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A Year Dedicated to Serving the People Who Serve People

APTA Chair
Immediate Past Chair
Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY

The following commentary is an edited and condensed version of the remarks APTA Chair David M. Stackrow Sr. delivered at the Annual Meeting, Sept. 24, 2018.

This is a remarkable time for public transportation and for APTA. This past year, Immediate Past Chair Nat Ford showed us a glimpse of what lies ahead and gave us a foundation to build upon with his five priorities. Paul Skoutelas has brought a new kind of energy and optimism to his role as president and CEO.

As APTA’s 2018 Annual Report conveys, this is the time to reimagine mobility and the “power and promise of public transportation.” We are well positioned to shape our destiny.

So, as APTA chair, how will I make a difference?

For starters, it’s clear that APTA needed to liven up the atmosphere. What better way to do that than to elect an accountant from Albany! In fact, I am wildly excited about what I believe are the most critical issues for APTA this year.

First, if we’re going to redefine our future, we better have a solid strategic plan to guide us. It must be dynamic as well as pragmatic and aspirational.

So, my first focus is to shepherd a new three-year strategic plan [APTA has traditionally operated under five-year plans] through a transparent, thorough and inclusive process … a process that reflects our diverse hopes and shared values. This will mean re-examining APTA’s mission and vision and taking a fresh look at what we need to accomplish for a vibrant, successful future.

Why does APTA need to create a new strategic plan? Because the world of mobility is evolving at a pace and with an unpredictability never before seen.

Only five years ago, in 2013, how many public transit agencies were thinking about partnering with transportation network companies? Even last year at APTA’s most recent EXPO, the hot topics were electric buses and autonomous vehicles. At the previous EXPO, that wasn’t the case.

When we complete our work about a year from now, it will be the beginning, not the end. We need to own it, live it and make it central to the work of APTA and every APTA committee.

My second responsibility is to continue to advance the vision and value of the emerging shared mobility paradigm. This issue will be our central focus, now and for years to come.

APTA and its board have a unique role in this space. We have an obligation to stay informed and to inform others, to think big and act boldly, to experiment and explore and to share within the industry the lessons we learn.

We cannot wait for an invitation to sit at the “thought-leadership” table. We must create our seat and engage with Google, Uber, General Motors, Waymo, Intel—and everyone else who has the potential to shape our industry’s future.

I will foster a culture that encourages us to embrace new partners and ideas—with resolve, not reticence. As an industry, we work hard to reduce or eliminate risk, but in this case, there can be no progress without risk.

My final responsibility is to ensure our association—and as an extension, our industry—speaks with a single, strong voice. This is essential as we help write the next FAST Act and influence other issues.

APTA’s membership is large, diverse and sometimes rather boisterous. That’s a good thing. It’s one of our strengths. But to make our size and our variety true advantages, we need to deliver cogent, unified positions.

That’s not a hope or a wish; it’s a no-nonsense necessity for our success in Washington, DC, and in every community where we are fighting for public support and public resources.

This year, we will strengthen our solidarity. We will put our passion for public transportation before parochial pursuits.

Our industry has a powerful narrative to share … a narrative with a wide range of ideas, innovations and accomplishments. These are stories that can teach and inspire because the work that industry leaders do right now will define what public transportation becomes. In fact, showcasing our members’ exceptional efforts is at the heart of how I view my role as APTA chair.

Throughout my personal and professional life, I’ve believed in the importance of “People Serving People.” Those three words are what brought me to this new role. It’s the reason most of us chose to make public transportation our life’s work.

What we do makes people’s lives better. It’s who we are as an industry. It’s what makes all of you leaders. And great leadership is rooted in empathy. You take care of your people. You stay focused on the well-being of your organizations. You never forget that our ­service to the public is its own reward.

My year as APTA chair is about serving you, telling your stories and advancing goals that are worthy of our collective mission.

I look forward to working with Paul and Nat, Vice Chair Nuria Fernandez and ­Secretary-Treasurer Freddie Fuller … and with all of you to ­create a better future for public transpor­tation and the communities we serve.

There is no more important role as your chair.

"Commentary" features authoritative points of view from various sources on timely and pressing issues affecting public transportation. APTA would like to hear from you. If you are interested in submitting a original, thought-leader Commentary for consideration, please contact Senior Managing Editor David A. Riddy.
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