Director, Communication and Marketing
Leadership APTA Class of 2013
How many people work at your agency?
Valley Metro has approximately 250 people.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I started my career at Valley Metro in January 2008, the year we opened our light rail system. It was quite a busy year for someone in the communications realm. So, I’m coming up on my fifth year.
How long have you been an APTA member?
I began my engagement with APTA in my first year, quite early, when I immersed myself in information about the public transit industry.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
While many people say they fell into this career, I really pursued it. Public transit was an innovation that was changing my hometown—I’m born and raised in Phoenix, specifically in the central city, and my parents still live there. When the idea of light rail came along, I knew I wanted to be part of something that would so dramatically change my home and the neighborhood where I grew up. I applied for the job several times. Now I wouldn’t leave it.
Our light rail ridership is surpassing all records and is continuing to increase. On another level, I see changes in the culture of my hometown: nightlife; new restaurants; young people coming into downtown Phoenix and exploring it. Transit has had an incredibly positive impact.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource – that helps you do your job?
The first thing is the contacts. The idea that I can pick up the phone and talk to a resource in another city—say, Dallas—about a project we’re doing is just invaluable.
And, of course, being in Leadership APTA. Phoenix is a young transit town compared to some of the cities and agencies I’ve had the opportunity to get to know through this program. The ability to connect with a face and a name, to see how some of these systems work and the agencies are organized, broadens my awareness of the industry and helps me to be better at my job and more effective for my agency.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
If I have an issue to address or an idea I’d like to try, it is not just my idea. It likely has been tried or experienced by other transit agencies.
I love knowing that I can make a quick phone call or send an e-mail to people who I know will respond promptly. There’s such a mutual respect for what we do and my counterparts are always honest and candid, which is helpful. Our agency is learning how to do its work better and better each day.
What do you like most about your job?
Two things come to mind immediately. First, I love the people—not only the team I work with every day, but also our customers. The men and women who ride our service are a diverse group and I love that. I’ll be on board and see a more mature woman heading to the airport with her luggage, sitting next to a Hispanic young person going to school—and they’re having a conversation. There aren’t a lot of other places where that happens.
I love the variety at my job. No one day is ever like any of the others; every day is something new, a new issue, a new challenge. What I appreciate about working in communications is being able to work with other departments and see what and how they do their jobs. I learn every day.
What is unique about your agency (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
In March of 2012, our board of directors agreed unanimously to hire a single CEO—Steve Banta—for both Valley Metro, the regional bus agency, and Valley Metro Rail, the regional rail agency. Over the last several months, we have created a very unified, more effective organization under the Valley Metro name.
Through my participation in Leadership APTA and other APTA programs, I occasionally hear perceptions about Phoenix: it’s hot and people here love to drive. Some of that is certainly true. What’s not as commonly understood is that we are quickly growing a transit mindset. We have a transit-supportive community and it’s growing. While we’re still a strong car culture, it’s shifting.
I keep finding more and more compelling reasons to love metro Phoenix in this job. I also don’t foresee leaving the public transit industry. I love what I’m doing, and I love this city.
Make sure you see Hillary Foose's video, now that you've read this!