Stephen Kingsberry is general manager for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey’s Port Authority Trans Hudson Corporation (PATH). He also believes strongly in COMTO’s value to young transportation professionals — and in giving back as well.
“COMTO has been a great contributor to my career. I joined in 1985 to network and learn more about transit. I met many transportation professionals from around the country who helped guide my career. And when I was a part of the Philadelphia chapter, I established the $2,000 Kingsberry Scholarship because I wanted to help young people learn about transportation and get funding for their education. I wanted to give back. It’s important to reach out to that next generation. Let me them know they’re not an island.”
The scholarships COMTO provides make a difference in the lives of young professionals. And there is no better example than Mariah Stanley, educational services coordinator for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Recently hired by APTA, Stanley provides key program management coordination and support to APTA’s educational services.
“I got involved with COMTO in high school, in a program called "Transportation Technology Academy." I became an intern at COMTO in 2007. And I was a participant in an internship program with the Federal Transit Administration through COMTO, which landed me an internship at APTA. When I graduated college, I went to work at APTA.
“COMTO did wonders for me. It gave me my first real job experience. It enabled me to get my feet wet in the industry. And it helped me land my job at APTA. COMTO put me on my career path. COMTO also helped me pay for school through scholarships. Now I’m a COMTO member and committee member, on the Women Move the Nation Committee. COMTO is really like a family. And it’s made a real difference in my career and in my life.”
But the business of COMTO is also business. Reversing the historical disparity on behalf of HUBs is no small endeavor. And COMTO takes it quite seriously. Helen Callier does as well. She is the founder of Bradlink, LLC, and a longtime COMTO member.
“We’re a technical services firm and we provide services to the transit and aviation industries. Bradlink gets straight talk and straight connections through COMTO. It provides us with industry intelligence: Who’s meeting where? What policy changes are taking place? What funding issues will affect our business? We’re a small business, so that’s all very important. COMTO also gives you a global perspective on how changes affect agencies you’ll be working with. And that’s vital from a business development standpoint.”
Callier credits Shirley DeLibero — former chairwoman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas — with welcoming her to COMTO. “You can’t tell the COMTO story without mentioning Shirley DeLibero,” adds Callier. “She laid the groundwork. But I credit Julie and the COMTO leadership with advancing on that over the past ten years or so. Julie's ability to make collaborative agreements with other organizations has helped optimize the synergies and expand COMTO’s advocacy. My business has definitely grown because of COMTO. For HUBs, COMTO is a key differentiator.”
Looking to expand COMTO’s reach and mandate, CEO Cunningham takes an approach that is both strategic and poetic. “I am not a transportation professional. I am an association management professional. But I have deep roots in transportation. My grandparents lived by railroad tracks, and my grandfather laid rail. He’d come home dirty and dusty, but he was instrumental in this country’s infrastructure. So I understand the need for COMTO firsthand.
“The ultimate goal is to not need COMTO any longer. If things were equal and everyone were playing fair, women and people of color wouldn’t need COMTO. But I don’t see that happening in the near future. So we need to press on with doing what we do. We need to be aggressive in identifying, attracting, and recruiting the next generation of transportation professionals so they can contribute to our nation’s infrastructure. We have to make sure we have folks that are part of that.”