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.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!
Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.
Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.