It has been a busy two weeks since TACK10’s EVP & Partner Laura Richard returned from the Canadian Association of Urban Transit Annual Conference in Calgary where strategic partnerships were a dominant subject.  As a natural follow up from the piece we wrote about the Future of Public Services, Laura promised us her thoughts out of Paul Comfort’s dynamic CEO Roundtable which closed the conference and we are pleased to share her insights and thoughts today. Laura wrote this piece to include highlights from each of the CEOs who took part in the Roundtable and has added on a TACK10 Take to each, providing additional insights for transit sector teams and businesses who have interest in working with transit agencies.


Metrolinx’s CEO Phil Verster emphasizes the importance of diversity at the leadership table

One might think that Phil was jumping on the bandwagon of gender parity for positive buzz when he set the goal of raising the % of women in management positions from 33% at the time he joined to 50% by 2021. However, the CEO explained the rationale for this target very explicitly. He said that very simply, every single team he had ever been a part of or lead where there was diversity functioned as better, more effective teams. He didn’t have hard data to say why this was the case but from experience believes wholeheartedly in the importance of diversity within teams at all levels of an organization and particularly at the leadership table. That experience is shared by so many leaders as this Hardvard Busines Review Article shows. Our own CEO, James Chalmers has some great insights on this as well. “Diversity within teams also creates an environment of learning and understanding. When you take a ‘learning and understanding’ mindset into business, every stakeholder benefits. We all need to set that as an expectation within the organizations we work.”


TACK10 Take: Diversity in Partnerships create Sustainable Organizations

Reflecting on diversity in leadership teams, TACK10 would encourage organizations to think about diversity within strategic partnership portfolios. It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘low hanging fruit’ and continuously looking to the same type of partnerships to deliver value for an organization. It is more difficult perhaps, but also more valuable for all stakeholders if organization’s think broadly about the organizational objectives and challenges they are faced with and consider the types of strategic partnerships which have the potential to solve core challenges by leveraging a number of the Core Value Drivers of Strategic Partnership.


BC Transit’s  President & CEO Erinn Pinkerton views transit as a social connection

Erinn Pinkerton is adamant that transit can and should play a role of keeping stakeholders safe. She spoke passionately about the Highway of Tears, a 725km corridor between Prince George and Prince Rupert, British Columbia which has been the location of up to 83 disappearances and murders since the 1970s. BC Transit is now operating long haul service along that stretch of the province and views the role in providing that service far more important that a revenue number. Creating safe spaces through transit is a key focus for Erinn and her teams.


TACK10 Take: Strategic Partnerships can bring additional services and activity to spaces which make them safer places for stakeholders to be

When organizations work together, they leverage their respective strengths and value drivers to create an exponential increase in impact. For transit agencies, thought can be given to what makes safe spaces – well lit, well frequented spaces with good visibility and consider the types of strategic partners who can contribute to the vibrancy of spaces, making them more welcoming and driving usage for ancillary uses.


Edmonton Transit System’s Eddie Robar spoke about the agency’s historic purchase of 50 Electric buses, the largest single purchase in Canadian history

As Edmonton becomes a tech hub in Canada, ETS is aligning with the vision of the city and acting as an innovating agency not simply through the single largest purchase of electric buses in the history of the country but also through changes that allow the service to act as all things to everyone. Just this week city council in Edmonton approved a bus network redesign which will see Edmonton delivering on this promise through a new transit network by September 2020.


TACK10 Take: Be forward thinking with the Strategic Partnership you develop and be ready to learn and adjust as market changes occur

Strategic Partnerships should not be developed just for today’s market conditions and realities – they can and should be created to address tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities. Beyond this, Strategic Partnerships should never be governed by the letter of the contract; agreements are in place to set principles of a partnership, but the most important factor in the success of a Strategic partnership is the active measuring and managing of key performance indicators. When done effectively, the structure and activities of a partnership will look far different five years down the line than they did at the beginning of the relationship.


The City of Calgary’s  Acting Transportation General Manager Doug Morgan spoke about transit spectators and the duty that agencies have to these stakeholders

Doug Morgan defined spectators as the people who live in the communities where transit moves through and asked the question – how are we improving their communities? This was echoed by Phil Verster who spoke to the audience about budget pressures leading agencies to stop certain activities which have a big impact for people. In the case of Edmonton Transit Service’s Eddie Robar, he spoke about the agency’s focus on process improving problems out of the system.


TACK10 Take: Every organization is pressured to do more with less – the answer to this challenge is Strategic Partnerships

Public transportation is an ever-evolving service which caters to consumers whose behaviour is changing more rapidly than at any other point in history. Transit agencies are under funded and operate in a public ecosystem that is constraint oriented. For-profit businesses such as Uber, Lime, Car2Go, Google and countless others have emerged to solve gaps in the system, and they are all vying for a stake and segment of the market. Spectators and riders alike care little about how agencies deliver solutions so long as they reflect their needs and improve their lives and communities.


The Final Bell

For Strategic Partnerships to deliver transformative impact for an organization, it is important to recognize that there is no one size fits all approach. This means understanding the value that your organization can deliver to a Strategic Partner, the types of organizations who will be able to extract the full value from what you can offer, the value that you expect to extract from a Strategic Partnership and the types of partners who will be able to deliver your organization with this expected value. Given the role that transit agencies play in the lives of people and in communities, there is a tremendous opportunity to harness the value they have in creating Strategic Partnerships which deliver the value they need as government contributions & fare box revenues will never be enough to do everything they want and need to do.