L.A. Metro, Pierce Transit honored by NTI

The National Transit Institute (NTI) presented its 2009 Model Program Award to two recipients this year: the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and Pierce Transit in Lakewood, Wash.

Metro and Pierce Transit were awarded with this honor during the Transit Training Awards ceremony, as part of the NTI Transit Trainers' Workshop held in Cleveland, Oct. 25-28.

Metro recently implemented a comprehensive environmental policy centered on sustainability, and formally adopted the key strategic goal to "sustain the environment with efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions." To begin to reach this goal, Metro developed a new training program designed to increase employee awareness of sustainability concepts and explain how they impact the agency and its employees, clients and customers. The program, "Champions for Change," was made possible through grant funds obtained through a partnership with faculty from the Los Angeles Community College District. The training program is Metro-specific and has an extensive interactive training component using personal sustainability initiative principles to spread the message of sustainability among agency business units at work, at home and in their communities.

More than 350 Metro staff members had completed the training by August 2009, and Metro anticipates on having another 300 staff complete the training by July 2010.

The second recipient of this year's Model Program Award, Pierce Transit, also felt strongly that change begins with their employees. Based on the belief that their own employees are the best sources for innovative ideas for improving business practices, Pierce Transit developed and implemented Project Innovation in 2008. Project Innovation is a multi-faceted program that creates an employee volunteer-based research and development arm of the agency. During a Project Innovation cycle, five teams of employees from across the agency participate in intensive training and then work independently to brainstorm ideas for projects or initiatives focused in the areas of increasing ridership, making transit "cool" and green or sustainable practices. The ideas are then vetted and tested for applicability, cost and benefits to Pierce Transit, before being presented to the Board of Commissioners.

In 2008, 19 ideas were presented to the board, including "Real Time Bus Information System," "Customer Appreciation Days," Energy Star Certification," "Workplace Wellness Initiative" and "Big Belly Solar Trashcan." Of the original 19 ideas presented, the Board approved 16 for further study or immediate implementation. These 16 ideas were provided resources through the budgeting process. The 2009 Project Innovation team ideas will be presented this fall.

"Project Innovation has been an important effort to help assist Pierce Transit in preparing for the future," said Lynne Griffith, Pierce Transit CEO. "It has helped us to weather the very difficult decline in the economy, created opportunities of growth and improvement for employees, and helped us to become more nimble and flexible in the way we do our business."

"Both Metro and Pierce Transit have placed significant investment in their employees through their innovative training programs," said Paul Larrousse, Director of NTI. "Their recognition of the intrinsic value of their internal resources and commitment to training and excellence makes both of these efforts Model Programs."

The National Transit Institute was created by Congress and receives funding from the Federal Transit Administration to develop, promote, and deliver training and education programs for the public transit industry. NTI's mission is to provide training and educational resources in support of public transportation and quality of life in the U.S.

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