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Technology Helps Make Case for Performance Metrics with JTA's Labor Unions

BY CLEVELAND FERGUSON III
Vice President-Administration
Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority


When Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. became chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in 2012, he inherited low morale among company employees and an opaque data-gathering system. Ford brought with him 12 "characteristics of leadership” for each employee to strive to exhibit. In 2013, JTA issued its first scorecard, titled “JTA On Track,” designed to get the authority on mission.By July 2015, JTA upped the ante, increasing its use of technology and data management to improve operational efficiency by providing each administrative employee a stake in the authority’s success. One year later, the JTA Enterprise Metrics Management System, or JEMMS®, was born.

JEMMS links JTA’s organizational goals by tying departmental scorecards to  shared metrics and then assigning a small number of these metrics to each employee (see diagram #1). Success in the employee metrics was tied to departmental success, which inured to the benefit of the organization. This had the effect of focusing everyone’s workflow and significantly improving the likelihood of the authority achieving its annual goals. Employees could see how their efforts drove the success of the business and each employee could see his or her efforts reflected in mid-year reviews and annual merit increases.

Technology makes it possible to track progress monthly and in a way that rolls up to a dashboard. That dashboard is accessible to the JTA Board of Directors and the public, who in turn can evaluate and assess staff progress. Process improvements, costs saved and other efficiencies gained that are not tracked on the dashboard are readily accessible in tracking containers: software programming that allows users to document operational and financial efficiencies that are later verified by business intelligence personnel before an employee receives credit for the process improvement. Technology enhances the ability of staff to make more-informed decisions and shift resources where needed without a large lag between cause of the issue and its discovery.

However, JEMMS was missing one important area: employees in the bargaining units representing the majority of JTA employees. With both International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) contracts expiring in 2017, this situation had to change.

 Diagram #1: The JTA Enterprise Metrics Management System (JEMMS).

The mandate from the JTA board and CEO was to include performance metrics in both contracts and to do so on the first contract ratification vote. Aside from being members of the bargaining unit, these were JTA employees with as much of a stake in the success of the authority as administrative employees. Ridership was trending down. Any increases in pay had to be tied to measurable results. How else could pay increases be justified to our customers if the authority was not turning on all cylinders?

The negotiating team of Lisa Darnall, vice president-transit operations; Cleveland Ferguson III, vice president-administration; and Kelli O’Leary, director-human resources & organizational development, was supported by ­William R. Moseley of the Jackson Lewis law firm. Together, they decided first to tackle negotiations with IAM (the smaller of the two unions).

The key element for the team was to use technology to turn big data into smart data. What were the facts with respect to absenteeism, safety and performance? JTA needed to get beyond the anecdotes typically expressed across the bargaining table.

Diagram #2: Automated data points, including wage rates and years of service.

In dealing with the two locals, JTA used technology to automate more than 350,000 data points, including those on wage rates, benefits, deductions, turnover percentages and years of service (see diagram #2). Why was this important?

Union members have needs. First and foremost, they are JTA employees. The authority needed to put the negotiating team in the best position to meet the asks of union leadership while maintaining firm control of the budgetary limits within which the team was operating. Balancing those along with JTA’s non-financial operational needs was essential.

JTA was able to cut weeks of analysis into days, running multiple models in real time under the tense back-and-forth circumstances that come with the negotiations territory. The real-time use of technology kept both sides at the bargaining table and considerably shortened the length of time it took to achieve a viable collective bargaining agreement for negotiations.

On the first vote, the locals of both the IAM and ATU agreed to metrics in the areas of performance, safety and attendance, placing a percentage of their earnings at risk. Management obtained effective measures that can be adjusted as the needs of the authority change, while the represented employees have the opportunity to maximize their wages—all within budget.

Diagram #3: JTA’s organizational scorecards, forecasts and dashboards.

Both administrative employees and represented employees are now being held accountable for JTA’s annual goals. Technology enabled this win-win for the authority and should represent a reliable path forward for bargaining in the ­public transportation industry.

Any agency can start by turning its big data into spreadsheets with pivot tables. Eventually, all relevant systems can be tied together, with external-facing skins, to suit the audience, e.g., board and public (see diagram #3).

Only administrators and technologists are concerned about back-of-house functions, but everyone cares that the data remains automated, accurate, ­accessible and capable of being audited. Once staff puts in the time to stand up the process, the ability to analyze the data becomes limited only by individual queries.

JTA believes so much in the power of technology to do this that it provides its business intelligence and legal teams for teach-ins or consulting through our technology training platforms under JTA University or JTA-U.

For more information, readers can contact Cleveland Ferguson III.


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