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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis December 14, 2012
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Meet Jacqueline Sheader!

Jacqueline Sheader
Marketing Manager
Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA)
State College, PA

How many people are employed at your agency?
CATA currently has 153 employees: 103 drivers, 19 in maintenance, and 31 who either work in management or provide administrative support.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
12 years.

How long have you been an APTA member?
That entire time. I have attended APTA conferences for most of the time I’ve worked here and have been a member of the Marketing & Communications Committee for many years. I received the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) Dan Reichard Scholarship in 2006, along with scholarship renewals in 2007 and 2008, and now I’m a member of the APTF Scholar Task Force.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
Actually, I hadn’t planned on working in public transit. I graduated from Penn State with degrees in advertising/public relations and psychology. I tried working in retail management for three months before deciding I didn’t want to work in the for-profit sector—I wanted to do something that would benefit the community and really make a difference. A position opened up at CATA, I applied for it—and I’ve fallen in love with public transit. I used it while I was in college but had never thought about it as a career.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource that helps you do your job?
My favorite thing about APTA is the different contacts I’ve made across the country among my peers. Marketing is never about recreating the wheel; it’s a process of sharing information and advice. We have developed a really close-knit group of transit marketers through APTA.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
Since I’m a one-person marketing department, this connection actually helps a lot. Many times I’ve been able to pick the brains of other marketers in ways that have helped me so much.

When CATA started its exterior bus advertising program, I knew nothing about how to do it. I reached out to people in the field—both locally and around the country—and was impressed with how interested people were in our success. (We only do back panel ads. We like the aesthetics of our buses, but knew we had to run some kind of ads to boost our revenues.)

Another major marketing project I led was the redesign of the CATA logo in 2009. The agency had had the same logo since the 1980s and it was time to do something different—especially because about 70 percent of riders are college students. We want them to think we’re professional and modern. We contacted a designer in Baltimore who helped us launch a rebranding campaign that included the CATA logo, all marketing materials, and the buses.

We revise our routes twice a year with the help of market research. All our buses are equipped with a Global Positioning Satellite system and we’re testing an Advanced Public Transportation System project. Riders also can use an iPhone or Android app to find the exact location of a bus, if it’s running on time, and when they can expect the bus to arrive at their stop.

What do you like most about your job?
I love my job. I like the fact that people in our community rely on us and we do the best job we can to serve them. It’s very rewarding. I like the people I’ve gotten to know during this job. Each day is different—I might do five interviews one day and a presentation the next.

What is unique about your agency (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
If people don’t know already, all 65 buses in CATA’s fixed-route fleet operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). CATA has a strong commitment to alternative fuel: we were the first public transit agency on the East Coast to convert our entire fleet from diesel to natural gas.

Some years ago, we worked with the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State to test a hydrogen-CNG bus that operated on a liquid mix of 70 percent CNG and 30 percent hydrogen. CATA used a fueling facility on campus. That project is long over, but it was a learning experience for everyone.

CATA operates three modes: CATABUS, CATARIDE paratransit, and CATACOMMUTE carpools and vanpools. CATACOMMUTE currently operates 31 vanpools on the road—using 10-15-passenger, gasoline-powered vans—and lists more than 1,900 possible riders in its database. We were one of the first public transit agencies to provide this service in-house, and it’s been wildly successful. CATACOMMUTE provides service within roughly a 75-mile radius, which covers 11 counties.

Make sure you see Jacqueline Sheader's video, now that you've read this!

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