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Prime Numbers: Cleveland's Performance Management System Offers Model, Best Practices for Peer Agencies

Spokesperson, Media Relations Manager
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

When the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) made a presentation to the American Bus Benchmarking Group (ABBG) recently, offering an update on its innovative accomplishment and record-breaking cost savings related to its performance management initiatives, five public transportation systems made plans to visit Cleveland to see how they could “get on board.”

That’s because eight years ago, RTA itself made a visit to the city of Baltimore to study its CitiStat program and also studied the New York Police Department’s CompStat initiative. Shortly thereafter, RTA began developing its own version of performance management programs called TransitStat, the agency’s initiative and philosophy that calls for enhancing performance through timely, meaningful and actionable data.

“This is all about one transit system helping another,” said RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese.

“We were fortunate enough to learn the tools and techniques from Baltimore and now we are paying that forward and are sharing—and learning—together, from one transit system to another.”

TransitStat entails the frequent gathering, reviewing, analyzing and monitoring of critical success measures, and it links the authority’s technology and data systems to performance and accountability. It requires RTA’s management structure to use information systems to define, measure, analyze, improve and control operations and links operational performance to the authority’s business strategies and goals.

TransitStat programs are characterized with weekly or bi-weekly performance monitoring forums, which RTA’s executive management team, budget/performance office and relevant department directors attend.

“We are ensuring that the people needed to address issues are at the table. That way, we eliminate excuses,” Calabrese said. “Results are measured weekly rather than monthly, quarterly or yearly. That’s because, what gets measured, gets done,” Calabrese said.

Most important, it is saving millions in taxpayer dollars—a whopping $60 mil­lion since 2008.

Additionally, as a result of analyzing TransitStat data, Calabrese spearheaded programs such as asset management, fuel hedging and energy procurement, all which have promoted operational efficiencies while providing substantial cost savings.

Leading by Example
The program has been such a success that other public transit systems have visited the authority to learn more in hopes of copying its stellar results.

In fact, officials from San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA; Regional Transit System, Rochester, NY; and LYNX, Orlando, have all recently traveled to Cleveland to take a closer look.

Donna ­DeMartino, RTD general manager and chief executive officer, said her April visit to RTA was prompted by the agency’s challenge to manage multiple, complex projects while managing the demands of day-to-day operations and ensuring effective project delivery. “When I heard about the TransitStat program, I was eager to see how it could help us,” she said.

The RTD team participated in several staff presentations and subsequent productive, performance-driven interactions during its visit. “While the presentations were formal, the atmosphere was casual, which allowed open two-way conversation,” she said, adding, “I especially liked the fact that RTA decision makers are together at a regularly scheduled time, so everybody has the opportunity to stay updated on issues and staff can ask and answer questions, request resources and get approvals expeditiously.”

Next steps for RTD? “We came home with a binder full of information to help us on our path,” DeMartino said. “We also learned about RTA’s impressive internship and management development programs. We plan to start our own program at RTD very soon, although we expect to customize it to our needs—like meeting a little less frequently and incorporating budget information into all staff presentations. We were all impressed with the RTA staff’s professionalism and commitment to the process.”

RTD and other recent visitors to the Cleveland agency join more than a dozen other organizations and systems from around the country that have already adopted TransitStat principles for their systems, including the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh; Maryland Transit Administration, ­Baltimore; Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR; Hampton Roads Transit, VA; and Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus.

“We were particularly impressed by how Joe Calabrese and his executive leadership team link performance measures using TransitStat to RTA’s broader business strategies and goals,” said Curtis Stitt, COTA president and chief executive officer.
“Based upon what we learned in Cleveland, we developed a similar program we’ve called PerformanceStat (or P-Stat),” he added. Specifically, he said COTA designed P-Stat to measure, analyze and improve metrics for its Performance Incentive Compensation Program (PIC), which replaces a long-standing “bonus” program and instead rewards employees for achieving certain metrics in safe operations, on-time performance, ridership and service reliability, among other areas.
Committees for each PIC category meet regularly to evaluate monthly performance and develop strategies for continuous improvement; COTA’s leadership team meets with the committees monthly to review results, ask questions and share suggestions. The authority also holds monthly meetings for all administrative employees to review progress on initiatives.

“By establishing P-Stat, evaluating and understanding data and identifying solutions across areas of expertise, staff members are actually impacting the performance of the authority, improving our service on the street and motivating employees at all levels of the organization,” Stitt said, adding that in 2016, all coach operators and vehicle maintenance employees will be eligible for PIC and will participate in P-Stat.

Port Authority of Allegheny County initiated its TransitStat program in January 2014 in much the same format as RTA, said Ellen McLean, the authority’s chief executive officer, adding that the Port Authority team analyzed on-time performance and route performance, important measures of efficiency, early on in its implementation process.

“Using data from our automated vehicle locators (AVL) and automatic people counters (APC), management invested $1.5 million in specific routes in September 2014 to relieve overcrowding and improve frequency and run times,” McLean said. “The results are positive—a 2 percent increase in on-time performance and an uptick in ridership of approximately 580,000 trips annually among the piloted routes.”

These metrics enable management to think strategically about consolidation, expansion and reduction. “This data serves as the underpinnings of our new Transit Service Guidelines,” McLean noted.

Today, Port Authority’s program includes customer service, police, system safety, maintenance overtime and sustainability initiatives. “Overall, TransitStat enables management to target needed resources to the right places, solve problems with data and encourage strong working relationships across the agency,” McLean said.

Measuring Success
In addition to the $60 million in savings at RTA, Calabrese measures results in other ways. “The key attribute to obtaining breakthrough performance is data-driven management,” Calabrese said.

“When we shine the light of Transit­Stat on a problem, we see change. Results begin to happen. TransitStat’s consistent and continuous ­meetings establish a sense of urgency and accountability. Process improvement is important. Our weekly TransitStat meetings let everyone know it is important here,” he said.

Further, Calabrese counts the program’s growing value to the public transportation industry as a model others can follow. “In seven years, we have held 236 TransitStat meetings with 1,017 process improvement presentations,” he said. “I maintain that anybody who puts that kind of work into getting better is going to improve.”


Representatives from San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA; Regional Transit System, Rochester, NY; and LYNX, Orlando, visited Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in April to learn how RTA saved $60 million in seven years through TransitStat. CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese, left, explains the initiative.

Photos courtesy of Greater Cleveland RTA


Officials from the San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, CA, benchmark Greater Cleveland RTA’s performance management system. Participating, from left, are Donna DeMartino, general manager and chief executive officer; Wendell Krell, director of facilities; and Sharon Miller, director of procurement, partially hidden. Not pictured is Shelly Valenton, manager, strategic affairs.


Leaders from LYNX in Orlando, participate in an RTA session on TransitStat. Attending, from left, are Susan Black, general manager; Andrea Ostrodka, director of planning and development; Kay Sutula, RTA senior budget management analyst; and Blanche Sherman, director of finance.

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