Chief, Fairfax Connector Section
Fairfax County DOT
Leadership APTA Class of 2011
How many people do you employ at your agency?
Fairfax County DOT has approximately 160 employees. Our contractor MV Transportation, that operates our bus service, Fairfax Connector, has approximately 500 employees.
How long have you worked in the industry? 9 years.
How long have you been an APTA member? 9 years.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I stumbled into my career. I’m a California native and I was pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration when my thesis adviser said I needed an internship to satisfy the requirements of my program. He said: “There’s an opening in the Sacramento Transit District. Dr. Beverly Scott needs an intern to do some research.” And that’s how I started!
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
The most beneficial one recently was my experience in Leadership APTA. First and foremost, I made some connections in the industry that have been so invaluable for me to do my job here. For instance, through Leadership APTA I became friends with John Catoe, who is an adviser to our contractor. It’s making those connections. In this case, through talking with John, I was able to communicate better with our contractor, which in turn improved our relationship.
It’s also been extremely beneficial to use the research and industry “best practices.” My county is aggressively pursuing ITS [Intelligent Transportation Systems] to be installed on our fleet of buses that will travel on the new Metro Silver Line extension. A piece of that is bringing our system up to the 21st century, technology-wise. We’ve used some of the research APTA has done on industry trends and best practices to see where the industry is going in terms of technology. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel—we want to learn from other’s challenges. So APTA has been very helpful.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
Because APTA is a one-stop shop for us for federal legislation, it makes more efficient use of my staff time. Being in the Washington, DC, area, a lot of riders are federal workers or contractors, so we need to know what will happen to ridership because of federal legislation. We use APTA to gauge where the industry is going and what the temperature of FTA is.
At the EXPO in New Orleans last October, we sent several people to talk to the vendors and manufacturers of ITS equipment (including automatic passenger counters, stop annunciators, and most specifically, GPS). We made some great connections—we’ve had several visits from vendors over the last few months during which they showcased and demonstrated their products.
This will be a very large procurement and, through APTA, we established connections—so we’re developing an open dialogue with some of the major manufacturers. This will only help us better procure technology for our system, which in turn will provide a better end product for our riders.
We also talked to bus manufacturers because we are looking at hybrid technology. We definitely liked EXPO this year—it was a perfect year for us!
What do you like most about your job?
I get to help people. At the end of the day, the decisions I make and the service I help support has a social, environmental, and economic impact on communities. It’s tremendously rewarding to see the fruits of your labors on the street—when you plan bus service and see the people get out of their cars and onto my buses.
What is unique about your agency/business?
We’re really growing. I think we’re one of the few systems in this economic time that’s growing. We have extensive plans to expand bus service (on the Interstate 495 express lanes as well as the Dulles Rail Silver Line extension) and that will be part of the reconfiguration of our entire network. At 26 years old, we are one of the largest privately contracted fixed route systems in the country.
Make sure you see Christin Wegener’s video, now that you've read this!