Numbers don’t lie, and with a strong turnout at the 2023 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) TRANSform Conference & EXPO, there is a thirst for what’s next in the transit industry.
The event held from Oct 9-11 in Orlando, Fla., drew more than 11,000 verified attendees.
APTA released conference highlights, which included:
- The first equity summit on public transit’s vital role in communities with national experts discussing the implications of recent Supreme Court decisions.
- An exclusive session with Janno Lieber, chair and CEO of the New York MTA, on how New York triumphed over adversity, supporting mass transit in the wake of a pandemic-induced ridership crisis and a multi-billion-dollar fiscal cliff.
- A panel discussion with Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), and Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) on the year ahead in infrastructure investment.
- An educational session on transit’s critical role in managing special events whether transporting Swifties to a concert venue, planning for the Super Bowl or Olympics, or running service during the hottest month on record.
- A talk on how AI and Augmented Reality are being used in the public transportation industry today and policies and cautions for using these new technologies responsibly.
- A panel discussion on sustainability initiatives and practices that make public transportation stand out as the green alternative.
The showroom featured vehicles from Caltrain, New Flyer, Vicinity Motor Corp., and much more, but the real issues were discussed in the plethora of sessions held inside the Orange County Convention Center.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Discussed at APTA TRANSform & Expo
There were several sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the conference.
The discussion on DEI kicked off right away on opening day with the “Racial Equity Commitment Round Table: A year of progress” session.
The session provided a one-year update on APTA’s Racial Equity Commitment Pilot Program.
The program has 87 founding signatories and is set to officially launch in 2024.
The panelists explained how important commitment from agency leadership is to advance diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace.
“In terms of resources, I can’t stress enough constant encouragement from the staff and from the top,” said Eric Kaled, president of Genfare.
Other panelists, such as the director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Jacqueline Evans, discussed the efforts they were making in their roles to educate staff members.
Evans mentioned how she conducts educational sessions and lunch and learns to further the equity discussion in the workplace.
On Oct. 10, the general session “Quick Takes: Future Proofing a Diverse Transit Workforce,” featured women transit leaders discussing the opportunities and challenges in building and sustaining a diverse workforce.
One of the highlights from the session came from Nadine Lee, president/CEO of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Lee discussed how the agency is putting staff members from different generations together to offer new perspectives on how to tackle different tasks in the workplace.
The closing keynote address on Oct. 11 took another approach to the DEI conversation.
Piers Kowalski, human performance coach and consultant, delivered the closing keynote address at APTA TRANSform & EXPO, providing advice for attendees based on his experience as a transgender person in the workplace.
Kowalski mentioned how workplaces can implement policies to create a more equitable work environment. He suggested companies can allow transgender people the opportunity to change email addresses to reflect any name change.
At the people level, Kowalski mentioned one thing everyone can do to advance DEI.
“Remember every person we are talking about in every context is human,” he said. “Any time you talk about inclusion or equity, at the center of that is someone.”
Paratransit was another focus during the APTA TRANSform & EXPO.
The final day of the conference featured an in-depth discussion about advancing goals and practices of reservation paratransit.
“Rethinking Paratransit: Can We Do Better?” was moderated by Christian Kent, principal of Transit Management Consulting LLC.
The session didn’t take a step back to look at where paratransit has come. Instead, the panelists took a forward-thinking approach to the paratransit conversation.
Christopher Pangilinan, VP, paratransit, at MTA New York City Transit, said the journey to more equitable practices will be “messy, but we have to grow.”
Pangilinan called for a change in service, as “next-day service” is not spontaneous for paratransit riders.
Ron Brooks, sr, director, policy & stakeholder engagement, at UZURV, added that the process to become eligible needs to be reviewed.
“It's time to start looking at it through an equity lens instead of ADA-compliant,” Brooks said.
Brooks offered two ways to create a more integrated environment:
- Apps that are better integrated
- Robust travel trains
Conversations were lively in the session rooms and the showroom. Attendees at the APTA TRANSform & EXPO talked about the work that has already been done but were adamant about taking a look at the future of public transportation.