Jeffrey A. Nelson
Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLINK)
Designated Committee Chair Director, APTA Board of Directors
Chair, APTA Legislative Committee
Member, Member Services, Small Operations, Bus and Paratransit CEOs, and Waterborne Transit Operations committees
Member, Diversity Council
How many people do you employ/how many people at your agency?
Over 150 transit operators, customer service representatives, mechanics, and operations and administrative staff create the outstanding team at MetroLINK.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I’ve been in the industry going on 30 years.
How long have you been an APTA member?
Not only have I been at MetroLINK all those years, I’ve also been an APTA member for the same time.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
Good question! It was completely by happenstance. I was employed in the commercial insurance business and that industry experienced a significant economic downturn at the time. I was offered a position with MetroLINK that I thought was going to be short-term. It ended up being my career. I will say that I’ve only had one promotion in 30 years—as general manager—so I often joke that I’m in a “dead end job!” But in all reality, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love what I do and wouldn’t change my career path if I had to do it all over again.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—one that helps you do your job?
For me, the most significant benefit is the opportunity for peer-to-peer networking through committee work. APTA attracts the “best of the best” and provides opportunities for public transit leaders to come together, help develop the industry, and craft a vision for its future. That’s pretty exciting.
I practice what I preach. In my years with APTA, I’ve served on 30 committees, steering committees, planning groups, or task forces at one level or another, including two terms on the Board of Directors (one currently) and one on the board’s Executive Committee. Right now, I serve on 11 groups in various capacities, plus I’m chair of the Legislative Committee.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
This is where associations like APTA can really shine by giving people the opportunity to meet with their peers—trade experiences, ask questions, ask for and give assistance, and generally engage with people who face similar challenges and reap similar rewards.
I’ve made some of my best friends in the industry through these activities and gotten some of the best career advice.
What do you like most about your job?
My job is different every day. Right now we are in the middle of building over $50 million in capital infrastructure, which presents another layer of opportunities to enhance the broader vision of creating what our community can and will be. I am also actively involved in policy and regional planning on a local and state level. I am thankful for my incredible administrative staff whose talent and creativity allow me to expand our involvement in our community on a much larger level.
Public transportation isn’t just about getting people from Point A to Point B anymore. Public transportation is playing a greater role in building communities and strengthening their economic development. I’m blessed to have a board that supports this role of public transportation. I think it’s very important.
What is unique about your agency/business (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
MetroLINK operates three passenger ferries across the Mississippi River. We operate six or seven months and carry between 40,000 to 43,000 riders across annually.
We don’t allow cars on the ferries, but we do allow people to board with their bicycles. This service allows us to connect bike paths on either side of the Mississippi and help people really take advantage of the unique riverfront developments and hubs of activities.
The best is yet to come in public transportation. I look forward to working with my staff here on a local level, and with APTA on a national level, to take public transportation to its next level of prosperity.
Make sure you see Jeffrey A. Nelson's video, now that you've read this!