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APTA Awards Celebrate Public Transit Excellence; Systems and Leaders Take Top Industry Honors at Annual Meeting Event

From employee wellness programs to leadership development, environmentally friendly policies and practices to rider accessibility, record-breaking ridership to sustainability initiatives, neighborhood projects to global development, and the individuals whose achievements have transformed public transportation, APTA’s 2014 Awards recognize exemplary public transportation systems and leaders.

Many of the winners will take ­center stage at an Oct. 14 event during the APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in Houston.

“The recipients of this year’s APTA Awards are stellar examples of excellence in the public transit industry. These individuals and organizations have led the way, successfully advancing public transportation at the local, state, and national levels,” said Mike Harbour, chair, APTA Awards Committee, and acting chief executive officer of Seattle’s Sound Transit.

Summaries of winners follow.

This year, APTA will honor two public transit agencies with its Innovation Award: Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), Austin, TX, and Regional Transportation District (RTD), Denver.

Capital Metro will be recognized for its Employee Wellness Program, designed to improve employee health and reduce absenteeism while increasing employee morale and safety awareness. The program addresses key aspects of employee health—physical activity, nutrition, safety, weight management, stress reduction strategies, and tobacco cessation—with four 24-hour onsite wellness centers and a Wellness Team to provide outreach.

RTD designed and implemented a Strategic Leadership Development Program to preserve institutional knowledge, groom the next generation of leaders, and cultivate collaborative workforce development programs. The program’s five-step, custom-designed curriculum identifies and develops qualified employees for senior management positions within RTD and the industry.

Three public transportation agencies will receive the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award: Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority (Tri Delta Transit), Antioch, CA, fewer than four million annual passenger trips; Lane Transit District (LTD), Springfield, OR, more than four million and fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips; and Utah Transit Authority (UTA), Salt Lake City, 20 million or more annual passenger trips.

Tri Delta Transit serves a 225-square-mile area that includes four cities and unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County in California. The agency has implemented an environmental agenda that affects every aspect of the organization and has been certified since 2006 as a Green Business by the Bay Area Green Business Program.

The agency also places a strong emphasis on each employee providing superior customer service, using surveys, a staff recognition program, and web-based programs. Tri Delta Transit has seen record ridership increases, decreased costs per passenger, lowered costs per mile, and fewer complaints.

LTD has seen its annual ridership grow from 700,000 boardings in 1970 to more than 11 million boardings today. In the interest of helping to create “a more vibrant, sustainable, and equitable community,” the system has developed collaborative approaches to its operations.

As a result, LTD earned Silver certification through APTA’s Sustainability Commitment. The agency is moving to an all hybrid-electric fleet and will apply for ISO 14001 certification in 2015.

LTD also implemented full accessibility of its fleet five years before the Americans with Disabilities Act and partners with disability advocates when developing services.

UTA achieved its all-time highest ridership level in 2013 while completing its FrontLines 2015 program with the opening of the Airport and Draper TRAX light rail lines. By December 2013, UTA opened four rail lines: one commuter rail, two light rail, and the agency’s first modern streetcar line.

The $2.5 billion FrontLines program, which UTA competed two years ahead of schedule, included 70 new miles of rail, bringing the agency’s total rail network to 140 miles.

Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) will receive APTA’s Distinguished Service Award. ­Pastor, first elected to the House in 1991 and retiring this year, has supported projects that get people to jobs, school, and vital services while generating a positive economic impact for the greater Phoenix area. His efforts helped Valley Metro Rail receive a full funding grant agreement for its 20-mile starter line and additional federal funds for a light rail extension and transit-oriented development.

National Distinguished Service Awards will go to Sen. ­Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair, Senate Environment and ­Public Works Committee, and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), chairman, House Trans­portation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, for their efforts to strengthen federal public transportation policies and programs including authorization legislation.

The Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award will go to Paul Jablonski, who has headed the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System since 2004. In that time, he has established MTS as one of the best public transit systems in the nation. Jablonski has been a leader in the industry for almost 45 years, initiating public transit in ­Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and helping establish light rail in Mendoza, Argentina.

Pasquale (Pat) T. Deon Sr., chairman since 1999 of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Board of Directors, ­Philadelphia, will receive the Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award. Deon joined the board in 1996. During his tenure as chairman, SEPTA maximized more than $3.5 billion in capital investments to advance projects to restore its aging infrastructure to a state of good repair. His leadership has helped the agency build one of the largest hybrid bus fleets in the nation and implement service with trackless trolleys.

The Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award will go to Raul V. Bravo, Raul V. Bravo & Associates Inc., Reston, VA. He has worked in transportation consulting for more than 45 years, helping to strengthen and move the public transportation industry to new and higher levels.

The two newest members of the APTA Hall of Fame are both past APTA chairs: Rod ­­Diridon Sr., emeritus executive director, Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), San Jose, CA, and Ronald J. Tober, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Charlotte, NC. Diridon was APTA chair in 1993-94 and Tober in 2000-2001.

Diridon headed MTI for 23 years, from its inception until his retirement earlier this year. He served as a city council member followed by 20 years on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board, which he chaired six times. He chaired the San Francisco Bay Area’s three regional agencies and was a vice chair of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).

Tober’s 45-year career began in his hometown of Cleveland, working on a study of the first rail line serving a U.S. airport. From there he has led public transit agencies in Miami, ­Boston, Seattle, Cleveland, and ­Charlotte. APTA named him Outstanding Transit Manager of the Year in 2005 and two systems he led received APTA Outstanding Achievement Awards during his tenure. He served eight years on the APTA Executive Committee as a vice president, secretary-treasurer, and chair, and also served on the American Public Transportation Foundation board.

This year, APTA also is presenting Special Awards for a Lifetime of Academic Distinction to George Smerk, D.B.A. (retired), Indiana University, and Vukan Vuchic, Ph.D. (retired), University of Pennsylvania.

Smerk served on the faculty of Indiana University from 1966 until his retirement in 2003. He was founder and director of the university’s Institute for Urban Transportation, and in 1992 also became its director of transportation. He is an author, a board member of several organizations, and a renowned educator of public transit professionals.

Vuchic has lectured at many universities and has been an invited lecturer at leading ­public transit agencies. He has also written extensively about public transit’s role not only to move passengers, but also to help create more ­livable cities.

APTA Awards Committee
The Awards Committee organizes the annual awards program to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public transportation through recognition of excellence and high achievement among the industry’s organizations and individuals. Committee members follow:

Committee Chair Michael S. Harbour, acting chief executive officer, Sound ­Transit, Seattle; Christopher P. Boylan, director, governmental and strategic partnerships, General Contractors Association of N.Y., Inc., New York; Grace Crunican, general manager, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District; Shirley A. DeLibero, president, DeLibero Transportation Strategies LLC, Milton, MA; Donna DeMartino, general manager/chief ­executive officer, San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, CA; Saundra Foster, president, board of trustees, METRO Regional Transit Authority, Akron, OH; Kim R. Green, president, SPX Genfare, Elk Grove, IL; and Jeff Meilbeck, chief executive officer/general manager, Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority, Flagstaff, AZ.

Also serving are Mary Jo Morandini, general manager, Beaver County Transit Authority, ­Rochester, PA; Maryanne Roberts, senior advisor, communications and public affairs, U.S., ­Bombardier Transportation, Horsham, PA; Janet S. Rogers, vice president, Stacy and Witbeck Inc., Alameda, CA; Paul P. Skoutelas, senior vice president and market leader, transit and rail, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Pittsburgh; Terry E. Solis, chairman and secretary of the board, the Solis Group, Pasadena, CA; David M. Stackrow, board member, Capital District Transpor­tation Authority, Albany, NY; and Matthew O. Tucker, executive director, North County Transit District, Oceanside, CA.
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