, Martin Waymire’s team wrote a crisis communication plan for CATA and guided CATA’s public relations and leadership team through steps for implementation.
Since the crisis communication plan development, the tools, structures, and strategies in the plan have been used to consult and guide CATA through small-scale crises involving CATA bus operators, union negotiations, and earned media responses.
Martin Waymire’s work with CATA is ongoing and our crisis communications plan has been a versatile resource for the organization as they continue to develop.
In 2020, Martin Waymire worked with CATA to conduct market research through a phone survey of area voters ahead of a millage renewal to determine community support. Results from the survey indicated widespread support for the millage and CATA’s services within the mid-Michigan area and were used to further position CATA as a valuable and reliable community asset.