Management & Operations

Some changes, but commitment to quality continues

Posted on April 1, 2001 by Cliff Henke, Associate Publisher/Editor

This will be my last column as editor and associate publisher of METRO. It is a tenure that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Anyone who has helped to put words on a printed (and, recently, electronic) page knows how deeply rewarding the experience can be. They also know how grueling it can get. Hence the need to step back and allow new blood to infuse the pages of my favorite trade publication. To friend and rival alike, however, I will not go away entirely. Too many years and too much sweat have been invested herein to allow that to happen. I plan to continue writing for the publication and will be continuing my industry involvements in my new capacity, as part of the sales and marketing staff at North American Bus Industries. In short, very little changes except for the day-to-day intensity. For the day-to-day operations, the magazine continues to be in very good hands in those of Managing Editor Leslie Davis. Oversight remains with Publisher Frank Di Giacomo, as it has for more than a decade and counting. How this space will change Although this column has contained my editorial commentary, I have chosen to focus my opinions on only one theme: public transportation quality. The topic is a broad enough platform on which to say something useful and interesting every issue (which might not have been readily apparent, but that wasn’t the subject matter’s fault). More importantly, however, quality is the issue that will determine this industry’s fate. As management experts C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel point out, quality is no longer a competitive weapon. It is an essential prerequisite to competing for survival in the future. In other words, how well an organization or industry offers quality products and services no longer determines how well they can compete. It determines whether they will compete in the game at all. Accordingly, this column will change in name only. In the future, it will be called “Quality Matters.” It will feature short news items on customer service initiatives at both supplier and operator organizations, ISO 9000 news as it relates to the public transport industry and other quality-related developments. To have your organization’s news considered, contact Leslie at I am certain there will be plenty you can share with her. I am convinced that the only way this industry can compete against the door-to-door convenience of the personal auto is by offering a high-quality experience that meets customers’ needs for on-time performance, time savings, frequency of service and passenger amenities. That is far easier said than done, however. Public transport providers must actively engage their current and prospective riders, determine exactly what they want, design services accordingly and measure objectively how well service meets the targets. And it must never stop; in fact, it must continue to get better. My feeling is that the industry will meet all these challenges. The public will demand it, and has already supported the demands with record investments at all levels of government. So has the private sector. I have said before that public transportation will not have fully arrived until it interests both Wall Street and Main Street. The industry is starting to show serious business potential—hopefully the recent stock market troubles will not make the moneybags gun-shy. As I move into a new phase of my transit career I hope readers will continue to contact and engage me and METRO on these issues. It’s not really goodbye, then. See you around.

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