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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis January 24, 2014
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Meet Albrecht Engel!

Albrecht P. Engel, P.E.
Al Engel Consulting
Member, APTA Board of Directors; Secretary, High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee

How many people are at your business?

In my current practice I operate as an independent management consultant and have no payroll. I collaborate with associates as necessary to meet capacity or special expertise demands.

In my 40-year career, I have built and led numerous organizations. I’m ­particularly proud of taking a concept for a Franco-American transit consulting practice and ­creating an organization that grew to several hundred and of national reputation.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?

I started my career in transportation equipment (locomotives and transit vehicles) in the late 1960s, and worked on my first intercity passenger rail assignment when I was named the project manager for General Electric in 1973 on the supply of Amtrak’s first new electric passenger locomotive for the Northeast Corridor. Since that time I have held leadership roles in various public transportation planning and engineering ­consulting firms, as well as an executive position at Amtrak as vice president-high speed rail.

How long have you been an APTA member?

An early memory of APTA was the annual meeting of 1979, when President Carter was the keynote speaker! It impressed me that APTA had this kind of influence in ­Washington and convinced me to stay involved ever since. My employer at the time was Gibbs & Hill, which eventually became absorbed by URS.

In 1985 I was recruited to launch a new planning and engineering consulting firm named LS Transit Systems (LSTS), later renamed as SYSTRA Consulting. LSTS immediately became an APTA member in fall 1985, with myself and associates becoming active in the conference programs and association activities.

I currently serve as secretary of the High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee and am also a business member-at-large elected to the APTA Board of Directors. I’ve been active in the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) since 2002 and for a time chaired the BMBG Business Development Committee. The BMBG is focused on advocacy for federal and other public funding for public transportation, including high-speed and intercity passenger rail. The BMBG also endeavors to strengthen partnerships between the supply side and public agencies to create greater value for the taxpayer and the ultimate user.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?

While a Penn State engineering student in my junior year, I was fortunate to land a summer assignment with GE in the Erie, PA, Transportation Division. That assignment exposed me to electrified transportation, which I found fascinating. That experience influenced my career choice and caused me to walk away from aerospace offers, the hot market at the time.

From traction equipment I moved into systems and, eventually, public transit infrastructure planning, design, and project delivery, which led to project assignments with many of the county’s transit agencies.

The culmination of my career was working for AECOM as vice president, high-speed rail, and later for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (more commonly known as Amtrak), leading development of the conceptual engineering and operating plan for a next-generation high-speed rail service in the Boston-New York-Washington megaregion.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Please explain why or how this has helped.

Connectivity is key to success in public transportation, and it all begins at the human level. Having the ability to interact on neutral ground with agency leaders, as well as leaders of the consulting and supply side, is invaluable in gaining knowledge about innovative transportation solutions and future business prospects. The facilitation by talented APTA staff of the committee and conference environments provide this opportunity, and there’s much to learn from the diversity of presentations and panels.

What do you like most about your job?

Whether as an individual or leader of a team or organization, I’ve spent much of my career serving as an advisor or consultant to customers, clients, and co-workers. ­Bringing people together and facilitating a collaborative atmosphere—which leads to a needs-driven, cost-efficient design or organizational solution—is very satisfying.

What is unique about your business? What would readers be surprised to learn?

By its very nature, an independent consultancy is a unique proposition. My functional work experience is diverse, running the gamut from equipment design to executive management, yet highly concentrated in the public and rail transportation industry both domestically and internationally. I’ve worked in all public transportation modes, including true high-speed rail. All this notwithstanding, readers might be surprised to learn that in 2006, for a change of pace, I took a three-year sabbatical to work as a financial advisor with one of the larger global bankers.

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