Top Public Transportation Leaders Honored By APTA

Sept. 22, 2016
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) awarded the individual and organizational winners of the 2016 APTA Awards September 13 in Los Angeles, CA during the APTA 2016 Annual Meeting.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) awarded the individual and organizational winners of the 2016 APTA Awards September 13 in Los Angeles, California during the APTA 2016 Annual Meeting. These prestigious annual awards are given to those individuals and public transportation systems that have shown great leadership and advanced the state of public transportation in North America.  

"The 2016 APTA Award winners are dedicated and skilled individuals and public transit organizations that have advanced the cause of public transportation for millions of people," said APTA Chair and Executive Director of Foothill Transit Dorin J. Barnes.  "They are stellar role models who have made significant contributions to public transit and the communities they serve."

"The 2016 APTA Award winners represent the "best of the best" in the public transportation industry," said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard White.  "This year's winners have made an extraordinary difference in the public transit industry by demonstrating excellence, leadership, and innovation."

Below are summaries on the 2016 APTA Award recipients;

Three public transportation agencies, competing in three different annual ridership categories based on annual ridership, were honored as the best public transportation systems in North America, for their achievements from 2013-2015.  

Embark, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips).  EMBARK provides a diverse family of multi-modal transit services in the greater Oklahoma City.  This includes a fixed-route bus service with 23 routes, ADA paratransit service, Ferry River Transit service and Spokies bike share service.  In 2012, Embark and the OKC City Council engaged consultants Nelson/Nygaard to review and evaluate the efficiency of the bus system and make recommendations for improvements without any additional resources.  This review and evaluation resulted in EMBARK realigning nearly all bus routes, improving weekday frequency to every 30 minutes, and rebranding its family of services by April 2014. Also, more than 2,000 bus stop signs and poles were replaced; real-time travel information and clock-face headways, giving customers more predictable arrival times.  The improvements resulted in tangible outcomes.  EMBARK saw ridership climb immediately and saw a 13 percent increase in the number of service hours provided over the past three years, and a 10 percent increase in ridership for the same period. The system provided more than 3 million passenger trips in FY 2015—an 8.8 percent increase from the previous year.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), Jacksonville, Florida received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips). The JTA provides public transit service to the largest city, by area, in the continental United States at 885 square miles.  Over the last three years, JTA has had numerous successes.  A 20-year strategic plan was developed using cutting edge technology and industry best practices to take transportation to the next level. The core of the plan, outlined initiatives for five years to both improve and enhance the customers' transit experience.  The backbone of this transformation would be JTA's much-heralded Route Optimization Initiative – the first significant overhaul of the city's bus system in 30 years.  The goal—make service more direct, frequent and reliable. Service providing 15-30-minute frequency increased by 400 percent in the new network, all without increasing ongoing operating costs. Overall ridership grew 6 percent (equal to 2,000 new trips per day).

Safety is a top priority at JTA and the agency established new safety performance metrics with a goal of 10 percent reduction in preventable and non-preventable collisions per 100,000 miles.  JTA utilized the Lytx DriveCam, which analyzed risky behaviors. The result—a remarkable 40 percent reduction in judgment errors and traffic violations. In addition, all bus operators now participate in mandatory quarterly refresher training sessions that include a state-of-the-art bus simulator.

Finally, in 2015, JTA incorporated the first of 100 fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly CNG buses into its existing fleet.  Of the 23 buses already acquired, 11 are operating on JTA's new First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit service.

Metro Transit, Minneapolis, MN received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips). Metro Transit's expansive public transit network includes two light rail lines, more than 130 bus routes, and a commuter rail line. Improvements in the transit network have not only helped the region thrive, but do so in a way that provides access to opportunity for all in the Twin Cities.  Metro Transit's success of the 2014 opening of the METRO Green Line, links several regional destinations, more than 1,000 businesses, and many diverse neighborhoods. The Green Line has quickly become a source of civic pride and a catalyst for economic development. More than $4.2 billion in public and private investment has occurred along the corridor since construction began.

As bus and light rail services have expanded, so has Metro Transit's ridership. More than 85.8 million rides were pro­vided in 2015—the tenth time in 11 years that ridership grew from the previous year and the highest annual ridership in three decades.  A fast-growing police department, enhanced operator training and highly visible safety campaigns have improved system safety. Sixteen million dollars in savings have been realized through the expanded use of hybrid-electric buses, solar energy, and other sustainability efforts.

The APTA Innovation Award is given to public transportation agencies that demonstrate innovative concepts in the provision of public transportation services.  This year's recipients of the 2016 Innovation Award are Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) of Chicago, Illinois and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) of Las Vegas, NV.  

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) won the Innovation Award for its development of the Ventra app, which is a first-ever multi-transit system app that allows customers to pay for rides on all three area transit systems from their mobile devices.  The free app was developed and launched by the CTA in partnership with Metra, the Chicago area's commuter rail system, and Pace, the suburban bus system. Funded in part by the Regional Transportation Authority, and developed in conjunction with Cubic Transportation. When the app launched in November 2015, it was the number two trending app on the iTunes store and, as of June 2016, has been downloaded more than 600,000 times, accounting for more than $55 million in fares.

By providing a one-stop shop for account information and reload, Metra mobile ticketing, and real-time bus and train arrival information, the Ventra app continues to improve commutes across Chicago.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) won the Innovation Award for its Mobility Training Center (MTC), which is the only one of its kind in the western United States.  The MTC is a unique facility that offers mobility training, paratransit assessment and certification, and blindness skills training under one roof.  At the MTC, there are two fully functional 40-foot fixed-route buses for mobility training clients to use.  These buses provide hands-on boarding and farebox training within a simulated streetscape that includes a transit shelter, street crossings with audible crosswalk signs and ambient noise to simulate traffic, paved roads, sidewalks, different types of surfaces such as pavers and grass, ADA-compliant ramps, and geographically correct murals of Clark County. 

With hundreds involved in the planning and building process, the Southern Nevada community now has an innovative option to gaining mobility and independence. More than two years after the MTC's conception in 2014, the RTC expects record enrollment for its mobility programs in 2016. 

This year's 2016 APTA Awards also recognized 10 individuals whose contributions have greatly advanced public transportation.  

This year five individuals were inducted in to the APTA Hall of Fame. This award is reserved for individuals who have long and distinguished careers in the industry; who have made extraordinary contributions to public transportation, and who have actively participated in APTA activities. The five Hall of Fame recipients, John B. Catoe, Jr., Frank Thomas Martin, Michael Scanlon, William L. Volk, and Alan C. Wulkan, have a total of more than two centuries in the public transportation industry.

John B. Catoe, Jr., has more than three decades in the public transit industry and has contributed greatly to the delivery and enhancement of public transportation offerings throughout the U.S. Catoe began his career in transportation in 1979 with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) as director of transit services. Catoe developed service policy and led service planning and development.  This included the oversight of construction and startup of the Metrolink Commuter rail service in Orange County.  From 1996-2001, Catoe served as the director for the City of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus, expanding services by 40 percent and improved ridership by 36 percent.  From 2001-2007, Catoe served as the deputy chief executive officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). Metro's operating costs tracked lower than the consumer price index for the first time in two decades.  He launched new Metro services, including 23 special rapid bus lines, and piloted the Gold Line, a light rail service connecting Pasadena to East Los Angeles.

Catoe served as the general manager for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from 2007 through 2010, overseeing a $2 billion budget and more than 10,000 employees. During his tenure, he developed plans and secured funding for capital improvements to infrastructure, while reducing administrative costs. At WMATA, Catoe made national headlines for orchestrating and executing safe, efficient, and reliable public transportation service to and from the 2009 presidential inaugural events.  In 2009, Catoe was named Outstanding Public Transportation Manager by APTA.

Frank Thomas Martin's more than 40-year career has taken him from planning to operations, and to executive management from coast to coast including Gainesville (FL), Richmond (VA), Birmingham (AL), New Orleans (LA), Miami (FL), San Jose (CA), Tallahassee (FL), and Orlando (FL).  A cornerstone in Martin's professional development was the rebuilding of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority.  After a three-month shutdown, Martin restored the public confidence in the system.  He did this by developing a new route structure and a new marketing plan with actor Don Adams using the tagline "Get Smart Ride MAX."  He also developed a new logo Metro Area Express (MAX), ordered new buses, and conducted the first ever county-wide market search study of riders and non-riders.  He negotiated the first three-year labor contract for operator and maintenance workers, and most importantly, developed public trust by operating with a transparent management philosophy.

In 2004, Martin transitioned from the public sector to the private sector to become a business sector manager/ senior vice president for transit and rail for Atkins North America. Under Martin's leadership, he positioned the firm to become a national competitor in the transit and rail market.  Over Martin's career he was active in APTA activities serving on the Board of Directors, American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), and Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG).  He was the catalyst as the founder of the APTA International Rail Rodeo which hosted the first Rodeo in Miami in 1993. Martin continued to serve as its Chair for eight years.

Michael Scanlon's career spans nearly 50 years, first starting at Port Authority Transit (PAT) in Pittsburgh, PA where he began as a mail boy.  During 26 years at PAT, Scanlon was promoted to positions of increasing responsibility, a career track that steeped him in nearly every critical aspect of the nation's 12th largest public transit agency. In the late 1970s and early 1980s at PAT, he was a key member of a team that conceived, funded, constructed, and managed in excess of $750 million in new rail facilities including a new downtown subway and two new busways that were models for the industry.

From 1993-1999, Scanlon served as director of Broward County Transit in Florida where he transformed a problem-plagued paratransit system from near-collapse to a premier, customer-focused service. He led the system to become a winner of the 1998 Outstanding Achievement Award as APTA's best paratransit system.

In 1999, Scanlon became general manager of the San Mateo County Transit District, a position that includes general manager of SamTrans, and executive director of Caltrain and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.  He presided over the construction and implementation of the Caltrain Baby Bullet express service that has led to historic increases in ridership and revenues.

Scanlon has been an active member of the APTA Board of Directors for more than 15 years and there is virtually no APTA initiative or activity that proceeded without leadership and influence from him.

William L. Volk's 44 years of dedication and service to the public transportation industry has had a significant impact on public transportation on the local and national levels.  In 1974, Volk organized the first meeting of the Illinois Public Transportation Association and was instrumental in the creation of the federal Small Transit Intensive Cities funding tier.  In 1977, he led the successful campaign to increase MTD's tax rate with a promise of new services and full accessibility for those with disabilities. With the added revenue, service doubled and Sunday and evening service were reintroduced.  Full accessibility to those with disabilities was achieved in 1983, and MTD was the first system in the U.S. to specify low-floor buses.

Under Volk's leadership, MTD twice received APTA's Outstanding Achievement Award.  He served as APTA vice president-marketing, where he established funding in the APTA budget for marketing public transit, he received the 1991 Jesse Haugh Award. Bill was a longtime elected member of the APTA Small Operations Committee and also served on the APTA Executive Committee as vice chair-small operations and as chair of the APTA Legislative Committee.

Alan C. Wulkan has more than 43 years of public transportation experience, with a unique combination of experience including CEO of his own firm, a partner in a small consulting firm, senior vice president in one of the largest engineering firms in the world, and CEO of a public transit agency.  On June 12, 1984, the mayor of Miami-Dade County declared this as Alan Wulkan Day in recognition of the leadership he provided in the development of the county's public transit system.  In 1985, Wulkan's leadership in Austin, TX led to the passage of the sales tax in 1985, with 60 percent of the vote, to create Capital Metro.

Wulkan brought his effective leadership skills to APTA in the many positions he has held, both elected and appointed. These positions have included three elected terms and seven years on the APTA Executive Committee,more than 15 years on the APTA Board of Directors, vice chair of the APTA Legislative Committee, co-chair of two Reauthorization Task Forces, co-chair of the PT2 Committee, chair of the BMBG, and APTF Board Member.  Wulkan has actively supported the APTF. He is the largest individual donor to the foundation and in 2013 established the BMBG/Janie Wulkan Memorial Scholarship, awarded each year to a young woman studying to be a public transit professional.

This year three individuals received the 2016 National Distinguished Award which is given to an individual who has made significant contributions at the national level to public transportation through policy, legislative initiative, and leadership. The two recipients of the National Distinguished Award are, U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, U.S. Representative Daniel Lipinski, and U.S. Representative Bill Shuster.

U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (Oregon, 4th District) received serves as a ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Congressman DeFazio played a lead role in negotiating the FAST Act and secured a number of essential provisions that will create tens of thousands of family-wage jobs while focusing on the critical needs of public transit agencies. The FAST Act also includes Congressman DeFazio's Buy America provision, which strengthens Buy America requirements and raises the domestic content threshold of public transit buses and railcars from 60 percent to 70 percent over the length of the bill. Congressman DeFazio believes if Americans are investing tax dollars in public transit, then those dollars should support American manufacturing and create jobs here in the U.S.   

U.S. Representative Daniel Lipinski (Illinois, 3rd District) has distinguished himself as a leader on transportation issues. He is the most senior member from Illinois on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, serving on three subcommittees: Highways and Transit; Aviation; and Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. He also serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  Congressman Lipinski served as a key player in the drafting and passage of the FAST Act in committee and on the House floor before his appointment to the Conference Committee tasked with ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions.  Offering more than 20 amendments, he was able to ensure increased funding for local road and public transit projects and address regional transportation priorities that will ease congestion, increase safety, and improve efficiency and service.  

U.S. Representative Bill Shuster is now serving his second term as chairman of the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where he spearheaded one of the signature achievements of the 114th Congress, the FAST Act.  This long-term reauthorization will provide critical investments in highways, public transportation, and passenger rail for the next five years.  The FAST Act reforms and strengthens transportation programs, refocuses on national priorities, provides long-term certainty and more flexibility for states and local governments.  It also streamlines approval processes, promotes the use of technology to enhance mobility, and maintains a strong commitment to safety. Under Shuster's leadership, the T&I Committee will continue working to strengthen America's transportation and infrastructure.  

Joni Earl (CEO Emeritus, Sound Transit) received the Special Award for Extraordinary Leadership.  Earl brought a solid background to her initial job as chief operating officer overseeing Sound Transit's large capital projects and public finances. Within a few months, following a nationwide search, the Sound Transit board unanimously appointed Earl to the agency's top post despite her having no previous public transit experience. She immediately began righting the ship, implementing a new culture of transparent accountability and dramatically restructuring the way Sound Transit manages major projects through improved cost estimating and project controls.  Sound Transit was transformed as Earl led it from a shaky start up to a nationally recognized leader in public transit.

Shirley Harris (board member, San Mateo county Transit District (SamTrans), San Carlos, CA) received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award.  This award is given to an APTA public transportation business member who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.  

Harris was appointed to the San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors in 1994 to represent the public, taxpayers and customers, and she has been reappointed 10 times by her colleagues. She has been board chair three times, most recently in 2014, when she led the successful effort to select a new district general manager/CEO.  As a SamTrans board member and an active APTA leader, Harris has been a forceful advocate for the underserved, reflecting her community activism, and she has worked to ensure that critical services for the most transit-dependent be protected from budget cuts and that fairness and equity prevail in the assignment of resources.

Thomas Nolan (chair, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), San Francisco, CA) received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award.  As Chairman of the SMFTA Board since 2010, Nolan was first appointed in 2006 by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and reappointed by Mayor Ed Lee. Nolan leads one of America's most comprehensive and diverse transportation agencies.  At the SFMTA, Nolan advocated for the Central Subway, a 1.7-mile light rail extension providing an important north south transit link. He promoted fulfilling San Francisco's landmark 1973 'Transit First' Policy by developing infrastructure that supports the use of public transit, walking, and bicycling to balance car trips. This steady focus enabled the city to reach its mode-share goal of 50 percent non-auto trips three years earlier than expected and ensured the SFMTA achieved its aggressive climate emission goals.

Michael I. Schneider (senior vice president and director of Professional Services, HDR, Inc., Irvine, CA) received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award.  This award is given to an APTA public transportation business member who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.  

Schneider has had a 40-year career of technical innovation, business management, project development, and industry leadership in the fields of public transportation, infrastructure development, and project finance.  His professional career has spanned urban and intercity transit and rail, highway and toll road development, innovative financing programs, public-private partnerships, and strategic planning for infrastructure investment.  Currently as senior vice president and director of professional services for HDR, Sneider focuses on directing the firm's global activity in technical leadership across HDR's array of professional practices. He also serves as project director or lead advisor for public transit, highway, and other infrastructure engagements around the world.

Gary C. Thomas (president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Dallas, TX) received the 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award.  This prestigious award is given to an APTA public transportation manager who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.

Thomas' 15-year tenure as president/executive director of DART has been marked by several signature accomplishments, including doubling the DART Rail system—twice—to 90 miles, converting the bus fleet to compressed natural gas, and consistently delivering massive and highly visible capital projects under budget and ahead of schedule.  These achievements illustrate how the agency fulfills Thomas' vision for public transit in North Texas. He sees DART as the way to change how people get where they want to live, work and play. As Thomas explains it, DART doesn't just provide transportation, it provides a lifestyle. It's how North Texas grows.