December 2011

Melaniphy Eager to ‘Learn Something New Every Day’ as APTA Chief

by Cliff Henke

Photo credit: Ken Bordelon/APTA

Photo credit: Ken Bordelon/APTA
Michael Melaniphy's unanimous selection as the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) new president/CEO was based in large part on his broad experience in the industry, having been an executive in both public transportation agencies as well as in a business member company. In this wide-ranging interview, METRO Magazine discussed with Melaniphy how that experience informs what he will do next.

You had mentioned in various public statements that one of your early priorities is that you'll be on the road traveling, meeting members in their locations. Where will you go first?

In my first weeks on the job, I will schedule introductory meetings around my conference and other industry obligations. The idea would be to see multiple members, whenever possible, when I arrive in a city. I intend to schedule such meetings with a broad cross-section of APTA members, including various visits to facilities, not only office headquarters but bus garages, rail yards and factory floors. I also plan to meet our members' local and national stakeholder partners as well, such as regional FTA and FRA offices and other policy and regulatory partners. The intent is to maximize the opportunities out of every trip I make, especially in my first year.

I have also charged staff with identifying the top things we should do outside these initial official commitments. One of the most important things I know, and want others to know, is that while I have 23 years in this industry in a broad variety of positions, there are many, many things I have yet to learn and experience, and want to learn, so I see this aspect of what I will do as key to better serving the membership of APTA. Learning something new every day was something Bill [Millar] also mentioned and it has certainly been part of my involvement in our complex and diverse industry.

Your background, as coming from both the supply and operations side of the industry, is seen as a plus to many APTA members. How do you see this coming into play the most, particularly in the near future?

The most important part of my background is that I am able to see multiple sides of most situations in our industry. APTA is such a big tent — and that size and its diversity are at the root of our strength. Having been exposed to that breadth gives me credibility to talk about these subjects from different perspectives and to shape better policies for us in the long term. I also have the benefit of having visited hundreds of transit agencies, and many suppliers, over the years.

As I walked around EXPO in New Orleans meeting many of the suppliers and attendees on the floor, it reminded me of how broad our industry is and how many people that I have built relationships with over the years. It was rewarding to be able to share stories and personal memories with so many attendees. During EXPO, I had the opportunity to spend some time on the showfloor with FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and his staff. Of course, he knows our industry's size and breadth, but it was beneficial to be able to share some of my experiences and observations from both sides of the industry.


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