Washington, DC – The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) honored 14 individuals and organizations with awards for their leadership and vision during its 2019 TRANSform Conference in New York City Oct. 15.
The APTA Honors recognize leaders in the public transportation industry in North America who are outstanding role models of excellence, have demonstrated significant leadership, and whose accomplishments and innovations have greatly advanced public transportation.
APTA Chair Nuria I. Fernandez, general manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said, “APTA award winners are exemplary leaders whose accomplishments have greatly advanced public transportation in lasting and valuable ways. We are grateful for all they have done. Congratulations to this year’s awardees!”
APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas said, “Congratulations to all who have been recognized for their accomplishments and for making positive impacts in their communities. The four inductees into the APTA Hall of Fame have dedicated their careers around strengthening our industry.”
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Milwaukee County (WI) Transit System received the 2019 Innovation Award.
DART was recognized for its successful GoPass®, a multimodal, all-in-one travel tool that offers customers mobile ticketing options. The newest version of GoPass was developed to serve as a mobility manager platform, providing Mobility as a Service (MaaS). With a single app, customers have access to multimodal, multi-provider mobility options based on their needs. The app has positioned DART as a mobility manager for the North Texas region.
Milwaukee County (WI) Transit System was recognized for its video series, “MCTS Excellence,” which has received national and international media attention. Each video uses bus surveillance footage to tell a unique story that highlights an employee’s act of kindness, compassion or heroism. High-profile coverage the agency has received includes ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning and CNN.
Three public transit systems received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award for their accomplishments from 2016-2018.
Blacksburg Transit (BT), Blacksburg, VA, was recognized as the best small public transit system of those providing four million or fewer annual passenger trips annually. As BT ridership soared 22 percent from 2016-2018, the system was still able to deliver the same high-quality service its riders had come to expect. For example, on-time performance averaged approximately 90 percent for fixed-route service. BT also operated more than three million miles without a major preventable safety event during this time period. Riders appreciated the agency’s efforts and gave it a 79 percent customer service approval rating.
Clark County Public Transportation Benefit Area Authority (C-TRAN), Vancouver, WA, was recognized as a mid-size system that provides more than four million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips. C-TRAN’s ridership grew 4.6 percent from 2016-2018, in part to the success of its first regional BRT system. With 62 hybrid buses, C-TRAN also created a culture that embraces sustainability. Diversity is also a critical value as nearly 70 percent of its executive leadership are women and it has a minority workforce of 25 percent. Employees see themselves as community stewards as they deliver on the system’s motto, “Our Community, Our Promise.”
TransLink of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, received the honor in the category of public transit systems providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips. From 2016-2018, TransLink ridership grew by 18 percent and reached new highs for on-time performance. TransLink embarked on a $9 billion plan that included two rapid transit projects, expansions to bus and SkyTrain rapid transit service and major infrastructure upgrades. Its renewed commitment to improving service quality has paid off as riders graded the agency with 8 out of 10 on its customer satisfaction scale—an all-time high.
Knoxville, TN, Mayor Madeline Rogero was the recipient of the Local Distinguished Service Award. During her first term, Rogero significantly changed the city’s organization chart to reflect the value of the city’s public transit system, Knoxville Area Transit (KAT). The culture of Knoxville’s government was revolutionized, and public transit considerations now are a primary concern when new development projects are under review. Under her leadership, the city’s financial support of KAT has increased 20 percent, resulting in later service hours and improved headways on many routes.
California State Sen. Jim Beall was the recipient of the State Distinguished Service Award. His extraordinary leadership to improve transportation infrastructure through numerous creative approaches has greatly supported public transit in California. Beall is the author of Senate Bill 1, signed into law in 2017, the most significant state effort to address transportation infrastructure needs in decades. Projects throughout the state will benefit from the $54 billion measure. Beall has dedicated more than 30 years to public service in California, ranging from local office to the state legislature.
Carol Herrera, chair of the Foothill Transit Board of Directors in West Covina, CA, is this year’s Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member. Herrera successfully advocated for several major projects including the launch of the agency’s first BRT line in 2007 and the successful transition of the fleet to all CNG vehicles in 2012. Later she led the next steps toward a zero-emissions future by supporting Foothill Transit’s commitment to go all-electric by 2030. Additionally, Herrera is a strong leadership mentor to the women at her agency, advocating for a workforce that values, includes and protects diverse perspectives.
Jeffrey Wharton received the Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member honor. Wharton has made a major impact in advancing the public transportation industry over the past 39 years. Active in APTA, he has held many leadership positions including chair of the Business Member Board of Governors and the 2014 EXPO Advisory Committee. He testified before Congress on public transit infrastructure investments in 2010 and in 2013 was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change. During his tenure as president of IMPulse NC LLC, the company became the first APTA business member to sign the Sustainability Commitment and achieve Gold recognition.
Henry Li, general manager/chief executive officer of the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT), received the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award. Li is an innovative and transformational leader who has made a tremendous impact on SacRT and the Sacramento region during the past three years. SacRT has experienced a historic comeback during his tenure: its financial ratings are now positive; ridership is up, and safety and security are a top priority. Additionally, public trust is increasing as SacRT takes specific steps to address community concerns and build community partnerships. Li instituted a motto that says it all: “Customers First.”
Hall of Fame
Four individuals were inducted into APTA’s prestigious Hall of Fame:
Tony Kouneski has been a trailblazer throughout his 45-year career; many progressive marketing, service delivery, safety and staff development programs can be attributed to his leadership. He was first active in APTA as a member who served on the Executive Committee twice and chaired numerous committees. While leading several public transit systems, he championed the promotion of minorities and women. Many industry leaders today are individuals he mentored. As a vice president at APTA, Kouneski introduced the APTA Standards Program. Upon leaving the association, he founded KL2Connects, where he now serves as a strategic advisor.
Paul Toliver has contributed greatly to advancing the industry, especially regarding technology. He led the first APTA technology conference and delivered more than 50 presentations at APTA conferences, mostly centered on technology. With an extraordinary vision for the future, Toliver co-authored a paper in 1992 that discussed how to improve ridesharing through the use of technology. He worked at several public transit systems throughout his career and, under his leadership, Seattle Metro was honored as the best transit system in 1991. He was named APTA’s Outstanding Manager of the Year in 1999.
During his 38-year career in public transportation, Michael S. Townes has been recognized as a leader and industry legislative advocate. Townes served in many roles at APTA, chairing the association from 2007-2008. He held leadership roles at public transit systems in Stockton, CA, and Norfolk and Hampton, VA. During his 11 years as chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), he successfully obtained more than $280 million to build a light rail system in Norfolk, the first such system in Virginia. Upon leaving HRT, he continued his career in the private sector.
With 45 years of experience, Richard A. White has a unique place in the public transportation industry as being one of the very few individuals who has worked in all four sectors of the industry: the federal government, public transit agencies, business member/industry organizations and APTA. At APTA, White served not only as the chair of the association but also as its acting president and CEO. At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he was CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where he ensured the system remained open and moved hundreds of thousands of people throughout the National Capital Region during a time of great fear and anxiety.
For more information, go to www.apta.com
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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations which represent a $71 billion industry that directly employs 430,000 people and supports millions of private sector jobs. APTA members are engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.