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28 The plan document and planning process were streamlined reduction in customer injuries and employee lost-time in 1996 to focus on the key strategic issues within the MTA accidents. and its agencies. Some of the information that was previously 2. It has led to a reordering of priorities within the cus- included in the strategic plan (e.g., ridership trends and tomer satisfaction goal. The late 1990s saw a stronger financial results) is now documented in the agencies' operat- emphasis on programs to increase service levels to ing budget. Other information that was previously included meet growing demand. This has now shifted to pro- (major studies and their implications, changing technology, grams to increase service reliability. and emerging issues) is discussed in separate, more specific 3. Even though the agency had a relatively flush period in reports on an as-needed basis. the late 1990s, it was able to stay focused on initiatives to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Plan Development Keys to Success and Lessons Learned Each year, at the beginning of the strategic planning process, A critical review of strategies and programs to ensure that the MTA distributes a schedule for the plan's development they are the best means of achieving the agency's goals was and approval. Soon after, NYC Transit's president distrib- cited as one key to success. Another is a review of perfor- utes a "guidance" memo that identifies the specific areas in mance targets to ensure that they reflect the continuous, which he wants to see more programmatic emphasis. The incremental improvement that takes recent and planned activ- president also reviews the draft plan before it is submitted to ities into account. the MTA board to ensure that it includes appropriate pro- grams and performance targets. A similar review function is NYC Transit has found that departments are sometimes performed at a lower staff level by strategic planning staff. reluctant to include programmatic activities in the strategic Issues that cannot be resolved at this level are then raised to plan or to set ambitious targets for their performance indica- the president. tors, in case these activities are not achieved. In part, the involvement of the president mentioned previously under Plan Implementation has helped to overcome this problem. Plan Implementation The respondent noted that to be effective, buy-in by the NYC Transit's Manager of Strategic Transportation Plan- agency president and throughout the organization is required. ning has described strategic planning at the agency as "the Staff at all levels need to recognize the importance of meet- confluence of customers, operations, and budgets." He ing the program and performance targets that are established rates the agency as "very effective" (a rating of 4 on a scale in the plan. of 1 to 5) in implementing its strategic plan. The reason for this is that the programs included in the plan must be TRANSIT AUTHORITY OF RIVER CITY included in either the operating or capital budgets. In ad- dition, the capital planning process uses the goals of the Agency Description strategic plan in establishing priorities among competing project proposals. TARC serves the greater Louisville, Kentucky region, which includes service in Jefferson and Bullitt counties in Kentucky Another reason is that when the plan is updated each year, and Clark and Floyd counties in Indiana. The population of departments report on their progress. Progress reports are the service area is estimated to be approximately one million. also made through other mechanisms outside the strategic The system also serves the University of Louisville. planning framework. The agency operates approximately 285 regular buses and an additional 8 buses are operated by contractors. It also Significant Benefits operates 9 paratransit vehicles, with an additional 74 oper- ated by contractors. Riders make 16.5 million unlinked pas- NYC Transit's experience with strategic planning was rated as senger trips on the system each year, with a total operating being "very useful" (a rating of 4 out of 5), and the establish- expense of $41 million. A proposed light-rail service is cur- ment of goals and objectives for programs and performance rently in the preliminary engineering stage. indicators as an important means of measuring progress. Three specific benefits were cited: Strategic Plan Document 1. The focus on safety for employees and customers begun TARC's strategic plan, TARC Strategic Plan FY20032004, in the 19972001 strategic plan has led to a substantial was adopted at the end of FY 2002. It is interesting to note that
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29 the TARC strategic plan uses a more informal and conversa- analysis and environmental assessment. This lays the ground- tional style than most strategic plans, making it more engag- work for development of the year's specific performance ing to readers. For example, the strategic plan is described as plan. From there, TARC involves several community mem- "our `owner's manual' reminding us to regularly check the bers--from grass roots organizations and average citizens to pulse of our customers and team members alike and to peri- elected officials and local businessmen. odically fine-tune our performance." The plan contains the following key elements: During the major 5-year planning effort, all the current processes are called into question, including taking all the · Mission, vision, and critical success factors (an exten- routes off the board and deciding where they should be sion of the vision statement). redrawn. · Departmental objectives and strategies. · A description and analysis of the agency's internal and external environments, including a list of factors, then Plan Implementation a discussion of them using "a better Louisville would look like . . ." type of model. The agency reports that it has been "fairly effective" at imple- · A Long-Range Advanced Transit Plan, which is a menting the strategic plan (a rating of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5), detailed 5-year plan with a 1520-year horizon. and that it provides a good framework for the staff to work · A capital improvement program. within. There is recognition that a plan is only effective if it · A Performance Plan that details the current year's is actually used by the organization. Therefore, in various departmental performance objectives. ways, the agency focuses on it throughout the year. · A customer service analysis, a comprehensive study that includes input from riders, the general public, TARC The annual goals and objectives for each department are board and staff, etc., and designed to identify the most worked into employee performance appraisals and budget "cost-effective, operationally sound, and customer- components to make sure the plan is implemented and con- friendly" system of transit services possible. tinuously used. In addition, the board's evaluation of the executive director is based on achievement of strategic plan objectives. The planning process is linked with all key orga- Plan Development nizational processes such as budgeting, capital programming, service planning, and performance measurement. The TARC board initiated the current long-range strategic plan in 1994, with the creation of a new mission statement, Performance objectives and milestones are jointly devel- critical success factors, goals, and strategies. Management oped by department heads, the director of strategic manage- quickly supported the idea. TARC has embraced strategic ment, and the executive director, and are monitored monthly. planning by implementing multiple outside stakeholder meet- TARC compiles a monthly report highlighting progress in ings and involvement regarding its future. The executive key performance areas (e.g., customer service, transporta- director believes that strategic planning has been "very use- tion, and maintenance). The performance report provides ful" at the agency (a rating of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5). year-to-date performance data and comparison data for the previous calendar year. TARC's management team reports TARC is currently placing special emphasis on customer progress toward overall performance objectives on a quar- focus, regionalism (by expanding service borders), new part- terly basis. nerships with the community, and new technology (e.g., by providing instantly available trip planning and scheduling information on their website). In 2004, TARC initiated a Significant Benefits Comprehensive Customer Service Analysis called Project Gobility, which is a broad survey and public involvement ini- TARC has experienced several significant benefits from its tiative that will help identify TARC's future direction. This strategic planning efforts. First, in 2003, the agency won project will update the last customer service analysis com- the Kentucky Psychology Association's Psychological pleted in 1996 and will involve union and nonunion Healthy Workplace award for the second consecutive year, employees in its implementation strategies. and the 2004 LaborManagement Award recognizing out- standing joint achievements of labor and management in TARC's strategic planning and implementation process is the commonwealth of Kentucky. They are currently viewed overseen by the director of strategic management. The plan, as the "go-to solution leaders on public transportation which is updated annually, covers 5 years in detail with a issues in their region," and according to the executive direc- broader 15- to 20-year horizon. Each year, the board and man- tor, they are "clearly identified as part of the solution, not agement have a 1-day retreat where they focus on a SWOT the problem."
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30 Keys to Success and Lessons Learned · Look at the future with and without monetary con- straints--"you have to be able to dream, but you also The keys to success for TARC have been engagement and have to be real." involvement--the executive director's goal is to "get every- · Keep checking and rechecking who is engaging and one's thumb on the blade." Another key was to make sure to who is not engaging in the process. "carve out time for strategic planning and then make it · Celebrate accomplishments. sacred," a sentiment that is often echoed by other organiza- tions. The executive director also provided the following observations: