Ron L. Brooks
Vice President, Paratransit and IntelliRide Development
Member, APTA Access Committee, Mobility Management Committee
Member, APTA Diversity Council
How many people are employed at your organization?
Veolia has about 20,000 employees in North America. I personally don’t supervise anybody. My responsibility within the company is to lead our efforts to secure paratransit contracts and promote our business approach to paratransit projects.
I develop relationships with clients. I’m involved in everything from developing proposals to working with our team to put together the right package to contract negotiations. I’m also often involved with the start-up phase to make sure we’re off to a good start and that we keep the promises we make. I help make sure we put our best foot forward.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I started in 1993 as a transportation planner with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART). I stayed there for three years and then spent four years in Palm Beach County in Florida directing the county’s accessible transit and ADA paratransit programs. In 2000, I joined one of Veolia’s predecessor companies as a project manager for a small paratransit brokerage in Albuquerque, NM. I’ve been in various roles in corporate support since 2001, and I’ve been in business development since 2006.
How long have you been an APTA member?
I attended my first APTA conference in 1996. I’ve been really involved with APTA for about 10 years.
What drew you to a career in public transit?
I’m totally blind. While I was a graduate student at San Francisco State University, I got involved with a community organization that was engaging BART on transportation issues. The organization needed someone to attend meetings, so I volunteered.
I felt like the advocates were asking for reasonable things, and BART was trying to do the right thing, but they were sort of “lost in translation.” I worked to bring the two groups together. I saw the potential to bring something new to the industry—at least to BART—and I never looked back.
I saw how good, reliable transit can make a real difference. It certainly did with me, especially in terms of my safety and mobility. I had the chance then—and still do—to work on issues that were personally important. This is really appealing.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Please explain why or how this has helped.
For me, it’s the conferences. I love talking to my peers, hearing about what they do, and having the opportunity for real information sharing, for networking. Two or three times a year, I leave my normal routine (for the most part) to go to a place where I can really engage with my peers from across the country. I love that.
What do you like most about your job?
When Veolia wins a contract I’ve been involved in, it reminds me why I got involved in public transit. I can see something I’ve worked hard on turn into something real—something that benefits people and public transit agencies. I take great pride in that.
I try to take the long view when I have a project I’m working on—to really probe. What does the client really want and need? What keeps the manager awake at night? I strive to tailor responses to their needs. It’s very rewarding.
Also, Veolia has let me stay involved in policy, like being on the APTA Access Committee and being part of the wider debates about where the industry is headed.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
Veolia is a big company, but I know the CEO and he knows me. He knows my wife and he asks about my kids. There’s a real sense that we’re on the same team.
When I get together with other blind people, we talk about the 70 percent unemployment rate and chronic underemployment among us. But as a vice president at Veolia, I have substantial responsibilities, a good job, and a good salary. Veolia has allowed me to remain involved in the things I’m interested in, and they’ve invested in the technology I need to do my job. They let me excel in work that matters to the industry and to me personally.
Make sure you see Ron L. Brooks' video, now that you've read this!