Management & Operations

Top public transit leaders honored by APTA at Nashville event

Posted on October 8, 2018

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) honored top public transit agencies and industry leaders at the 2018 APTA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., during the 2018 APTA Annual Meeting held Sept. 23 to 26. Photo: METRO Magazine
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) honored top public transit agencies and industry leaders at the 2018 APTA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., during the 2018 APTA Annual Meeting held Sept. 23 to 26. Photo: METRO Magazine
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) honored top public transit agencies and industry leaders at the 2018 APTA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., during the 2018 APTA Annual Meeting held Sept. 23 to 26.

Below are summaries on the 2018 APTA Award recipients.

The Innovation Award is an award given to public transit agencies that demonstrate innovative concepts in the provision of public transportation services. The recipient of the 2018 Innovation Award is VIA Metropolitan Transit (VIA), San Antonio, Texas. 

Over the past two years, VIA hosted two GoCodeSA Codeathons — a coding competition for smart public transit solutions. Now an annual event with sponsorships from technology organizations, Codeathon offers talented programmers, coders, and designers the chance to turn their ideas into practical solutions for mobility challenges. GoCodeSA Codeathon teams work on projects such as web apps, mobile apps, wearable solutions, data visualizations, algorithms, and visual mock-ups. The competition rewards the best applications with cash and prizes, and an opportunity to integrate the winning entry into future VIA initiatives.

The first GoCodeSA Codeathon winners produced an Amazon Alexa skill that integrates VIA’s real-time bus information with voice-activated commands from any Alexa device. In the second competition, a husband-wife team called the “Rocket Tiers” designed the winning app. It plans a round trip on the bus system based on the user’s interests and activities, such as dining, shopping, and exploring. Their creativity and engineering reflects the goal of VIA’s smart transit initiatives.

Three public transportation agencies, competing in three different categories based on annual ridership, were honored as the best public transportation systems in North America, based on their achievements in the three year period of 2015-2017.

San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, Calif., received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips).  Photo: METRO Magazine
San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, Calif., received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips).  Photo: METRO Magazine
San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, Calif., received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips).  

Serving residents in an area of 1,500 square miles, RTD continues to attract national attention due to its achievements in environmental sustainability, infrastructure development, and delivery of innovative and high quality services. In 2015 RTD opened a Regional Transit Center, that was built with a focus on environmental sustainability and state-of-art efficiency. In addition, RTD has  a new fleet of environmentally friendly buses, and four Bus Rapid Transit Corridors. In 2017, Stockton made history when RTD’s third Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor became the first all-electric BRT Corridor in the nation.  RTD plans to have an all-electric fleet by 2025.

While maintaining zero long-term debt, RTD continues to demonstrate its steadfast commitment to the residents it serves with innovations that respond to evolving needs. The FREEdom Pass Program allows ADA customers to ride fixed routes free of charge while RTD GO!, a partnership with Uber, expands transit access for first-mile, last-mile trips to residents living outside of RTD’s service area. RTD continually provides exceptional customer service with a Transit Ambassador Program, new fare vending machines, mobile ticketing technology, and improved customer service software.    

Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips). Photo: METRO Magazine
Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips). Photo: METRO Magazine
Central Ohio Transit Authority
(COTA) received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips). COTA is among a select group of agencies that have imple¬mented a comprehensive system redesign. The May 2017 network overhaul made service more efficient and direct, and the easier-to-navigate route system has twice as many high-frequency lines along major corridors. Post-redesign, 100,000 more central Ohio residents live within a quarter-mile of high-frequency bus service, and 110,000 more jobs are located within a quarter-mile of high-frequency service.

To improve access to jobs at the Rickenbacker Inland Port, COTA launched a partnership with two local municipalities in 2015, assisting the municipalities with route planning for a new last-mile shuttle service funded by the municipalities and businesses in the area.

In 2017, COTA became one of just a few U.S. public transit systems to offer riders free Wi-Fi on its entire fleet. COTA’s real-time GPS technology became available in 2016, show¬ing users of the Transit app and other mobile mapping apps exactly where the bus is. COTA’s many accomplishments from 2015 to 2017 were given a major nod of appreciation by Central Ohio voters, who in 2016 approved the authority’s 0.25 percent sales tax levy with more than 70% of the vote.

King County Metro (Metro) received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips). Photo: METRO Magazine
King County Metro (Metro) received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips). Photo: METRO Magazine
King County Metro
(Metro) received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips). The past three years were pivotal for Metro as the agency experienced a 15% increase ridership. Metro carried a record 122 million passenger trips in 2017 — a majority of the record-high 155 million trips overall in King County. Demand keeps rising, and the region’s growth management plan is counting on Metro to double its service to improve mobility and provide alternatives to driving alone.

Major world-class employers (i.e. Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft)  headquartered in Seattle and the King County region provide free or reduced-cost passes so its employees can ride Metro. That’s 2,000 employers and institutions overall, accounting for 63 million rides in 2017, up 23% since 2015.

Even as Metro grows, it’s doing so responsibly. While many people in the region are prospering, 500,000 residents live in poverty. Metro’s ORCA LIFT low-income fare program logged 5.2 million rides last year and today has more than 70,000 subscribers, becoming a national model in providing equitable access to transportation.

This year’s 2018 APTA Awards also recognized 10 individuals whose contributions have greatly advanced public transportation.  

This year five individuals were inducted in to the APTA Hall of Fame. This award is reserved for individuals who have long and distinguished careers in the industry; who have made extraordinary contributions to public transportation, and who have actively participated in APTA activities.  

Reverend Jerry A. Moore and Harold B. Williams were inducted into the Hall of Fame for their work as COMTO co-founders and visionary “drum majors” for industry diversity and inclusion.
Reverend Jerry A. Moore and Harold B. Williams were inducted into the Hall of Fame for their work as COMTO co-founders and visionary “drum majors” for industry diversity and inclusion.
Reverend Jerry A. Moore
and Harold B. Williams were inducted into the Hall of Fame for their work as COMTO co-founders and visionary “drum majors” for industry diversity and inclusion.

Rev. Moore was concerned about the lack of minority voices at the 1970 American Transit Association (APTA’s predecessor) conference in Mexico City. At that conference, he had a chance encounter with Urban Mass Transportation Administration Administrator Carlos Villarreal, which led to further discussions and a commitment from UMTA (predecessor to FTA) to sponsor the first “Minority Mobility in the 1970s” conference at Howard University in 1971. Villarreal charged Williams, director of the UMTA Office of Civil Rights at the time, to work with Moore. Immediately following the conference, the first meeting of COMTO took place.

Williams was a former FTA associate administrator and longtime director of civil rights for FTA’s predecessor organization, UMTA. He was also deputy commissioner of equal educational opportunity in the U.S. Department of Education. At U.S. DOT, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, Williams helped develop far-reaching regulations for equal opportunity in public transportation, including Title Vl, and equal access to service. He also created diversity and inclusion regulations regarding workforce and the use of small, minority, and woman-owned businesses in all federally funded or assisted public transportation. Following his retirement from DOT, he was a consultant to public transit agencies and DOT on issues of equal opportunity.

Today, COMTO has more than 30 local chapters, thousands of members including individual members that represent transportation agencies, private sector corporations, nonprofit organizations and Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) from across our country. The organization partners with APTA and other transportation industry groups to ensure that minorities are represented and prepared to excel.

With a nearly five-decade career managing and operating public and private transit systems, Fred M. Gilliam also received the 2018 Hall of Fame Award. The legacy of Gilliam’s leadership and integrity is visible from his career growth from a traffic checker to CEO. Within his various leadership roles, he continually increased ridership, expanded fleet operations and maintenance, and improved service despite challenging funding. Several examples of his leadership and vision can be seen in Memphis, Tenn.; Denver; New Orleans; Houston, Texas; Tulsa, Okla.; and Austin, Texas.

Throughout his career, Gilliam has been an active member and passionate advocate for APTA, lending his talents to numerous committees and positions on APTA’s Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and the American Public Transportation Foundation.

Gilliam also devoted himself to the development of Leadership APTA, a program through which hundreds of emerging leaders have received transformative professional development and training. He will be remembered for mentoring many emerging leaders throughout his career and continuing to do so after his retirement.

Forging effective management/labor relations and solutions for more than 40 years, Thomas P. Hock also received the 2018 Hall of Fame Award. Hock began his career in 1970 with the Cincinnati law firm of Kennedy and Moore, which specialized in labor relations. In 1974, he joined ATE Management and Service Company (which later became Ryder/ATE) as labor counsel. From 1987-1993, Hock served as VP of transit management for Ryder/ATE. From 1993-1999, he was VP of labor relations for the company. In addition to labor negotiations, he was instrumental in assisting public transit systems in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee to change the impasse procedure in their 13(c) agreements from binding-interest arbitration to non-binding fact finding.

Over the course of his distinguished career, Hock’s impact in the industry, specifically labor relations, has been indisputable. He has negotiated more than 400 agreements in 38 different states, as well as overseeing the negotiation of countless other agreements.

An active member of APTA, Hock served on the Labor, 13(c) and Legal Affairs Committees. His Management Report on Transit Labor Issues has been a staple of APTA’s annual Transit CEOs Seminar for at least the past 30 years.

A dedicated leader who made a difference in public transit for nearly 50 years Jack Leary, received the final 2018 Hall of Fame Award. Leary started his 48-year public transit career in 1966 as a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) streetcar operator, while pursuing a business degree at Northeastern University. He gradually took on sig¬nificant new responsibilities, eventually being promoted to the  position of deputy GM of operations at the MBTA with complete responsibility for all operating, maintenance, engineering and support departments. Major improvements were made to key performance indicators, ridership and customer service.

In 1990, Leary became the executive director/CEO of the Bi State Development Agency (BSDA). He led the organization’s pursuit of transportation and development projects in both the states of Missouri and Illinois overseeing. He oversaw the construction of MetroLink, a new light rail system that connecting St. Clair county, Ill., to the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, Mo. Other testaments to his Leary’s leadership, included the recognition of BSDA when it won the APTA Public Transportation Innovation Award in 1994, the Minority and Women Advancement Award in 1996 .and Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award in 1997.

Making a difference didn’t end when he left public service. Leary continued to contribute to the industry, as he founded a transportation consulting firm and was a principal in KL Executive Search.

Ron Roberts, Supervisor, County of San Diego, Calif., received the Local Distinguished Service Award. This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions at the local level to public transportation through policy, legislative initiative, and leadership.

In his service as a member of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Board of Directors and many other influential boards, Roberts may have done more than any other person in San Diego to turn a car-centric region into the multimodal thriving metropolitan region that now serves 100 million transit passengers per year.

Roberts was instrumental in making sure that the MTS light rail extension under construction went forward and he played an important role to ensure that funding was prioritized for MTS’ first Bus Rapid Transit lines, called Rapid. He worked to secure stakeholder support in key areas where NIMBYism challenged the viability of dedicated bus lanes through Rapid’s core segments. Rapid has been widely popular with riders and reports some of the highest ridership in the MTS system.

Roberts’ passion for public transit is equal to his passion to reduce air pollution in San Diego. As a 23-year member of both the California Air Resources Board and the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District, he has been able to marry his vigor for public transit solutions and a clean envi¬ronment to help MTS develop one of the cleanest fleets in the country.

Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (Pennsylvania 44th District) received the State Distinguished Service Award. This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions at the state level to public transportation through policy, legislative initiative, and leadership.

As chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee for nearly a decade, Senator Rafferty has been a champion in reaching successful bipartisan agreement to improve transportation in Pennsylvania — one of the largest and most complex transportation networks in the nation. He understands that investing in our transportation infrastructure is a core function of government, which provides the foundation for enhancing public safety, improving mobility and creating jobs in the Keystone State.

The most lauded accomplishment during Senator Rafferty’s legislative career was his spearheading of the passage of Act 89 of 2013, which created a multi-billion-dollar, multimodal transportation funding plan for Pennsylvania and increased public transit funding by nearly $500 million a year. This critical level of investment is helping to ensure the safe, efficient movement of people and products throughout Pennsylvania.

Natalie Cornell, Director of Business Development, LTK Engineering Services, located in Amber, Pa., received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award. Photo: METRO Magazine
Natalie Cornell, Director of Business Development, LTK Engineering Services, located in Amber, Pa., received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award. Photo: METRO Magazine
Natalie Cornell
, Director of Business Development, LTK Engineering Services, located in Amber, Pa., received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award. This award is given to an APTA public transportation business member who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.

In 1986, while working for the Canadian Consulate General of Chicago, Cornell’s first foray into public transit came when she led a delegation of public transit officials from Chicago and St. Louis to the APTA EXPO in Vancouver, British Columbia, to see the new SkyTrain system. She became hooked on public transit, and subsequently has spent 27 years helping to advance public transportation.

Part of Cornell’s involvement in public transportation has included being an active member of APTA. Her current APTA leadership roles include serving as co-chair Procurement Steering Committee; chair, Business Member Procurement Committee; and vice chair, Rolling Stock Equipment Technical Forum. She is also a member of the APTA Board of Directors, Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG), BMBG Nominating Committee, and the Conference Planning Task Force.

One of Cornell’s proudest accomplishments was to help lead industry discussions with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) about how to implement the increased percentage of U.S. content for rolling stock required under the FAST Act. Those discussions — and the concrete proposals developed by the Business Member Procurement Committee under her leadership — led the FTA to select the first delivery of revenue vehicles as the firm date for determining the percentage of U.S. content requirements.

Frederick L. Daniels, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Directors, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) located in Atlanta received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award. This award is given to an individual serving on the governing board of a public transportation system who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.

Daniels was first named to the MARTA Board of Directors in 2010 to represent DeKalb County. Upon joining the board, he soon learned the agency was facing a $120 million loss for the fiscal year. Determined to solve the seemingly insurmountable challenge, Daniels spent many nights reading everything he could to help MARTA’s management navigate the impending fiscal crisis. On the strength of his clear-eyed, no-nonsense leadership, he was elected board chairman two years later.

Under Daniels’ board leadership, MARTA also broke ground on two game-changing public-private projects: the Atlanta Streetcar and the pedestrian bridge at the Buckhead rail station. The streetcar has helped energize Atlanta’s downtown, resulting in $2.5 billion in new investments surrounding the 2.7-mile route that connects the Martin Luther King Jr. historic district to hotels, tourist attractions and the convention center. The Buckhead bridge, overarching one of Georgia’s busiest state roadways, provides convenient and safe access to rail service and nearby businesses for 3,000 area residents.

Thomas C. Lambert, president/CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in Houston, Texas, received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award. Photo: Houston Metro
Thomas C. Lambert, president/CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in Houston, Texas, received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award. Photo: Houston Metro
Thomas C. Lambert,
president/CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in Houston, Texas, received the 2018 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award. This award is given to an APTA public transportation manager who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.

Lambert joined Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) in 1979, the same year it was created. He started as a security investigator because the transit authority was so new, it didn’t have a police department. Once the METRO Department of Public Safety was established, Lambert became the agency’s first chief of police, serving in that position for many years before moving on to other leadership roles including chief administrative officer, executive VP, and acting president/CEO in 2013. He became the permanent CEO in 2014.

Under Lambert’s leadership, METRO also demonstrated the importance of the public transit agency during a crisis. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 50 inches of rain on the region over four days. During this disaster, METRO moved 15,500 people into shelters — on its buses and using its highwater vehicles. The agency also helped the Red Cross get supplies to their destinations. METRO was an important part of the Houston region’s recovery, moving folks to temporary housing or back home, transporting many students back to school, and resuming regular service quickly to get Houstonians back to a semblance of ordinary life. The agency’s decision to move 120 buses out of a flood-prone facility to an elevated HOV lane before Harvey made landfall minimized damage to vehicles and helped mobilize vehicles sooner to get riders back on the road.

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