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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis September 6, 2013
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Meet Stephen R. Banta!

Stephen R. Banta
Chief Executive Officer
Valley Metro
Phoenix, AZ
Member, Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee; Commuter Rail  CEOs Subcommittee; Human Resources Committee; Legislative Committee; Rail Conference Planning Subcommittee; and Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee

How many people do you employ/how many people at your agency?
Valley Metro has close to 300 internal employees. We also employ about 1,000 contracted employees who provide supervision, maintenance, and ­operations of the bus, paratransit, and light rail systems.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
Just over 27 years. I joined Valley Metro Rail as CEO in 2010 and continue that role with the integration of Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and ­Valley Metro Rail in 2012. My career in the public transit industry began in 1986, when I worked as an electrician for the San Diego Trolley. Prior to that, I was an electrician in the U.S. Navy.

How long have you been an APTA member?
I’ve always worked for public transit properties that were APTA members. In 1990, I served as a member of the Rail Rodeo Committee for Los Angeles Metro and APTA’s first Rail Transit Standards Committee.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
There are two distinct reasons: One, I enjoy being a public servant, and two, upon leaving the Navy, I needed employment. After three years in San Diego, I worked at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Los Angeles Metro, and then on to Dallas Area Rapid Transit to help with the light rail startup. From there, I moved on to the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh as chief operating officer and in 2007, I became the executive director of operations with TriMet, Portland, OR.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
I believe there is a strong and unique advocacy that APTA provides for our industry. In addition, networking is a key benefit giving us the ability to discuss challenges and mark celebrations with peers. Also, APTA is a valuable resource when seeking benchmark data, peer reviews, safety and security trends—the wealth of information available to members is endless.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
The national advocacy is of great value in gaining local support. When Michael Melaniphy recently toured construction and spoke in Phoenix, he emphasized the importance of what we do from a national perspective. In addition, APTA’s conferences, programs, and the various committees help transit professionals think differently about advancing ­public transit.

The value of networking with other public transit professionals means that we never have to solve a problem on our own or reinvent the wheel. We can always find someone who’s been there and done that. Agencies feel they can reach out to each other to gain their knowledge and experience.

As an active APTA member, I am constantly able to learn and share by participating on numerous committees.

What do you like most about your job?
I like so many things about this job. The primary one is the effect we have on this community. Having public transit available allows someone to choose to leave the car at home and use our service. I like the thought that we connect people to life.

If I’m having a difficult day, I will go out and ride the bus or train to get back to the basics. Doing that provides me with a grounded perspective on the challenges we face every day.

What is unique about your agency (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
Last year we provided 73 million transit trips—especially notable in a region where sometimes public transit just isn’t on the radar screen. In addition to the merger between Valley Metro Rail and RPTA, this past July we integrated the city of Tempe’s bus operations into our service.

Phoenix is becoming more and more of an urban city; we see more people ­relocating into the downtown core. I think that transition has a lot to do with the options we ­provide, allowing people to be more mobile in an increasingly dynamic and vibrant urban area.

Make sure you see Stephen R. Banta's video, now that you've read this!

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