“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.”
President and CEO
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.