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.
There is an epidemic of safety accidents, absenteeism and high turnover among transit’s front line employees and it’s bleeding the transportation industry billions of dollars. But the inoculation may be closer than you think. Employee engagement is the best immunization for what’s ailing the industry.
Video surveillance technology is a vital component to transit and rail operations as agencies recognize the value such solutions offer. A comprehensive system does more than deliver high quality video and audio recordings. Supporting data and software tools increase the efficiency of agencies’ video management operations, substantiate liability claims and investigations, and promote safety for both passengers and operators alike.
In case you missed it, Pope Francis visited America — and was followed by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during his stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. It’s fitting, given Pope Francis’ penchant for public transportation, that transit played a key role in taking the masses to papal visit activities.
A transit authority’s website, contact center tools and social media are all critical touch points for customers as they engage with transit agencies. At this stage in the relationship, the focus should be on informing and educating prospective customers so they have the incentive to provide their demographic information (e.g. email address, cell phone number, social media contact, etc.).
Typically, when riding the rails in the Philadelphia region, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority customers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes — even onboard tickets — for their journeys. But the weekend of Sept. 26 to 27 will be far from a typical weekend in Philadelphia — Pope Francis will be in town, along with an estimated 1.5 to two million people attending public events along the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.