The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2023 TRANSform Conference & Expo officially welcomed attendees on Oct. 9, with a message that fittingly resembles its host site – Magic can be made in public transportation.
Orlando, Fla, the home of the Walt Disney Disney World Resort and for this year’s APTA 2023 TRANSform Conference & Expo, is a place associated with the wonder involved in its attractions.
The Chapin Theatre at the Orange County Convention Center became the biggest attraction for public transit leaders and attendees during the opening ceremony and keynote address.
APTA CEO Opens the Conference
The opening ceremonies provided a look at the year in transit, as APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas addressed workforce and supply chain issues.
“Change is imperative for our future. Public transit shapes how people move and interact with communities in a way that both supports and strengthens our nation. Public transportation has proven its ability to drive economic growth, combat climate change, promote equity, and offer sustainable mobility solutions to our nation,” said Skoutelas. “Our industry is extensive and vital, and APTA’s TRANSform Conference and EXPO brings together all facets of our industry.”
If Mickey Mouse is the face of Disney, then Taylor Swift is the face of ridership growth among agencies in 2023.
APTA spotlighted concert-goers’ role in increased ridership as artists such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce hit the road for their world tours.
Earlier this year, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced it provided 5.63 million rides for the week of June 4-10, the highest number since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Special events helped contribute to the ridership jump. Swift fans chose to use the system to get to the sold-out concert at Soldier Field. The three-night concert generated more than 43,000 additional bus and rail rides at the Roosevelt station and on the #146 Inner Lake Shore/Michigan Express route.
CTA President, APTA New Vice Chair
Dorval Carter Jr., president and CEO of the CTA, took the stage to discuss funding, the agency’s Red and Purple Modernization Project, and APTA’s racial and equity program.
The CTA recently announced the agency will begin this fall the final major stage of the North Belmont Red-Purple Reconstruction project as part of CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One Project.
The final stage will mark the next major milestone for the RPM project, completing the new elevated track structure north of Belmont station and reaching the two-thirds completion point for this section of the project.
Following Carter’s address, APTA recognized Michele Wong Krause as vice chair of the board.
Krause explained three calls to action:
- Continue to tell stories about how public transit is helping communities
- Continued commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion throughout the transportation industry
- Emphasize recruiting, retaining, and empowering the next generation of transit workers
“We need to retain our employees who are already experienced and trained,” Krause said. “We need to find new ways, which will require a compressive plan. It means redefining the way we define and organize transit jobs.”
APTA TRANSform & Expo Keynote Address
The keynote address by Duncan Wardle, former head of Innovation & Creativity at Disney, explored how public transit leaders can incorporate creativity within their companies.
The address featured several exercises for the attendees inside Chapin Theater. The exercises called for two people to team up and give ideas for parties. As one person pitches ideas for the party, the other person improvises “no because…” responses.
Wardle then asks attendees to change the response to “yes and..” to demonstrate how a simple change can improve ideas in the workplace.
“Don’t be afraid of artificial intelligence,” Wardle said after the series of exercises.
Embracing AI as a tool for public transit leaders was one of the messages in Wardle’s presentation, saying “It’s about how people use it.”
AI is making its way into the public transit industry.
This year’s Innovative Solutions Awards featured the AI-powered maintenance tool from Preteckt, winning an award with three different transit agencies — Poughkeepsie, N.Y.’s Dutchess County Public Transit; St. Petersburg, Fla.’s Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority; and Canada’s Saskatoon Transit.
Each chose Preteckt to help its maintenance teams reimagine how they could prevent bus breakdowns and more.
The companies planned to collaborate on infrastructure developments and formally pursue opportunities to implement AVs across a range of commercial and municipal locations globally, according to May Mobility's news release.
The opening ceremonies and keynote address came to an enlightened close, and attendees exited the Chapin Theatre with a readiness to embrace what the APTA TRANSform & Expo had to offer.