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Center Identification Number:      575-09



Project Title:  Best Practices in Communications Between Transit Management and Rank and File Employees



Principal Investigators:


Joel Volinski







Center for Urban Transportation Research

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida



I.         Project Objective


This project is intended to identify methods of communication that foster better relationships between transit managers and the employees that are typically represented by organized labor.      



II.        Project Abstract


Constructive communication is vital to any human relationship, and just as important to relationships within organizations.  Inadequate communication between major stakeholders in organizations leads to misunderstandings, lack of trust, lack of understanding of purpose and teamwork, etc.   There is already an “us and them” paradigm by the very nature of the establishment of union representation within transit agencies.  Constructive communication between those two parties will clearly not guarantee that there will always be harmony and agreement between transit managers and unions.  However, it can help foster better opportunities for positive actions that will avoid wasting the energy of a transit agency.   This study will identify the different methods that have been successfully employed by transit agencies to promote greater understanding, harmony, and constructive dialogue, not only between transit managers and union officials, but between transit managers and all represented employees.



III.      Task Descriptions


Task 1:  Literature Review


A comprehensive literature review will be conducted that will identify articles and reports that have been written on the subject of constructive communications between transit managers and labor unions that represent employees within the rank and file of transit organizations.  In addition to the standard TRIS search and a review of the many industry periodicals kept at CUTR, a search will be made of the internet for articles and other references that deal with the subject of communication within transit agencies.


Task 2:  Communicating with the American Public Transportation Association and the Teamsters, Amalgamated Transit Union, and Transit Workers Union International Offices and other professional associations


The project will benefit from communicating directly with “universal” representatives of the transit industry, that being the American Public Transportation Association and the major unions that represent transit employees throughout the country.   These parties will be requested to provide whatever evidence they are able to share regarding best practices in communications at transit agencies as they have experienced them or become aware of them.  This will hopefully quickly lead to the identification of transit agencies where more in-depth discussion can be pursued to help document the methods and results of certain communication techniques that have resulted in better relationships between transit managers and organized labor.  In addition, the Principle Investigator will contact the Society for Human Resource Management and the Federal Mediation and Reconciliation Service to seek examples of transit or non-transit settings where they believe positive communications techniques have been put in place.


Task 3:  Survey of Transit Agencies to Identify Noteworthy Examples of Positive Communications Practices


Prior to sending a survey out to a 50% sample of members of the American Public Transportation Association, the Principle Investigator will first contact the 170 members of the Leadership APTA Alumni Association to try to shortcut the process of identifying the transit agencies that should be contacted for more in-depth discussion of their communication techniques.  The survey will not be a multiple choice questionnaire; it will be a simple request of transit agencies to answer if they believe they have instituted positive methods of communications with organized labor that has had positive results that they believe are worthy of sharing.  This project is not intended to provide statistical evidence of the presence of certain practices.  It is intended to provide explanations of techniques that have proven to be effective in building better working relationships between transit managers and unions.  


Task 4:  Final Report


A final report will be compiled that will provide preliminary information on the importance of positive communications, with helpful references to those sources found through the literature search.  It will then provide a compilation of the best practices in communication techniques at transit agencies, with more in-depth explanations as necessary.  The report will also include the names and contact information of both the transit managers and union officials who would be willing to be contacted for more information if necessary.    A PowerPoint presentation will be developed summarizing the findings of the study.  In addition, invitations will be extended to professionals with special insights into the issues of communications between managers and rank and file employees to submit white papers that can be included as appendices to the report.



IV.              Project Schedule


Start Date:  Approximately October 1, 2004


















Task 1
















Task 2
















Task 3
















Task 4
















Progress Reports
















Final Report



















 V.     Project Budget




   Faculty Salaries


   Administrative Staff Salaries


   Other Staff Salaries


   Student Salaries


   Staff Benefits


Total Salaries and Benefits


   Permanent Equipment


   Expendable Equipment and Supplies


   Domestic Travel


   Other Costs


Total Direct Costs


   Indirect Costs @ 45%





Note:   The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above.



VI.              Student Involvement


Graduate students will be used to assist in data compilation and analysis. 



VII.           Relationship to Other Research Projects


There does not appear to be a similar project being conducted in the industry at the moment, nor has a similar project been undertaken to the knowledge of the principle investigator.  While there are research reports on themes such as team building and building better relationships for negotiation purposes, there does not appear to be a report focused on the importance of communication techniques within the transit industry.



VIII.        Technology Transfer Activities


The results of this analysis will be posted on the National Center for Transit Research website.  A netcast will be produced, to be accessible through the NCTR website.  A PowerPoint presentation will be produced in anticipation of presentation of results at statewide and national transit conferences. 



IX.              Potential Benefits of the Project


This project will provide information that will benefit both transit managers and union officials as they work together to provide a better working environment for all employees within transit agencies around the country.  A better internal environment can also translate directly into a better relationship with the external environment, bringing better service to customers and better relationships with other entities in the local communities in which these transit agencies operate. 



X.                 TRB Keywords 


Public transit, communications, labor relations



National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · · Comments: