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30 CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH The innovative spirit is alive and well in rural transit. In the Uncovering Innovations 10 years since TCRP Report 70: Guidebook for Change and Innovation at Rural and Small Urban Transit Systems was Identifying innovation in the transit industry is difficult for published, transit agencies continue to innovate and change. a variety of reasons: Study efforts for this synthesis suggest that many rural tran- sit managers have adopted an innovative and/or entrepre- · There is often a fine line between innovation and suc- neurial spirit, motivated at times by limited resources and cessful practice. in some cases by changing demographics in their service · Surveying departments of transportation and state and areas. Successful rural transit systems are capable and ready national associations is not effective when discussing to change and innovate as needed. The need to innovate has specific transit-level activities, as these organizations not changed and the motivation remains. are not always aware of what is happening at a transit system unless the system manager informs them of the innovation. Many state departments of transportation INNOVATION AND SUCCESSFUL PRACTICES and national-level transit organizations were not inter- ested in participating in the synthesis's survey effort; There is a fine line between innovation and successful prac- instead, they pointed us to systems they knew of that tice. Some innovations are truly innovative, but in most had innovative/successful practices. cases one transit agency's "innovation" is a practice bor- · Asking managers about their innovations produces few rowed from elsewhere that is totally new for the agency or results; asking about successful practices (some of which that the agency has modified for its own purposes. Some of are truly innovative) generates a significant response. the true innovations in transit include bus wraps (one of the Most transit managers do not think of their innova- first was a rural transit system), bicycle racks, flex routes, tive projects as innovative. Instead, they say that their immediate response dial-a-ride, Greyhound rural feeder practice or program is just a "common sense" approach, service, ticket agent, and depot manager (TCRP Report 70 ). "logical," or "seemed like the right thing to do." Beyond these, many practices and programs at rural transit · Some managers have difficulty grasping the definition agencies could be termed innovative or successful practices, of innovation. Furthermore, many rural transit manag- but when newly adopted they could be considered innovative ers do not see other system managers periodically or for that particular agency. go to conferences regularly. Thus, they do not have a frame of reference for what might be innovative. Possibly the most important innovation identified in the case study reviews for this synthesis is the ability of a rural Entrepreneurial Spirit--Leadership transit system to reinvent itself. Based on these reviews, the ability to make significant changes to the agency's opera- Perhaps more important than determining whether a rural tion is critical to success. The transit agency essentially transit agency has implemented an innovation or borrowed becomes innovative by virtue of its ability to change. Once a creative idea from another transit agency is its organiza- the agency begins to make changes to meet the realities of its tional ability to make change happen. Changing demograph- circumstances, innovation becomes the norm. These organi- ics, technology, and of course economic factors play a major zations often innovate as a reaction to a problem, but once role in shaping rural transit systems. The real innovation is they develop the culture of innovation they become proac- in the change and reinvention of the organization to meet tive in their ability to change. With the constant change that these changing dynamics. rural transit managers face, this organizational ability to change and reinvent is a trait seen in the case studies in ear- In the literature and the case studies in this synthesis, lier TCRP work on innovation and again in the case studies the key element to change in every case is a dynamic, entre- of this synthesis. preneurial manager. Each of the innovators simply has an