APTA | Passenger Transport
The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis February 7, 2014
Forward   |   Calendar   |   APTA Home   |   Advertise with Us
Meet Nathaniel Ford Sr.!

Nathaniel Ford Sr.
Chief Executive Officer
Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jacksonville, FL
Member, Mid-Sized Operations and Waterborne Transit Operations committees; Past Secretary/Treasurer, APTA Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and American Public Transportation Foundation; Former Vice Chair-Management and Finance

How many people are employed at your agency?
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has about 850 employees. Although we are one of the country’s mid-size authorities, we have a huge area to cover. Jacksonville has the largest land mass of any city in the U.S. We operate nearly 200 buses and trolleys and 26 community shuttles on approximately 34 routes, as well as an automated people-mover.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I have worked in the transportation industry for more than 32 years. I have worked at all levels and learned every aspect of the business—starting on the ground floor as a train conductor for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York. ­During my career, I have been a CEO for a combined 12 years, first at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, then the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and now JTA, where I recently celebrated my first anniversary.

How long have you been an APTA member?
I became active with APTA 20 years ago.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
Transportation is in my blood. My father started in this industry at the New York MTA. Watching him go to work every day and reach the highest levels in his field was an ­inspiration to me. My father is, was, and always will be my role model, so I really followed in his footsteps and haven’t looked back because transportation is such an exciting, multifaceted field. It is also rewarding to provide a vital service to people who rely on public transportation to get where they need to go.

Transportation is always changing. When I first started decades ago, the primary goal was to transport daily commuters on buses and trains quickly, safely, and affordably. Today those factors are still important, but we have enhanced our scope to attract choice riders—people who might take ­public transit occasionally to a sports event or concert and Baby Boomers and Millennials who want an alter­native to driving their cars. Transit executives also help stimulate economic development by forming public-private partnerships to build transit-oriented developments.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an APTA member is the partnerships I have formed and the friendships I have made with colleagues. Getting feedback from my peers about best practices, sharing knowledge, and exchanging ideas with other industry leaders is invaluable.

The professional networking—locally, nationally, and internationally—identifying solutions to challenges facing transportation agencies, and having a collective voice to advocate for public transit at a national level are an immense help to me as a transportation executive.

What do you like most about your job?
I like the challenge and opportunity of being able to take a good transportation system to the next level to make it a leader in the region. It’s like buying a house. If you buy a beautiful turnkey mansion it might be nice to live in, but there’s nowhere to go from there except, perhaps, to buy a bigger mansion. But if you buy a modest, well-designed home and want to expand, you have room to grow and something to work toward that you can put your signature style on. That’s what I think of the JTA.

The JTA is in a great position to expand its focus, its purpose, and its scope, and I find that exciting. That’s what I like most about my job.

What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
I believe readers would be surprised to learn that we began as the Jacksonville Expressway Authority in 1955. The authority was established by the Florida legislature and the focus was limited to highways, bridges, and tolls. A few other interesting facts:

* The JTA wasn’t established until 1971, when the expressway authority merged with several private bus companies.

* JTA is still responsible for roads and bridges, one of a few public transit ­agencies in the country with that purview.

* The JTA is expanding its focus and is laying the foundation to support a regional transportation system.

* The JTA has launched or is preparing to launch several innovative programs, including TransPortal, a federally funded, one-call, one-click program that will provide real-time information about transportation options in the 12-county region, and First Coast Flyer, our new BRT program that we’re planning to implement in 2015. 

Make sure you see Nathaniel Ford Sr.’s video, now that you've read this!

« Previous Article
Return to Top
Next Article »
» The Marin County Transit District is looking for a new general manager. [More]
» The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit has an opening for a deputy director, planning and environment. [More]
View more Classified Ads »
TO PLACE AN AD: E-mail or fax the requested date(s) of publication to: ptads@apta.com or FAX to (202) 496-4898. Mailing address is: Passenger Transport, 1666 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. Ad copy is not accepted by phone. DEADLINE: Noon, Monday, one week prior to publication date. INFORMATION: Phone (202) 496-4877.
© Copyright American Public Transportation Association
1666 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 496-4882 • Fax (202) 496-4321
Print Version | Search Back Issues | Contact Us | Unsubscribe