Building the Future Together

Whether it’s state, regional, national or international, the associations available to transportation professionals provide a vast network for information exchange, opportunities to build expertise to take back to their own organization and a place to build valuable relationships.

Several association leaders talk about how they got involved, what their associations offer and their thoughts on how working together benefits the industry and our sustainability.

Roberto Cavalieri
International Association of Public Transport

It was while studying engineering at Bologna’s Civil Engineering Faculty that Roberto Cavalieri became fascinated by the complexity and relevance of public transportation in people’s lives. “Growing up in Trentino-Alto Adige, an Italian region where the development of public transport infrastructure has been especially strong, I decided to engage and try to improve public transport facilities and institutions.” He says, “I especially liked the fact that so much planning and technical knowledge is involved in each and every decision, which, in turn, has such a big impact in people’s everyday life.

“While I was working at ATAC, Rome, I started to get in touch with UITP and to realize the importance of this association as a link for a large number of actors in the sector,” tells Cavalieri. “I started working with the UITP’s Brussels representatives on European issues. Given the relevance and success of our projects, I created a “task force” in Rome to closely follow European projects and issues, side-by-side with the UITP Brussels team.”

At that time Cavalieri was elected president of the UITP European Union Committee, and then in 2005 was elected as president of the UITP.

UITP represents more than 3,100 urban, local, regional and national mobility professionals from more than 90 countries on all continents and, in 2010, will be celebrating its 125th anniversary. “We are unique because we bring together different actors, including operating companies, regional and national authorities, the service and supply industry, research institutes and consultants,” Cavalieri says. “It plays a major advocacy role for promoting investments in the transport sector, service improvement and product development. We are a major point of reference and a center for best practices and benchmarking for the public transport sector all over the world.”

The association’s main role is to improve public spaces and quality of life in urban areas, mobilizing political will in favor of public transport as a sustainable mobility choice. In order to promote this message, UITP is engaging with a number of international bodies, such as the United Nations, the World Bank and European institutions, to build innovative projects. An area that Cavalieri also says UITP has been focusing on is the youth. “There are a number of organizations carrying out important activities for youth development and we believe that they could be valuably involved in public transport, to educate youth and spread the message of sustainable mobility,” he says. The Youth International Award, created in 2005, rewards the best projects created by young managers for young transit users.

Another program, Youth Parliaments, gets young people involved in public transportation where they meet and exchange ideas. Sessions are held all over the world. “A group of 15 to 20 young people from schools or universities are contacted every time there is an important UITP event,” Cavalieri explains. “They are invited to participate as UITP delegates, participating actively and ending writing reports on their specific needs for PT and major related issues, their dreams, their problems and their wishes.” He says that all the reports collected will be part of a larger report on youth that will be handed over to decision makers present in Vienna at the Worldwide Congress in 2009. He adds, “Youth is not only the future, it is already the present and we have to act massively to change the educational paths; only doing this we will change the attitude in terms of passenger transport.”

In June next year, UITP will be holding its 58th World Congress in Vienna, Austria. “The question of which public transport mode is most appropriate for a given city is a very complex investment choice; making the right choice of transport systems for a city has never been more vital or more complex,” Cavalieri states. “With the theme, ‘Public Transport: Making the right mobility choices,’ our congress will, however, help stakeholders make informed and appropriate mobility choices.”

Diane James
Executive Director
Women’s Transportation Seminar

With 43 chapters, including two outside the United States, the Women’s Transportation Seminar is an international organization that looks to transform the transportation industry through the advancement of women.

Executive Director Diane James explains how it started 31 years ago. “It was funded by women primarily in the D.C. area at the very beginning, who had come from the railway industry. They were looking to establish a mutual support system for dealing in, what was then, an extremely male-dominated industry and they were finding it hard to really connect with other women and get support.”

She continues, “If you think about what life was like for professional women in nontraditional jobs in the ‘70s, there was a lot of groundbreaking that had to be done at that time.” She adds, “There has been tremendous impetus to women, just to be involved at all levels throughout the industry.”

James has a background in association management focused on women, coming into organizations when they were in transition. “I came to WTS at a time when they were going through a comparable transition. It seemed a good fit, I think for everyone involved,” she says. “The fact that it was a transportation organization was not as much a part of the equation, although I’m surveying and learning,” she adds with a laugh.

James says the WTS has been able to expand in new ways. A strategic planning process and development of a professional staff has enabled WTS to position itself within the industry to advance its mission. She is looking forward to things like benchmarking the accomplishments of women in the industry, developing the international footprint, strengthening chapters and expanding membership. As she says, in the two years she’s been there, the focus has felt somewhat internal. “Before you decorate your house, you’ve got to build it.” And then she adds, “But there’s no question that this is just the preliminary steps to really enable the organization to launch into its future.”

Proud of the association’s accomplishments and that of its members, she says, “We have a number of women that are prominent members of WTS that are the first women to do this and that and you know what? We’re finally getting to the point where we are running out of ‘firsts’ in some places because there have now been women in those positions.” She emphasizes, “Every time that occurs, we, as an organization, are quite celebratory about that.”

“Our mission is the advancement of women,” she reiterates. “I believe that our members and our leaders should be extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished in a very short time.”

It is a unique perspective that WTS offers. “We are in every mode of transportation, in all the different sectors; we are in a very unique position to bring together thought-leaders and innovators and highly visible decision-makers in all areas of the industry.” With transit, aerospace, trucking and other transportation sectors, members often have very different opinions regarding the allocation of dollars, the kind of political approach and the strategies to use. As she explains, the different perspectives offer members a broad viewpoint.

Seeing the competitive global environment and how much is allocated into transportation development in other places in the world, it helps illuminate where this country needs to be, she states. “For the United States to stay competitive, I think transportation is looking at funding issues as well as workforce issues and building a consensus within the country about the choices that need to be made.” She says, “I think those challenges play differently in different places, but overall, globally, energy and the environment and the interrelationship is what seems to be driving most of the other concerns, decisions, research and development that we are trying to accomplish.”

Through the WTS Policy Seminar, WTS strives to generate the conversation feeding knowledge back into the organizations. The Policy Seminar was initiated last year and its subject was the relationship between the environmental and energy issues. “We’ve created a lot of interesting dialogue,” James says of it.

Most importantly, James finds the organization personally inspiring. “When I go to hear women like Mary Peters, Marion Blakey, Jane Chmielinski, Marcy Schwartz, the list is endless; they’ve just been incredible role models personally.” She emphasizes, “The opportunity to engage with people of that caliber is something you really can’t put a price tag on.”

Kristen Joyner
Executive Director
South West Transit Association

Kristen Joyner started in transportation working at the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) and, as she says, “Everybody will tell you that when you get into transit, you don’t really know you’re going to love it and it gets in your blood and you can’t leave it.” Joyner says instead of a linear, “point-A-to-point-B” resume, hers looks more like a constellation. But it is the experiences from the places she’s been that translate into the skill sets she uses in her position as the executive director of the South West Transit Association (SWTA).

After CATA she went to work for Circle Communication out of Arkansas as a consultant for them. She focused on nonprofit board development, worked on the event side, the fund-raising side of nonprofit organizations. She also worked as a national professional development trainer for Fred Pryor/Career Track Seminars, traveling the country training management principles and organization principles while also working with nonprofit boards. “All three of those major pieces in my life — working in transit, doing nonprofit board development and learning about membership development, and going out and actually doing the training myself, going from hotel to hotel and setting up a training session — were big pieces of what helped me here at SWTA. Those are three major pieces for what SWTA is all about.” She adds, “All of those skill sets have come together for this position and I’m just really passionate about public transportation and happy to be back in this industry.”

SWTA is a 28-year-old organization across eight states consisting of transit providers of all sizes: rural, small, urban and large urban organizations, as well as the people that service the public transportation provider. “SWTA is here to serve our membership through education resources, communicating to our membership what’s happening on the national level and disseminating the information,” says Joyner.
A big component is the information training opportunities it provides. She says the state associations provide many training opportunities for driver training or technical skills; SWTA looks for unique opportunities to provide. She emphasizes, “Our training is a more managerial focus,” providing training for general managers, planners and the procurement folks. She adds, “We fill a niche for the rural and small transit operators that they might not have access to.”

She explains the evolution SWTA has gone through. “When it first began, the organization was heavily focused on pay-to-say, the lobbying interests, focused very much on the national picture and how the SWTA region fit into the regional national legislative issue.” She continues, “Then it became more training-focused in its middle years and now, we’ve struck a balance between the two. I think that over the last year, and moving forward, we are going to have a very good balance of legislative coupled with the training and the communication effort.

“There is an expectation from a lot of the membership that we should be involved in their state legislative issues, and that’s really where state associations fill the niche. I see SWTA as the bridge between the state and the national,” she says. She explains that there are issues that the Southwest region deals with that are unique to the rest of the United States, and that’s where SWTA comes in to play.

“Data supports that the projected population of the Southwest states that we represent, by 2020, it will grow by 13 percent. The national population will only grow by 10 percent,” she explains. “If our communities aren’t prepared for that, we are going to be in trouble. That is where a huge niche for SWTA is. We ask the Texas Transit Institute for a lot of different data for us, a myriad of things, so that we can start looking at what we want and need to focus on for authorization.”

This is an exciting time for Joyner and SWTA she says, as it’s a time to look at transit as a new entity. “We’ve got to look at it with new eyes. It’s not reauthorizing the old; it is authorizing something very new.” She adds, “We really believe that in the growth states in our region, the percentage of federal funding that comes back to those states needs to be increased so that we are proactive and prepared for the growth that is going to take place over the next 10 to 20 years in our area.”

Shelley Poticha
President and CEO
Reconnecting America

People are worried, people are ready for change and the transit industry is ready to step up to the plate. That is one of the messages Shelley Poticha, president and CEO of Reconnecting America, had to say at the American Public Transportation Association’s Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop recently. “Not only are people ready for change, we actually know what to do. We have been practicing these ideas in communities around the country for years and we hear about them at our sustainability conferences, all of the innovations that are starting to take place where developers are recognizing that there is a tremendous shift in the marketplace,” she said.

Poticha was simply doing one of the things she enjoys most. “I love people. I love talking to people.” She quickly adds, “I love brainstorming; I’m just a big networker.” Leading the efforts of Reconnecting America, a lot of her time is spent out on the road speaking at conferences and to communities, keeping people informed of the latest innovations.

This passion came from having a father that was an architect and from watching her own hometown decay. She says, “I grew up in Eugene, Ore., and when I was a teenager they closed the Main Street ends of this downtown. All of a sudden the city began to die.” She states, “That just got me interested in what cities were about and how they change.”

It wasn’t a direct line to where she is today; she did a lot of things and then circled back. “My last position was at Calthorpe Associates with Peter Calthorpe,” she explains. “Peter was, is, one of the founders for the Congress for New Urbanism.

“A lot of our work was about helping communities and beginning to think about how people experience cities and identify ways of taking the principles of new urbanism and implementing them.” She continues, “I had been very involved in the beginnings of the Congress for the New Urbanism and when the position opened up, I decided I really would like to move from being a consultant to an advocate.”

Poticha was the executive director of the Congress for the New Urbanism and then came to Reconnecting America. “I was actually sitting as a board member on the previous iteration of Reconnecting America, which was called The Great America Station Foundation,” Poticha explains. “Station Foundation was formed by Amtrak, Greyhound and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Its mission was to help communities fix up their train stations and the neighborhoods around them.”

After several years, they realized the much larger opportunity with a growing interest in transit to focus on transit-oriented development. She says, “So I left the board at that point to become the founder of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development, which was like a project of Reconnecting America at that point.” When the head of Reconnecting America left, the board asked Poticha if she would take over the organization.

Reconnecting America is a non-profit organization that provides best practices and techniques for how to better link land-use decisions with transit investments. It is the market-based approach that recognizes that there is a shift in American demographics that is likely to lead many more people looking to live where transit, walking and biking are real options.

“We created the Center for Transit-Oriented Development because what we were finding was that each agency had to do all of the research themselves about what is happening in transit-oriented development,” she says. “We basically created a clearinghouse of information that practitioners can link into about whatever stage of that process they are in.”

Just like many in the industry, Poticha is optimistic about the direction things are headed. “When we started five years ago we put out a report that looked at the market demand for housing near transit and we found that through this research, that just based on demographic trends, we’re likely to see about a third of the housing market over the next 20 years wanting to live in neighborhoods near transit.” She continues, “It was new at that time. People weren’t really thinking about this and now transit-oriented development is part of the lexicon of transit agencies in cities.

“Developers really get it and we’re moving into this phase where people are, they understand that this is an important building block to the future of our cities. They really want to learn more about how do we implement it.” She adds, “With rising gas prices and increased demand on transit, that has just fueled it even more.”

Poticha stresses, “I think the future for transit agencies is a recognition that we need to partner with the cities and the development community to really make transit as effective as possible.

“We’ve been locked working over the past few decades, focusing on delivering transit services efficiently, but now, we are learning that transit is a community-building tool.” She emphasizes, “Once we begin to look at transit in this new frame of reference, it opens a lot of possibilities up for both improving the quality of transit, but also making it more cost-effective.”

“It’s really a different time. It’s just fascinating how quickly all of this is happening. Just today, I’ve been partnering with this group called Policy Link, they are primarily a network of community-based organizations and they just sent me this article from Coldwell Banker saying interest in urban homeownership, fueled by higher prices, 81 percent cite minimizing their work commute as a reason for interest in urban living. Fifty-four percent agreed that access to public transportation is appealing and 75 percent agreed that the ability to walk to more places is positive.”

This relates to what she was saying at the recent sustainability workshop. As this mindshift is happening, as gas prices are rising and transit usage is rising, the piece of federal legislation that delivers much of the money we use to leverage local funds and implement contracts are all coming forward at the same time. With positive enthusiasm she stressed, “So let’s step up and do something.”

Michael Roschlau
President and CEO
Canadian Urban Transit Association

With a lifelong passion for transportation, particularly public transit, Michael Roschlau feels privileged to be able to be the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA). He says it combines personal and professional goals. “Public transit stands for so much — in terms of its economic, environmental and social benefits — that working in this context is a real pleasure.” He adds, “Linking people to jobs, to school, to healthcare and recreation — and doing this while keeping the carbon footprint as low as possible — is a tremendously rewarding vocation.”

CUTA originated as the Canadian Street Railway Association and has evolved in many ways since the inception in 1904. “Our evolution has involved development from a traditional industry association to one that provides a multitude of services to its members, to a strong advocate that has positioned itself as the voice of public transit in Canada,” says Roschlau. “The biggest shift has been the emergence from an inward-looking trade association to a forward-looking beacon that engages openly with Canadian and international partners in the pursuit of its goals.”

As the national association in Canada representing public transportation, Roschlau says it brings together all the stakeholders for all its activities, such as government advocacy, conferences and trade expositions, statistics, research, networking, training and communications.

With more than 20 years at CUTA, Roschlau has had wide-range experience with what CUTA does. “I have been exposed to many aspects of what we do — education and training, human resources, conference and event planning, and more recently, the public affairs and government roles.”

With ridership growing and the industry facing pressure to expand, Roschlau says the biggest challenge is unquestionably funding. “The concept of federal investment in transit is a relatively recent experience in Canada, and while federal transit investment in this country has grown enormously in the last five years, we still do not have a long-term federal policy on transit investment.”

He explains the concept of a “National Transit Strategy,” developed in partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “The strategy includes five components — investment, tax incentives, land-use planning, research and accountability. The investment part seeks to create a commitment to predictable long-term funding that will allow transit to build for the future and provide frequent, reliable, attractive mobility for urban Canadians.

“The tax incentives seek to put demand measures in place that will encourage more people to use transit, especially for the journey to work. The land-use piece requires local government to commit to urban growth and development that is linked to the transit investments.

“Another important component of the strategy provides research to support greater transit use. And finally, given the proposed scope of the strategy, it is important that all governments work together to ensure that there are appropriate accountability measures in place, thereby maintaining the integrity of the concept.”

Another success of CUTA that Roschlau talks about is regarding the education and training initiative. Two programs are the Transit Ambassador and SmartDriver. “Transit Ambassador has, over the years, evolved to become one of the most popular transit-specific customer service training initiatives, assisting transit systems in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia, the Caribbean and the Middle East, with transforming their corporate culture to one that is truly customer-focused and equipping staff with the right skills to accomplish this,” he says.

When talking about the future, Vision 2040 is what Roschlau is most excited about — a new vision for transit in Canada. “A 30-year timeframe represents a generation in human terms,” he says. “It is a long enough time horizon to contemplate significant shifts in land-use development, but short enough that it can be envisaged within the lifetime of the majority of Canadians.

“The first phase of this exercise involves outreach elements to include the entire CUTA membership, as well as key outside stakeholders,” he explains. “It will be situated in the context of increasing concern about future community sustainability, changing demographics and new settlement patterns, and will involve the development of statements about preferred future scenarios that take into account these issues.” He adds, “The second phase will follow, and will work from the industry vision to develop a plan for how CUTA should best define itself to realize this vision.”

Educating Future Generations
There are several key things that each of the leaders mention as important to the industry. One of those is looking to the next generation. As Roschlau says, “I see the next generation as one that can offer tremendous new horizons for public transit.”

Cavelieri says UITP is working to include and educate the youth to enter the world of public transportation as clients and workers. “The biggest challenge is to promote, convince decision makers to act, which is especially urgent considering the big challenge we are facing for a sustainable world.” He adds, “My challenge is to put their voice in front of decision makers in order to let politicians understand that the world is changing and new generations are fighting for a better, or at least different world. Not all youngsters are passive or superficial, but they need clear reference points. We would like to become one of these reference points for them.”

WTS is also looking to younger generations to strengthen the industry and its workforce. “We have a scholarship organization that is a subsidiary of WTS, WTS Scholarship,” explains James. “That organization promotes the awarding of scholarships and gives away scholarship dollars to degree-seeking students who are going to go into the field in a transportation-related career. We are doing very concrete things to really broaden the base of women entering the field to support those women and to help our industry partners and agencies who are seeking to build their workforce.”

Being Connected
The most important idea they related was working together. Whether it was within the association, the country or internationally, sharing resources benefits not only the associations, but the transportation industry, as well.

Cavalieri says, “UITP offers a unique platform for inter-sectoral dialogue and exchange between different profiles of mobility actors.” He continues, “Such a diverse network of members allows UITP to represent the entire mobility market, gives us a strong voice and significant political and economical influence, as we commonly speak on behalf of the entire sector.”

Roschlau says,“CUTA is very much an association that operates on the principle of members working together to achieve better outcomes — a principle of association values that incorporates a spirit of sharing experiences and solutions and of the true strength of solidarity toward a common cause. By pooling resources, we are able to provide services across an industry at lower cost and at higher quality than if each member were to act on their own.”

Joyner sums it up when she states, “If we are trying to do our work in the transit industry alone we are dead in the water. We really need each other for ideas and for encouragement.”

More Related Information:
Archived Article: WTS Transporting Careers One Woman at a Time