Multimodal transit was the theme at this year’s opening address, and as Nat Ford, 2017-2018 APTA chair put it, “We need to own this space, and APTA must drive and manage this debate on our industry’s behalf.”
Richard White, acting president/CEO of APTA, shared stories of how the public transit industry is leading the charge. These stories included cities like Atlanta that didn’t have public transit 50 years ago but now has one of the strongest networks, to current efforts bringing transit to small towns, to the increased communication with car and bike sharing companies in efforts to improve first- and last-mile connections.
“If we’re going to remain not just relevant but central to servicing the public, we must change our models,” White said, adding, “Don’t just stay involved — evolve.”
In his new position, Ford has outlined five priorities for APTA, each of which will include a task force committee to provide resources for its members to enact change. The five priorities include: leadership and advocacy, the mobility paradigm, the workforce of the future, big data, and enterprise risk management.
Leadership and advocacy: A main goal of this committee will be to ensure that the agendas across local, state and federal agencies, and organizations like the National Governors Association work closely together — “an agenda that doesn’t take any voice for granted,” Ford said. He also emphasized the leading role this committee will have on public policy moving forward.
Mobility paradigm: “Let us share a vision of mobility that benefits all our systems … one that helps all agencies regardless of size,” Ford explained as a main goal of this committee. This vision of mobility, Ford said, must step outside bus, rail, and paratransit, and consider all other types of mobility such as pedestrians, taxis, and on-demand services. “This is especially important for millennials, who are our future customers,” Ford said.
Workforce of the future: With technology drastically changing the typical transportation model, this also means an impact on skills required. “We need the best and brightest skilled minds in our workforce,” Ford said, adding that this committee will be responsible for creating guidance around those needed skills and will even establish an APTA certification training program, of which the organization is already working on.
Big data: Using 2016 Smart Cities Challenge winner Columbus, Ohio as an example, Ford cited the need for agencies, large and small, to leverage big data. Using data analyses, Columbus could prove its transit system’s ability and worth to the community, which resulted in raising millions in additional private investments to take their infrastructure and public transit even further. As a main objective of this committee, “With smart, data-driven decisions, we will be able to improve our systems,” Ford said.
Enterprise risk management: With technology also comes cyber security threats. This committee will focus on the threats to safety and cybersecurity. “Our job is to prepare for each growing risk so members can assess and prepare for risks to come,” Ford said, adding that this committee will work closely with the other four.
In closing remarks, Ford reiterated the importance of the industry working as one united group on driving and managing the rapid changes. If the industry stays united, Ford said, “we will be the definitive source on all transportation matters.”