A preliminary report outlining the findings of an internal organizational review and peer analysis indicates that Michigan's Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) is fully capable of carrying out its current mission and that the agency compares favorably to its peers in the areas of controlling increases in expenses, increasing ridership and providing services beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The comprehensive review was conducted by McCollom Management Consulting of Darnestown, Md., in an effort to inform TheRide's CEO Michael Ford and board of directors about the current performance of the organization and to identify opportunities for improvement, as well as to provide an assessment of the organizational requirements necessary to realize a shared vision for public transportation in Washtenaw County.
"The organizational structure and senior management team are sound and well qualified to carry TheRide forward to meet the near term challenges of the agency. The core functions of transit operations and maintenance of the fixed-route service are excellent," stated the report.
The staffing levels of the agency were described as appropriate to the current mission, but with the recommendation for additional road supervision. Also, recommended was additional staffing to expand financial and operating planning and analysis, to upgrade and support the maintenance information technology system, and to increase communications and public outreach efforts, in preparation for the expansion of services throughout Washtenaw County.
The consulting firm also identified 12 peer transit systems chosen based on their similarities to TheRide in total operating expenses, number of passengers carried and miles of service provided. In addition to these criteria, the consultants also considered as important factors whether the peer transit agencies operated in a university community and whether the agencies faced a similar funding and economic environment.
The presentation showed that TheRide's financial and operating statistics are within expected ranges of those of its peer systems. In terms of total operating expenses, management decisions over the past several years have resulted in controlling costs so that the average annual rate of increase is about 1.4 percent, or well under inflation — while the average peer system experienced cost increases of 4 percent.
The peer review also identified that the cost per service hour, which TheRide has focused on recently, is virtually the same as the peer average when adjusted for Regional Price Parities that reflect the overall costs of living in urban areas across the country.
The consultants will include their recommendations in a final report due to be completed in June.