The SMART project in Chatham County enhances community resilience by improving transportation connectivity in historically disadvantaged areas. Beginning in Spring 2024, the FUSE Executive Fellow will lead efforts to address gaps in transportation, homelessness, and affordable housing, aiming to improve microtransit policy development in the region by April 2025 through collaboration with Chatham Area Transit (CAT), academic institutions, and industry experts.
Fellowship Dates: April 22, 2024 – April 21, 2025
Salary: Executive Fellows are FUSE employees and receive an annual base salary of $80,000. Fellows can also access various health, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Compensation for this year of public service is not intended to represent market-rate compensation for the experienced professionals in our program.
ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP
FUSE is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.
When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and able to effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.
Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. Throughout their fellowships, they receive training, coaching, and professional support from FUSE to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.
In recent years, communities across the country have witnessed a proliferation of extreme weather events and are subsequently striving to become more resilient to reduce vulnerabilities to residents. In Chatham County, a myriad of storms and heavy rain events have reinforced this trend. A linchpin of community resilience is a city’s transportation network, as a decarbonized public transit system has a profound impact on residents’ mobility, air quality, workforce, equity, and housing needs.
As affordable housing and transportation are often the two highest household costs, a lack of transit access and options is a struggle most cities are facing and has a significant impact on the health and welfare of communities. Chatham Area Transit (CAT) provides fixed route, ferry, and paratransit services throughout Savannah, Chatham County, and portions of Garden City, an expansive and diverse area of 438 square miles. In addition to operating more than 60 accessible buses on 16 routes, CAT partners with the City of Savannah to run a free downtown shuttle called the dot and the Savannah Belles Ferry system to provide free passage across the Savannah River. The dot has recently expanded to a historically disadvantaged area adjacent to downtown. CAT also provides a reservation-based, curb-to-curb mobility service, CAT Mobility, to eligible persons with disabilities in Chatham County.
Like many other medium and smaller sized systems, CAT’s focus on fixed routes and corresponding paratransit service leaves many of its historically disadvantaged areas without broad or reliable connectivity. Approximately 60.2 percent of Chatham County residents live within .5 miles of fixed route service. However, only 11.4 percent of historically disadvantaged area residents are within .5 miles of service, limiting their access to the 65,900 jobs that are within .5 miles of transit. Our Strengthen Mobility & Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) project proposal will plan and prototype the partnerships and technology needed to explore potential zonal microtransit via electric vehicles (EVs) that can enable systems like CAT’s to increase connectivity, particularly those with the greatest needs dramatically. The project would propose to improve connectivity to jobs, healthcare, education, and services. The technology component, in partnership with Georgia Tech, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, and Savannah State University, coupled with industry experts on an External Advisory Board, will prototype a scalable approach.
According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), nearly 70 percent of all Americans who depend on the bus for their transportation needs make less than $50,000 per year. In Chatham County, 14.4 percent of all households are at or below the poverty level, and percent have no vehicle available. These findings demonstrate that lower-income residents rely on public transportation nationally and in Chatham County. With 90 percent of the nation’s population and 91.8 percent of Chatham County residents having access to a smartphone, utilizing an application on these phones to increase access to microtransit could significantly expand the reach of transit service for all residents, especially lower-income residents. Further job growth in the area, including the $5.5 billion, 8100+ job Hyundai Metaplant, as a fully dedicated facility for EV electric manufacturing, offers tremendous opportunity for the residents and the economy. It is adjacent to the proposed SMART prototype area.
A shift from the traditional fixed route with corresponding paratransit service as a model for public transportation to a more modern approach is an important area of exploration for multimodal systems across the country. Incorporating public access microtransit with its dynamic routing continues to emerge as a viable system. While some other limited microtransit pilots have utilized contract arrangements to deliver services, CAT proposes delivery through their existing bargaining unit operators, mechanics, and staff as a local workforce development approach. Further, as the County seeks to create well-paying opportunities and training for the jobs that will be the future of transit, they have included a training component for EVs and microtransit operations.
As these challenges and opportunities intersect in the community, the interrelated nature of community resilience, homelessness, affordable housing, and transportation connectivity is brought into sharp relief. This further demonstrates the need for community tools that support approaches and solutions that are multifaceted to bring about meaningful change truly.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.
Starting in the Spring of 2024, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will begin by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the efforts of CAT and local partners to leverage the East Savannah microtransit zone as a demonstration of bringing together electrified microtransit, affordable housing, and homelessness. The Executive Fellow will engage with the various stakeholders in the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless (CSAH), the area development agencies, including the City of Savannah and the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). The Executive Fellow will determine gaps, throughlines, and process and project integration opportunities in the ongoing efforts and from these conversations. The Executive Fellow will also determine how the interrelated points of transportation, homelessness, and affordable housing create levers of impact for the stakeholders and partners. The Executive Fellow will also research comparative approaches in peer cities, investigating innovative models nationwide that could serve CAT, the City of Savannah and Chatham County.
In the next phase, the Executive Fellow will create a strategy, forming recommendations for creating impact in the interrelated, interdependent focus areas of transportation, homelessness, and affordable housing using a solid lens of equity and whole community impact. After-action reports for the various partner organizations will provide scenario-planning tools to help engage in meeting ongoing and future needs and elevate responses beyond current practices. This will include a focus on the use of microtransit in cooperation with land use and community services.
The Executive Fellow will then facilitate the implementation of the strategy, initiating quick wins and tackling low-hanging fruit. The Executive Fellow will map timelines for integration, roles and responsibilities, new workflows, processes, policies, and metrics for tracking progress – leading change management across stakeholders. The Executive Fellow will also determine the personnel, funding, technical resources and training required to support the recommendations, exploring creative funding approaches and working to tap into new resource stream to facilitate the efforts.
By April 2025, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:
- Conduct a Stakeholder Listening Tour – Develop relationships with stakeholders in local government, transit experts, housing advocates, and community groups. Conduct a literature review of best practices in communities similar to Savannah and Chatham County.
- Analyze and Build the Strategy – Identify the strategy, costs, tradeoffs, and cost-benefit analysis of microtransit policy development in Chatham County and Savannah.
- Design Implementation Plans – Start to implement quick policy wins, laying the initial groundwork for longitudinal plans.
- Executive Sponsor – Faye DiMassimo, Chief Executive Officer; CAT
- Project Supervisor – Mary Moskowitz, Chief of Planning and Infrastructure Development; CAT
In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in project management is strongly preferred for this project.
- Approximately 15 years relevant experience, particularly with a robust record of success in project management, system development, capacity building
- Broad experience in transit and affordable housing required
- Excellent stakeholder engagement and facilitation skills
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
- Robust success in partnership development, coalition building and fostering collaboration
- An action oriented, self motivated leader who can also be an independent worker
- Leading process development across multiple coalitions of partners
- Familiarity with bureaucratic settings and managing diversity of opinions
- Creative problem solver
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
- Cross cultural agility, ability to relate to diverse audiences and perspectives with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
- Exceptional written and verbal skills including ease in public presentations
- Understands the needs for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, gender, religion, immigration status, ethnicity or housing status
FUSE is an equal opportunity employer with core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
How to Apply
Click here to apply online. Priority application deadline: February 16, 2024