In the transit industry, success has historically been measured by ridership. Does this mean that all agencies have failed since March 2020? No. If we have learned anything from the experiences of the past year, it is that agencies should define success by looking beyond ridership numbers in order to convey the broader value that transit provides. As TransPro’s CEO, Mark Aesch, often states - you can produce as many cups of coffee as you’d like, but only a good cup of coffee will encourage customers to come back for more. The key to success is identifying a clear direction for the agency, and the areas of focus that you choose to prioritize. These are the first two steps in TransPro’s Success Planning process; identifying WHY you exist, and WHAT strategic areas of focus you will choose to define and measure success.
One agency in the Mountain West is currently in the process of identifying their WHY and redefining WHAT success looks like. Their leadership team engaged in collaborative sessions to align on Mission and Vision statements that best illustrate the agency’s direction, and 4 outcomes that define agency success.
Read on to see the preliminary outcomes of their Success Plan. Hint: It’s not focused on ridership.
This leadership team began by identifying WHY the agency exists and where they want to be in the future. For most agencies, this initial step will drive the definition of success; we often illustrate the significance of identifying your WHY by sharing a concept made popular by Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why - “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” After a lengthy and engaging exploration of both individual and organizational WHYs, the leadership team at this agency settled on a Mission and Vision that encapsulates the essence of the agency’s drive and direction.
Using the Mission and Vision statements as a foundation, the next step of the Success Planning process is to define WHAT success looks like - what are the strategic areas of focus that the agency will prioritize and measure. At this stage, it is most important to consider value over volume. This particular agency embraced this concept head-on; they were able to use their WHY to inform their WHAT - identifying an increase in the value the agency brings to the community as the most important success outcome. Their decision to focus on increasing community value was not a rejection of the significance of ridership, but instead an acknowledgement of the agency’s dedication to improving the lives of residents in the region. Ridership will most likely always be one metric of many used to track progress towards realizing success, but it will not be the sole driving force.
As we enter the post-pandemic recovery phase, we are beginning to see more agencies embrace this concept. The mantra of value over volume also trickles into the next phases of the success planning process - identifying HOW to achieve an organization’s goals, and WHO will be a part of the team involved. We are not leaving ridership behind; we are simply adjusting the lens to focus on providing high-quality public transit service across the country.