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Mission and Leadership

As a transit manager, you will promote a vision for your organization based on values shared by the management, staff and the community you serve.  Without this vision and a clear mission statement, it will be difficult to provide appropriate services, develop employee skills, and measure your success. 

The vision is the highest role you see your organization playing in your community both tomorrow and into the long-term future.  It is your organization at its best, and each decision is oriented toward achieving this highest role. This vision can change as an organization grows and re-evaluates its purpose.

The mission statement describes what your organization does for the community today and in the near-term future. The mission statement should always align with the vision of the organization.  

Your organization may or may not have a written vision and mission statement.  If it does not, this is an opportunity to establish both statements through a collective process.  If your organization does have a vision and mission statement, they are worth reviewing periodically to ensure they still align with the services you provide. 

While the process of creating a mission statement should be collaborative, the actual writing of the statement should be handled by one person. The following are characteristics of a strong mission statement:

  • No longer than a few sentences
  • Sixth grade level of comprehension
  • Written in active voice
  • Has few superlatives, if any (adjectives and adverbs)
  • Is direct and honest

Both new and existent statements should be reviewed for their effectiveness and validity. When doing this, you should keep these questions in mind:

  • Is it relevant and current?
  • Is it too difficult to understand?
  • Will it inspire staff?
  • Will it unify staff?

To learn more about vision and mission statements, please see National RTAP's "Roles and Responsibilities of Transit Managers."  

There is also valuable information on mission and leadership in these National RTAP Technical Briefs: "Getting Started: Creating a Vision & Strategy for Community Transit" and "Developing, Designing & Delivering Community Transportation Services."


Communicating with staff

Vision and mission statements should be shared with the staff and community.  If this is not done, staff members may not be aware of the common goals of the organization, and the community will not have accurate expectations of the services you can provide.

Professional development and establishing performance goals

Vision and mission statements should be considered when establishing professional development programs and employee performance goals.  Each milestone should directly support the mission of the organization while developing the skills of the employee. As your organization serves new populations, provides new services, and implements new technologies, employees’ training and milestones should reflect these changes and give them the tools necessary to succeed. The success of the organization is dependent on each employee reaching his/her full potential in the workplace.   

For more information about creating a mission statement and communicating this information to your staff, please see National RTAP’s "Roles and Responsibilities of Transit Managers" training.

For more information about professional development, please see National RTAP's "Applying Good Business Practices" technical brief.


Working with a Board

As a manager, you will have direct contact with the transit board. It is important to understand the role the board plays in the organization. There are two types of boards, each providing valuable service in different capacities. 

Advisory vs. governing boards

Members of advisory boards are generally varied in age, gender and professional background but come together due to a shared interest in the service the organization provides. Under Title VI, your agency is required to make all efforts to ensure your board is a reflection of the demographics of the community you serve, and you cannot deny board participation based on race, color or national origin. An advisory board rarely has legal or fiduciary responsibility for the organization, but they do provide input on how the organization can better serve the community.  

Governing boards, however, have responsibilities that are more directly related to everyday operations such as creating organizational policy, approving the budget, monitoring operational and fiscal performance, and overseeing legal contracts. Unlike the advisory board, the governing board members are elected or appointed to fixed terms and have the authority to give the final opinion on matters concerning the organization. 

Role of the board

Boards are generally involved in higher level planning and policy while it is the staff that is responsible for implementation. While each board will have a unique relationship with its organization, there are four primary roles that a board serves: stewardship, safety concerns, legal concerns, and advocacy.   


A benefit of the board is that it is removed from the daily operations of the organization, and with this distance they are better able to balance the needs of the community with the resources available to the transit system. Because of this, boards are involved in maintaining the financial health of the organization.  This can include reviewing the organization’s budget and financial statements as well as having an understanding of funding requirements at the local, state and federal levels.  Not only do the numbers need to be checked for accuracy and compliance with funding requirements, but the board should also be evaluating whether the costs and spending align with the organization’s mission statement.  

Safety concerns

Boards, through coordination with the staff, should actively ensure that proper safety measures are in place. This can include assuring safety training for employees, proper vehicle and facility maintenance, and procedures for emergency situations. 

Legal concerns

In some cases, such as transportation authorities or private nonprofits, the board is the legal body.  As such, the members must approve all contracts, labor agreements, personnel policies, etc.  If it is a public organization, all board meetings, records and decisions must be made available to the public.  This is known as a ‘sunshine law,’ and it includes having open-door meetings that are advertised to the community. As a rule, this is not required of a private organization, although many choose to open their meetings to the public.


Board members must be ambassadors of the organization and public transportation throughout the community. A board member should promote public transportation in his/her daily activities, speak positively about the organization’s services and be the face of the organization in the community. Each board member should attend board meetings, community meetings and other events where the presence of the organization is needed.

For more information, please see National RTAP’s "Boards that Perform" training module.