Joni Zielinski Carlton
Senior Legislative Representative
What are your primary job responsibilities?
My primary responsibility is representing the consensus views of APTA and our membership to Congress, staff, and other key policymakers. I analyze how legislative proposals affect our membership and, in turn, communicate to Congress the impact to their constituents and public transportation services in their district. I focus primarily on passenger rail and issues related to commuter, intercity, and high-speed rail.
I also help plan and organize the annual APTA Legislative Conference and serve as staff advisor to the Commuter and Intercity Rail Joint Legislative Subcommittee.
Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about the two most recent times you’ve helped out a member.
What’s unique about APTA is that nearly all of our members are involved in federal legislative policy issues because these issues directly impact their day-to-day work. Recently, for example, members have called me to discuss what we can do to advance legislation related to positive train control implementation, expanding workforce development programs, and making sure public transportation is eligible to participate in an interoperable public safety communications network. These are all issues that our members deal with daily—and yet they are also issues being considered by Congress.
Just this week I spoke with a member who wanted more information on positive train control implementation issues. He contacted me as the result of a conversation he had with a Congressional staffer. I worked with this individual, answering his questions and sharing supporting documents.
Fielding information requests like this is a typical part of my daily job.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Every year there’s a great sense of pride after we complete the Legislative Conference. This year, however, was quite a bit more chaotic because we had two authorization bills going through both the House and Senate at the same time we were trying to plan and prepare for the conference. Added to that, Congress was out of session the week of the conference so scheduling elected officials as speakers was a challenge because they were back home in their district offices. Despite these two issues, the conference went off without a hitch and was a great success.
How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I was working on Capitol Hill and had questions about a Federal Railroad Administration ruling on the decibel levels of train horns. I called APTA and immediately got the answer. That was basically my introduction to this association and I always remembered it as a positive and helpful experience. After having worked on Capitol Hill for a number of years, I knew I wanted to continue working in the transportation industry, so a few years later when I saw a job posted at APTA, I applied for the position. And the rest is history. I have been at APTA for three years.
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
I worked on Capitol Hill for eight years for a now-retired Congressman from New Jersey. For six of those years, I worked on legislative issues, specializing in such areas as transportation, nuclear energy, homeland security, and telecommunications.
What professional affiliations do you have?
WTS, Women in Government Relations, American League of Lobbyists.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
Before coming to APTA, I backpacked throughout Europe and Asia, and rode public transportation in every country I visited. I’ve traveled on everything from express boats covered in tarps—to protect you from splashing water in the canals of Bangkok—to transit buses in rural Bavaria to high-speed rail in Kyoto. I have also had the privilege of completing a tandem skydive jump with the elite Golden Knights, a unit of the United States Army Parachute Team. It was awesome!
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