Awesome is an overused word these days, but it's an apt description of the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA's) 2002 Annual Conference and EXPO in Las Vegas. In addition to its sheer size, the exhibition was astonishing in its display of innovation in buses, railcars and nearly every other transit-related product and service.
Although the EXPO spanned three days, I could have spent several more hours wandering the immense hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There was simply not enough time to visit the more than 750 companies that exhibited at this triennial event.
Many unfamiliar faces
I was unfamiliar with many of the exhibitors, perhaps because they are not members of APTA and only seem to surface every three years for this bustling event. In fact, I was told that more than half of the exhibitors were not APTA members. I was surprised to hear this because the association provides its business members with valuable information, ample networking opportunities and a strong voice in the organization's decision-making process.
Those companies that are serious about being a part of the industry should join APTA, which helps with its lobbying and public information efforts to represent the interests of the transit industry both in Washington, D.C., and around the country. In addition, through its Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow (PT)2 education and outreach initiative, APTA is building popular support for public transportation at the federal, state and local levels.
Let's face it, those companies that are reluctant to join APTA will still reap some of the benefits of the organization's leadership and advocacy, but they will find it difficult to effectively penetrate the market without tapping into the knowledge, experience and insider information provided by APTA members. APTA is a great organization because it's full of great people. There is no better reason to join the association.
I won't soon forget
This year's show was an especially memorable one for me. It was my great honor to be recognized as the Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member at APTA's award ceremony. Receiving the award put me in impressive company. The other recipients were a virtual who's who of key contributors to the transit industry.
As a longtime APTA member, I fully appreciated the tribute. I was gratified that my contributions to the industry, especially through my affiliation with APTA's Business Members Board of Governors, have not gone unnoticed.
I'd like to add, however, that I've gotten as much — or more — out of my involvement with APTA and its business members group than I've put into it. The friendships that I've forged with fellow business members and transit agency officials are, as MasterCard so effectively communicates in its TV commercials, "priceless."
Before signing off, I'd like to congratulate National Trade Productions, APTA staff and Kim Green (chairman of the EXPO committee for the business members) and his committee for their incredible efforts. Special thanks to Ingrid Tomasek, APTA's meetings director, for her excellent work in planning the meeting. Ingrid, who has been a top performer at APTA for more than 30 years, never fails to put on a good show. The industry owes her a debt of gratitude. We at METRO have appreciated her efforts on our behalf and wish her well in retirement.