Stakeholders as Partners in Innovation: Real-Life Cases

by | Jul 23, 2015 | Board Savvy Transit CEO Blog Archive, Board-CEO Involvement in Innovation/Change Management

Diverse People in Meeting With Speech Bubbles

Stakeholders have loomed large in the last couple of articles posted at this blog.  “The Dallas Streetcar:  Intergovernmental Collaboration At Work” (June 30) features a podcast by DART CEO Gary Thomas and Board member Bill Velasco describing how DART worked closely with two stakeholders – the City of Dallas and North Central Texas Council of Governments –  in bringing streetcar service back to Dallas ( The Dallas Streetcar has been a wildly successful innovation initiative; the second leg will be completed in 2016, and the third is being planned.  Opening with a real-life account of a stakeholder “quid pro quo” analysis at a transportation authority board retreat, the July 8 article, “Tending To Your Preeminent Stakeholder” (, defines a stakeholder as any organization or group that it makes sense to manage a relationship with because of the stakes involved.  Your stakeholders can play various roles in the relationship, including funders, political supporters, partners, and even competitors.  The key objective, of course, is to identify the stakeholder relationships involving the highest stakes and then meticulously manage these relationships.

The Dallas Streetcar is an excellent example of one of the most important stakeholder roles:  partner in accomplishing significant innovation that your authority couldn’t feasibly bring off alone.  Responding to my request to describe “the most recent initiative involving collaboration with one or more local partners, three members of our CEO Advisory Committee shared the following examples:

BCI_4790Carm Basile, Chief Executive Officer

Capital District Transportation Authority

Albany, New York

“CDTA recently entered into a partnership with the with SUNY Polytechnic College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Under the terms of the agreement, students, faculty and staff at the college, at Tech Valley High School, which is located on the campus, and employees from the dozens of companies who use the campus for research will be able to use CDTA service by swiping/tapping their ID cards (on fare boxes). SUNY Poly is also investing $500,000 to build new stops and waiting areas for customers at the entrance to the rapidly growing campus. SUNY Poly will reimburse CDTA for the rides as part of a Universal Access Agreement, which has become a major revenue generator for CDTA.”

general-managerNeil McFarlane, General Manager


Portland, Oregon

“TriMet will launch its new ‘Orange Line’ light rail service on September 12th.   As nearly all major transit initiatives in our region, it a partnership of major proportions.  The $1.5 Billion project is funded by FTA, the State of Oregon, the Cities of Portland and Milwaukie, Clackamas County, our MPO (Metro), and TriMet.   TriMet’s total capital contribution will be just under 5% — conserving our resources for ongoing operations.   Without a sales tax and limited other capital sources, we are required to work together to fund these projects. This particular initiative  has created long-term partnerships with outsized benefits to transit riders.”


Karen PhilbrickKaren Philbrick, Executive Director

Mineta Transportation Institute

San Jose, California

“MTI, with funding from our critical stakeholders Caltrans and the US DOT UTC Program, produced a new study, “The Purpose, Function, and Performance of Streetcar Transit in the Modern US City: A Multiple-Case-Study Investigation.”  The streetcar has made a remarkable resurgence in the United States in recent years. However, despite the proliferation of streetcar projects, there is remarkably little work on the streetcar’s role as a transportation service. This study examines the experiences of the modern-era streetcars operated in Little Rock, Memphis, Portland, Seattle, and Tampa. The authors discovered that in these cities, the primary purpose of the streetcar was to serve as a development tool (all cities), a second objective was to serve as a tourism-promoting amenity (Little Rock, Tampa), and transportation objectives were largely afterthoughts with the notable exception of Portland, and to a lesser degree, Seattle. The full report can be found at”

Stay tuned for more real-life reports on transportation authority-stakeholder collaboration in bringing off important innovation initiatives in future articles at

About the Author: Doug Eadie

President & CEO of Doug Eadie & Company, Inc., Doug Eadie assists CEOs in building rock-solid partnerships with their transit boards.

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