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Transit CEOs Gather to Share, Network; Funding, Safety, Technology on the Agenda

Top public transit executives and deputies had an opportunity to engage in high-level discussions with FTA and TSA officials, industry leaders and APTA officers on some of the most pressing issues and challenges facing their agencies during the recently concluded Transit CEOs Seminar in Orlando.

Among the issues at the forefront of the seminar were funding, safety and security, which were the focus of a session led by FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan; Carolyn Flowers, senior advisor; Thomas Littleton, associate administrator for safety and oversight; and Sonya Proctor, director, TSA ­Surface Division.

McMillan reviewed major provisions of the FAST Act, reminding attendees that it applies to all FY 2016 funds and increases funding for surface transportation with an additional $1 billion per year for public transit.

She also reported on FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Programs, Rides to Wellness, Buy America, workforce development and DOT’s Smart City Challenge, among other topics.

FTA and TSA officials also discussed public transit safety and security in a roundtable facilitated by Flowers.

“We may temporarily assume the administration of a State Safety Oversight program,” McMillan said. “We hope that we never have a reason to interfere with operations of your transit agency, but in order to trust that they are in safe hands, riders want to know that some entity has that authority. And trust is what makes this industry possible.”

She said other changes in the FAST Act to FTA’s safety authority “paved the way for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which, together, we can outline solutions that help diminish the risk of transit operator assault.” TSA and FTA representatives also discussed crime prevention activities and resources of their organizations.

On the topic of how autonomous vehicle technologies might transform public transportation, Steven Polzin, director, Mobility Policy Research, Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida, discussed their implementation and safety benefits and proposed strategies for leading in this new environment, including understanding and monitoring the impact of technology on travel behavior, advocating for transit’s strengths and benefits and making sure the new services complement transit.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart shared the 2016 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements, which his agency will focus on this year and beyond. He also described how NTSB works during an investigation.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and President & CEO Michael Melaniphy reported on association initiatives and priorities in the Opening General Session, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows.”

McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, noted that APTA is planning a mission to Cuba “to explore transportation and infrastructure needs, to cultivate business opportunities and to establish useful contacts in that nation of 11 million people. Our delegation will include mayors, other public officials and transportation professionals,” she said.

Melaniphy recapped three key goals from APTA’s strategic plan (safety and security, new technology and workforce development), noting that each presents opportunities. “I’m confident that if we concentrate our efforts and resources on these three areas, we can make change work for us,” he said. The opening session was sponsored by GIRO.

The seminar also featured a listening session to gather feedback for the APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration, McCall’s initiative to enhance partnerships among three key membership groups—agency CEOs, board members and the Business Member Board of Governors—and to strengthen relationships between APTA and organizations with shared interests.

Other highlights included a discussion on board ethics, labor relations, a presentation by Leadership APTA graduates on transformative leadership, a partnership among LYNX, the city of Orlando and the Orlando City Soccer Club to build a new soccer stadium, diversity (especially regarding LGBT communities), succession planning, social media and more.

General Session speakers featured, from left, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; Arjan van Andel, director, business development, GIRO (Opening General Session sponsor); APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; APTA Vice Chair Doran J. Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA; Susan Black, interim chief executive officer/general manager, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX), Orlando; and Steven Polzin, director, mobility policy research, Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida.

Photo courtesy of LYNX

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and Carl Sedoryk, general manager/CEO, Monterey-Salinas (CA) Transit; Carolyn Flowers, FTA senior advisor; FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan; Thomas Littleton, FTA associate administrator for safety and oversight; TSA official Sonya Proctor; and Keith Parker, general manager/CEO, MARTA, at the FTA and TSA forum.

Photo courtesy of Peter Varga

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