Working with APTA
Reflecting on his tenure as chair, he continually goes back to the work everyone in the industry has done in this past year. When I ask what he’s most proud of, he replies, “There are a number of things that I’m proud of, but the thing that I’m most proud of is nothing that I have done specifically by myself. It’s rather that people have stepped up and have accepted the leadership roles that I have asked them to accept.”
He adds, “And they have performed at a very, very high level.”
Chief among those he mentioned was Lee Sander, executive director and CEO of the New York MTA and chair of TransitVision 2050. “When I was first vice chair and I was thinking what I would like to accomplish, not just “I,” but the association to be challenged to accomplish during my term, it occurred to me that it was time once again for APTA to think about, in very global ways, the future.”
He points to two forces that really made this the time where it needed to be done. One was the looming expiration for the authorization of SAFETEA-LU and the need to reauthorize the surface transportation program. The other was the strains within the association that needed to be addressed so the coalition could continue to perform at a high level. “Those strains,” he clarifies, “having to do with the natural tension that arises between large and small properties, between operators and board members and business members.
“I encouraged Howard Silver, who was chair at the time, to institute a visioning process,” Townes says. “It was logical and necessary for us to sit down and do some visionary thinking about what we saw in the future so that we could articulate that future to other people and we could position our legislative process in such a way that was in alignment with our vision.
“When I became chair, it occurred to me and Bill Millar that the duties of APTA chair are somewhat time-consuming and that this visioning process needed someone that was going to lead it with a great deal of focus and that we needed to have a very credible and experienced senior leader to do that.” Townes states, “And Lee Sander accepted that task and has far exceeded my expectations.”
TransitVision 2050 was adopted by the association’s board of director’s executive committee at APTA’s Annual Meeting. “That’s the culmination of my term so I see that as a major accomplishment I wanted to have done while I was in office and all of the credit goes to the task force and the credit for leading the task force through the difficult and productive part of the process goes to Lee Sander,” Townes stresses.
There were also several others Townes specifically mentioned. A subset of the TransitVision 2050 process was how the association addresses its structure, how it manages the natural tensions between the segments of the association. A task force was set up to work through those issues, the Framework for the Future task force. “There are three co-chairs of that task force,” Townes says. “They’re all past chairs of APTA. They are George Dixon, who’s a board member at Cleveland’s RTA and Les White, he is the general manager of the system in Santa Barbara, a small system in California, and also John Bartosiewicz, who is a senior vice president of McDonald Transit Associates, and is also the former general manager of The T in Fort Worth, Texas.
“These three people have taken on — these are very difficult issues to talk about,” Townes stresses, “possibly changing the bylaws, reforming the governance, the structure of an association.
“They and their task force have taken these issues on with a great deal of urgency, a very collaborative fashion and in a way that has raised a sense of calm, I think, among some of the factions in the association.” Townes explains that their output is due in November and at that time, will go to the executive committee at the executive committee’s retreat. He adds, “The draft work has been stellar and I expect that their outcomes will help us address some of these difficult issues in a very positive way.”
Stay Connected, Be Involved
Townes had shared how the association with APTA helped with the resources available to them when they were working at combining Pentran and TRT to become Hampton Roads Transit, but there are other benefits to the involvement that he believes in.