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12 CHAPTER THREE SURVEYS--METHODOLOGY AND RESULTS OVERVIEW obtained by e-mail.) The agencies were picked at random from APTA's directory, with one agency randomly selected Two surveys (one random and one of selected agencies) were from each state. The purpose of this survey was simply to conducted to determine the extent of the use of strategic plan- determine what percentage of transit systems perform some ning in the transit industry and the nature of its use. A number kind of strategic planning, with the primary question being of important benefits or effects of strategic planning were cited whether or not the agency performs strategic planning. A few by survey respondents, such as the creation of a new vision for supplemental questions were asked to confirm that they were the agency; giving the entire agency a sense of direction; the really talking about strategic planning and not some other development of a shared understanding of goals and objectives kind of planning, and to get a brief sense of the benefits among staff, management, and the agency board; development derived and the lessons they learned. of a stronger customer orientation; greater board ownership of overall agency initiatives; and greater support from external The interviews were generally with the head of the agency stakeholders. Also mentioned was its usefulness in obtaining or a designated individual, such as the person in charge of additional public funding. strategic planning. Responses were obtained from transit agen- cies in 38 of the 50 states (76%). Table 1 summarizes these Common strategic plan components are a vision and mis- responses according to agency size. sion statement, an internal and external environmental scan, an identification of strategic issues and/or initiatives, action For purposes of this project, the transit systems were cat- plans, and performance measures. Several common themes egorized by size as follows: were mentioned as keys to success in strategic planning: · Broad participation and involvement by management, · Small--fewer than 100 vehicles. staff, and other key stakeholders. · Medium--100500 vehicles. · Making the process collaborative and cross-functional; · Large--More than 500 vehicles. getting broad buy-in. · Good communication about the plan so that everyone A copy of the questionnaire used in this survey is included as understands their role in its success. Appendix C. A pivotal issue explored in the survey was how effective The second, more detailed, survey was sent to 44 transit the agencies are in implementing their plans. A key strat- agencies selected primarily on the recommendations of the egy for successful implementation is to link the strategic synthesis panel members (a handful of these agencies were plans to other important organizational processes such as also part of the random survey). In part, these agencies were budgeting, capital programming, and performance measure- selected because they were likely to conduct strategic plan- ment. Another key strategy is to incorporate a regular progress ning. To improve the return rate, follow-up phone calls were reporting system. made or reminder e-mails were sent to all recipients who did not return the surveys by the requested date. A copy of the survey questionnaire is included as Appendix D. Twenty four METHODOLOGY of the agencies (55%) responded. Table 2 summarizes the responses by size or type of agency. The two surveys conducted as part of this project were (1) a random survey of 50 transit agencies and (2) a separate more detailed survey of 44 specific agencies recommended pri- RESULTS--RANDOM SURVEY marily by the synthesis project panel members. In addition, the agency of each of the panel members affiliated with a Use of Strategic Planning transit system was included. The agencies that responded to each survey are listed in Appendices A (random survey) and The respondents to the initial random survey were asked if B (selective survey). they perform strategic planning (not including the federally required Transportation Development Programs/Long-Range The random survey was done primarily by means of a Transportation Plans). Thirty-one (82%) reported that they short (5 minute) telephone interview. (A few surveys were do perform strategic planning and 7 (18%) that they do not.
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13 TABLE 1 environmental scans were or, upon explanation, called them SUMMARY OF RESPONSES (by agency size) different things. Also, some agencies perform environmental % of Total scans, but do not include them in their strategic plan docu- Agency Size Responses Responses ments.) Table 4 summarizes the responses. Small 23 61 Medium 10 26 Large 5 13 Total 38 100 Benefits Gained Transit agencies were also asked about the greatest benefit they received from strategic planning. A wide variety of Of the seven that do not perform strategic planning, four had responses were received. The responses can be grouped into performed it previously, and six planned to do so. Table 3 the following five categories. summarizes the responses by the size of the system. 1. The most common response (19) was that strategic planning allows for the transit staff and board to have Frequency a more long-range view in decision making and day- to-day activities. Those who answered this tended to The 31 respondents who do perform strategic planning were believe that strategic planning allowed them to focus then asked about the frequency of their planning efforts. on results and big picture goals instead of dwelling on Their responses were: the details of day-to-day tasks. 2. Fourteen respondents indicated that the strategic plan · More frequent strategic planning than annually--1 (3%). and process were used to restructure or expand exist- · Annual strategic planning (not an update)--9 (29%). ing services. Specifically, nine reported that strategic · Annual updating of existing strategic plan--10 (32%). planning was used for restructuring to gain a more effi- · Updating of strategic plan infrequently--11 (36%). cient use of resources (including ridership increases) and five noted that it was used as a guide for the expan- It is interesting to note that the majority of respondents (64%) sion of services. engage in some type of annual update or planning effort. 3. Ten respondents indicated that stakeholder (local gov- ernment, the public, and local businesses) awareness The length of time that a strategic plan covers ranged from was increased and input gained by the use of strate- a minimum of 1 year to a maximum of 25 years. Of the agen- gic planning. Specifically, seven suggested that they cies that do annual updating of their strategic plan, the aver- received more awareness and input from the public and age number of years their plan covers is 8.5. For all respon- from local government through strategic planning and dents, the average number of years covered was 9.3, with the three that suggested strategic planning guided them most common answer being 5 years. into partnerships between the private and public sector. 4. Eight respondents indicated that strategic planning helps Components Used clarify and align the thinking of the staff and board. For example, strategic planning coordinates organiza- There are several typical components of a strategic planning tional objectives and allows management and staff to document. Respondents were asked whether any of eight com- document what they know intuitively. It serves as a ponents were used in their strategic planning documents. The future guide for policymakers and staff and helps cre- most common components were mission statement (97%), ate consistency between the policymakers and the pol- recommendations (94%), and identification of strategic issues icy implementers. (81%). The least common components were the internal and 5. Finally, seven respondents indicated that strategic plan- external environmental scans--only 52% of the respondents ning was used in conjunction with funding concerns have them. (Many transit operators either did not know what and decisions. Specifically, strategic plans were used to TABLE 2 SURVEY RESPONSES (by size and type of agency) No. % of Total No. of Response % of Total Size/Type Surveyed Survey Pool Responses Rate (%) Respondents Small 5 11 1 20 4 Medium 19 43 12 63 50 Large 14 32 10 71 42 Commuter rail 2 5 1 50 4 Canadian 4 9 0 0 0 agencies Total 44 100 24 55 100