Management & Operations

APTA's new chair faces reauthorization

Posted on August 1, 2002

Celia Kupersmith, general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District in San Francisco, was elected chair of the American Public Transportation Association.

Also elected were: George F. Dixon III, president of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees, to first vice chair, and Richard A. White, general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, to a third term as secretary-treasurer.

As the American Public Transit Association's (APTA) newest chair, Celia Kupersmith has the challenging task of reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) to keep her year busy.

"Without a sound bill, there is little hope of expanding public transportation," she told attendees at APTA's Annual Meeting and EXPO in September. "We are well ahead of schedule to develop and deliver a successful bill."

In addition to her newly appointed duties, Kupersmith remains general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District in San Francisco, where she has been since 1999. There, she oversees bus and ferry services, as well as manages the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here is her take on juggling both positions and what she hopes to accomplish in the coming year:

Why did you decide you'd like to become chair of APTA?
I became interested in serving as chair of APTA when I saw both the quality of effort and the teamwork being brought to bear on developing a reauthorization strategy for this vital segment of the transportation network. I felt that my leadership and communication skills would be an added asset at this particular time in APTA's history.

We have enjoyed wonderful results under ISTEA and TEA 21 and our challenge will be to continue this forward progress into the future.

What do you see as APTA's greatest strengths and weaknesses?
I see APTA's greatest strengths to be the exceptional professionalism and knowledge of our individual members and our effective ways of bringing all that information to the table for use by all; the highly qualified and hard working APTA staff led by Bill Millar; and our success in getting our message out to decision makers at all levels, local to national.

I see APTA's greatest challenges to be: developing new leaders in the industry to take up the APTA leadership mantle in future years; working to ensure continued excellence in the APTA organization itself as staff retirements begin to be felt; and, most importantly, working to achieve a successful reauthorization.

What are your top three goals during this coming year?
My three goals in the coming year are to achieve a successful reauthorization of TEA 21 legislation; lead our efforts in the areas of workforce development, procurement and security to new levels of success; and aggressively identify opportunities for further involvement in APTA activities for board members, business members and all interested members.

As general manager of a transit operation, what are your greatest challenges? How does APTA help with these?
As general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, my greatest challenge by far is money. We have been hit hard by the softening of the economy and by the special challenges that followed September 11. Our primary funding sources have fallen off significantly and costs of insurance and security have risen greatly. We are implementing service reductions and fare increases just like many of my fellow transit systems.

I am working with our many unions to develop financial responses to these problems that can help stretch limited resources and ensure the longÐterm viability of our system. We are also involved in developing a regional rail district that will use publicly owned rail rights-of-way for fixed guideway service.

APTA has been helpful in both of these arenas because it provides a network of transit professionals among both transit system members and business members who can help with insight and ideas for innovative solutions. APTA provides a forum for the exchange of "war stories" that help you know you're not alone in facing these challenges.

APTA also provides a wealth of data and information about the many segments of our business that we've used in several aspects of our operation.

What is your biggest reservation about leading the top transportation agency for a year?
My only reservation about taking on the APTA leadership challenge this year is one of finding the time to do it all! But that's the challenge for everyone. I have an exceptional group to work with on this year's executive committee and board of directors. I look forward to maximizing everyone's involvement in our success.

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