Fred Gilliam, President and CEO
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
As CEO of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and as someone who’s been in this industry the better part of five decades, I can speak authoritatively about the value of membership in professional associations.
Capital Metro belongs to three major transit associations: the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), South West Transit Association (SWTA) and the Texas Transit Association. The combined benefits these three organizations provide to our transit system and our employees help us stay agile in this rapidly changing business: ready to adapt, well-prepared for change and advancement, and able to lead.
Every transit system in the nation is facing some major challenges today. Fuel costs alone are a huge concern. Developing and maintaining multimodal systems, providing solutions to global warming, financial sustainability, quality standards—these are all transit buzzwords being discussed in board and break rooms across America. The single greatest benefit of membership in a transit association is the framework it provides for collaborative solutions to our industry’s challenges.
It’d be a great MasterCard commercial, really. Membership in APTA: $50,000. Travel to the Bus & Paratransit Annual Conference: $5,000. Not reinventing the wheel: priceless.
At Capital Metro, we strive everyday to foster a culture of empowerment for employees. Giving them access to professional development opportunities through associations is a no-brainer. By sending employees to these conferences, you develop their leadership and presentation skills, in addition to the technical expertise they gain by interacting with their peers and industry experts.
The value of being involved in multiple associations is in the latitude it affords to engage and capture the imagination of all of your employees, regardless of their stage in their careers.
State-level associations like the Texas Transit Association tend to be more “hands-on” and specialize in dealing with state issues fairly specific to your local operating environment. Smaller transit systems, in particular, get a huge benefit from state associations because travel costs for conferences are low, and the legislative advocacy component of state associations is usually robust and focused.
APTA provides massive networking opportunities. National conferences are idea generators, where best practices in every category can be shared, modified and then taken home to be applied locally. Even the most specialized interests can be explored and developed on the national stage. Advocacy at the national level benefits all of us.
Regional transit organizations like the SWTA bridge the gap between the localized focus of the state organization and the national aims of the national association. I currently serve as president of SWTA, and a major focus is training. Regional seminars provide in-depth and comprehensive learning opportunities, without the expensive travel costs.
So no matter where employees are in terms of their careers and interests, the breadth of opportunities available through association membership provides value to them and to your transit system. I’ve been in the industry for 47 years, but I still benefit from being a member. Early on, I was hungry for job-specific knowledge and the nuts and bolts of the transit industry. Now, I benefit more from mentoring the next generation of transportation leaders and sharing ideas on service quality and standards, two topics I’m passionate about.
You join to benefit your agency and your own career, but it’s like supporting a favorite community cause—it’s an opportunity to give back, to serve, to hone your skills to become a better employee and a better supporter and participant of public transportation.
And it’s been a great ride. I believe my success is a direct result of being involved in transportation associations throughout my career.