Transit leaders from around Florida gathered at the coastal waters of Vero Beach in early August to envision the future of public transit in the state.
Hosted at the Coste d’Este Beach Resort and Spa with a scenic ocean view, the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) held a two-day strategic planning retreat aimed at addressing challenges, formulating strategies, and setting goals for the next five years. The attendees delved into comprehensive discussions with a focus on bolstering the quality of public transportation in Florida.
“This was a great opportunity for the public transportation community in Florida to collaborate and build ideas to excel, build ridership, and become model transit agencies,” said Clinton B. Forbes, executive director at Palm Tran, and chair of the FPTA. “I was really happy that our South Florida contingent was able to discuss our shared regional vision.” Other South Florida transit leaders included David Dech, executive director of South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail; Eulois Cleckly, director and CEO of Miami-Dade Transportation and Public Works; Coree Cuff Lonergan, general manager and director of transportation for Broward County.
Thirty-two diverse and influential leaders from various corners of Florida's public transportation sector converged to envision a brighter future for the state's transit landscape.
Aside from the South Florida leaders, Brad Miller, CEO of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), and Tiffany Homler Hawkins, CEO of the Central Florida Regional Transit Authority (LYNX), among others were also in attendance.
This assembly of influential figures paved the way for insightful conversations and a collective commitment to elevate Florida's public transportation sector.
More About the FPTA, Surveys Before Retreat
The FPTA is composed of 40 urban and rural transit agencies, which include fixed-route buses, commuter railroads, and federally mandated paratransit services. Their mission, according to their website, is “to continuously support and improve public transportation and improve mobility options in Florida through advocacy, innovation, education, and partnerships.”
Prior to the retreat, the FPTA conducted surveys to gather insights from board members, transit employees, and private businesses.
The results of these surveys were presented at the event, lending empirical context to the deliberations. Attendees then shifted their focus to formulate goals for the next five years.
These goals encompassed critical aims such as regaining pre-pandemic ridership levels, addressing driver shortages, and encouraging more individuals to consider careers in transit. The discussions also explored diversifying transit offerings to include micromobility options, catering to changing commuter preferences.
Central to the retreat's objectives were the four pillars that underpin the FPTA's mission: Advocacy, Education, Partnership, and Innovation. These pillars serve as the foundation upon which the state's public transportation system can thrive, adapt, and serve the diverse needs of its residents effectively.
“The key takeaway of the retreat was tying the goals to our four pillars, and one overall goal for the association to steer the FPTA's direction over the next five years,” said Lisa Bacot, executive director of the FPTA. “These goals were designed to tackle challenges and harness opportunities for growth and advancement.”
The five goals were as follows:
- Association Management Goal: Improve the voices and representation in the Association to include better addressing the needs of rural, urban, and rail systems and be more inclusive of other modes of service.
- Advocacy Goal: Unite as one voice to advocate for the total economic impact and purpose of public transportation at the local and state levels.
- Education Goal: Expand the training and education offerings based on the needs identified and the collaboration of the agencies to access the information available.
- Innovation Goal: Develop a forum for Florida Public Transportation that promotes cutting-edge technology and solutions to enhance the experience for users of public transit.
- Partnership Goal: Broaden the partnership with other stakeholders to invite and introduce them to FPTA with the intent of becoming a partner, business, or associate member.
“This retreat was a great success. I think we all walked away with a clearer vision for the future of transit in Florida and strategy to get there,” continued Bacot.
As the retreat concluded, the atmosphere was one of anticipation and determination. The goals crafted during this event will serve as guideposts for the FPTA's journey ahead. The retreat served as a precursor to the FPTA’s Annual Conference, which will be held Oct. 8-11 in Orlando in coordination with the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA), TRANSform Conference & Expo.