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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis August 10, 2012
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White House Recognizes ‘Champions of Change’

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and modal administrators gathered Aug. 1 in Washington, DC, to recognize 14 transportation professionals as White House Champions of Change.

Five of the honorees are APTA members: Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D.; Phillip A. Washington; Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), Aspen, CO; Proterra, Greenville, SC; and Dan Richard.

“We’ve accomplished a lot at DOT in the past few years, but we did not do it alone,” LaHood said at the event. “In communities across the country, we have found bold, innovative leaders who have taken up the important cause of changing the way we think about transportation and have created jobs in the process. These Champions are making a difference every day in their local communities and across the country. And, thanks to them, it is a new day for transportation in America.”

“Meeting our nation’s transportation challenges requires innovative thinking and the leadership skills to translate plans and dreams into greater mobility, better jobs, and more livable communities,” he continued. “And that is exactly what these Champions of Change have demonstrated—each and every one.”

Scott, honored in the public transportation category, is general manager/chief executive officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), and a past APTA chair. She has worked for more than 30 years as a public transit executive: in Atlanta since 2007 and earlier in Sacramento, New York, New Jersey, Houston, and Rhode Island.

“At MARTA,” she said, “we have done our level best over the past several years to be good regional partners; to be open and transparent in our decision making; to take the actions needed to be responsible public stewards; and to be respectful, but unafraid, to make our case and speak truth to power.”

Washington is general manager, Regional Transportation District (RTD), Denver, CO, and an at-large member of the APTA Executive Committee. He was honored in the transportation workforce development category for his work with the Eagle Public-Private Partnership (P3) project, which includes implementation of the Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program created by RTD.

With the help of financial and legal advisors, the agency brought the project from concept to contract in three years, incorporating design, building, financing, operating, and maintaining for two complete commuter rail lines; a segment of another rail line; a commuter rail maintenance facility; and supplying the commuter rail vehicles needed for Eagle P3. WIN identifies, assesses, trains, and places community members, including military veterans, into careers in transportation and mixed-use development projects.

RFTA was recognized in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in rural America category for VelociRFTA, its pioneering rural BRT system currently under construction. Jackie Whitsitt, mayor of Basalt, CO, who accepted on behalf of the authority, explained that the system will cover 42 miles and bring together the towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, El Jebel, Basalt, and Aspen, using buses powered with compressed natural gas.

“We were determined to help our community with their lengthy commutes to work and do it as efficiently and smartly as possible. Bus Rapid Transit was the only logical and practical solution, even though it had never been done in a rural area,” Whitsitt said.

Proterra, represented by Chief Executive Officer David Bennett, earned recognition for its 100 percent battery-electric public transit buses, manufactured in the U.S. and able to recharge in less than 10 minutes. The company has led viable transportation initiatives promoting and facilitating economic growth and job creation; implementing environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation systems and services; and developing state-of-the-art technologies.  Bennett commended Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, for its support of the company, noting that “innovation requires partners who are willing to take risks in buying the first buses.”

Richard, chair, California High-Speed Rail Authority, received the honor for high-speed rail leadership. He noted that the idea of high-speed rail in California dates back 30 years and received state funding through a 2008 ballot measure.

Following setbacks related to the planning process, he said, the authority has worked to move forward “forging partnerships and showing that high-speed rail could and must be part of an integrated transportation system for the state.”

Also honored at the event were:

* David Barger, Jet Blue Airways (FAAC and next-generation leadership);

* Veronica Davis, Nspiregreen, DC (bicycles and livability);

* Jerry Enzler, RiverWorks Discovery Organization (youth education program about shipping on American rivers);

* Susan Martinovich, Nevada DOT (DOT innovation and national leadership in transportation);

* Lowell Porter, Governors Highway Safety Association (leadership in reducing traffic injuries and fatalities);

* Jason Roberts, Oak Cliff Transit Authority, TX (livability and streetcars);

* Bob Sloane, Walk Boston (livability);

* Rebecca M. Townsend, Manchester Community College, CT (environmental justice strategies); and

* Ellen Voie, Women in Trucking (women in skilled transportation careers).


Photo by Julie Fischer-McCarthy, USDOT

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and modal administrators recognized White House Champions of Change honorees at an Aug. 1 ceremony in Washington, DC. From left are: standing, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta; FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan; FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez; FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo; honorees Jason Roberts, Rebecca Townsend, and Bob Sloane; DOT Secretary Ray LaHood; and honorees Jacque Whitsitt, Veronica Davis, and Phillip Washington; seated, honorees Dan Richard, David Barger, and Susan Martinovich; FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro; and honorees Beverly Scott, Ellen Voie, David Bennett, and Jerry Enzler. Lowell Porter, not shown, also received the honor.

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