The Christmas lights are put away, the champagne toasts are history, and hopefully, a few weeks into January, most of us are standing strong and sticking to our resolutions for the new year.
Thankfully, one of the most financially challenging years in the recent past is now in our rearview mirror. At Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), we are planning for 2011 to be a year in which we sharpen our vision for the future and set into motion a strategic plan that will aid our efforts to deliver transportation projects and programs.
Like transit agencies around the state and nation, we were not immune to the impacts that came with shrinking revenues, lagging ridership and cuts in funding. By acting quickly and making the difficult but necessary decisions to bring transit service and the size of our organization in line with our funding, OCTA was able to successfully manage through the recession.
We do have a number of positive accomplishments on the horizon, including the closeout of the 20-year Measure M program, (Orange County’s first half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements) which has delivered more than $4 billion in projects. And as the first Measure M program concludes, we officially begin collecting sales tax in April under the Measure M2 program that was approved by 70 percent of voters in 2006.
As we embark on the M2 program, which will provide more than $14 billion for transportation improvements over 30 years, OCTA is finalizing a strategic plan that will help set the foundation for future success in Orange County.
Just like large corporations and businesses across the economic landscape, this plan will help OCTA take a strategic, outcome-oriented approach to implementing our programs. The plan will further refine our agency’s core goals and objectives, and set measurable strategies to ensure we are keeping our promises to the voters, while fully engaging our board, our employees and our stakeholders in the process.
Because of the necessity in today’s climate to provide transparency in government, we want to be sure we are being good stewards of the public’s taxes and that our constituents are aware of our progress and accomplishments. We will create a dashboard of performed objectives that can be measured quarterly and provided for public review.
I encourage other transportation agencies that haven’t developed a strategic plan to consider the benefits it could offer your agency. With a changing economic climate and major shifts taking place in Washington, a strategic plan can provide a refreshed direction to guide both short- and long-term transportation planning.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.
One might think with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and passengers carrying more packages than usual on buses, trains and trolleys, transit organizations’ lost and found departments could be busier than usual. For large authorities like the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the lost and found bins are often full throughout the year, not just during the Christmas season.
A man climbs into the cab of a tractor trailer, hauling himself into the massive driver’s seat and shutting the door behind him as if settling into a captain’s chair.
The steering wheel is massive, evoking the wheel of a mighty sailing ship even at it protruds from a dashboard covered in electronic controls and sleek digital displays. The driver engages the engine and, with a few button presses, the truck rumbles to life.
Watching the scenery pass by out the driver’s side window
The number of younger people getting drivers’ licenses has continually declined since 1996 and that adults between the ages of 20 to 30 are more likely to stay in cities rather than move to suburbs, according to the United States Public Interest Research Group. This data, then, would indicate that the millennial generation (the largest generation) is a major contributor to the surge in ridership transportation organizations across the country are experiencing.