The American Public Transportation Association announced the individual and organizational winners of the 2011 APTA Awards yesterday in New Orleans, LA during the APTA 2011 Annual Meeting and EXPO. 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.
“As the ‘best of the best,’ the 2011 APTA Award winners serve as role models of excellence to everyone in the public transportation industry,” said APTA President William Millar. “Their work in public transportation has made lasting contributions, not only for transit riders, but for the entire public transit industry.”
Three public transportation agencies, competing in three different categories based on annual ridership, were honored as the best public transportation systems in North America, based on their achievements from 2008-2010. The 2011 winners of the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement awards are:
Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica, CA (Category: Providing more than 20 million annual passenger trips.) Despite the challenges facing every U.S. transit system in the current economic environment, the Big Blue Bus successfully increased ridership and implemented new service strategies and innovative, sustainable transit solutions for its community over the past year. These accomplishments were even more notable because, less than 18 months ago, the system faced a structural deficit that threatened to cause the Big Blue Bus to operate at a loss for the first time in its history. With creative thinking, a philosophy of continuous improvement, and some long hours, the Big Blue Bus staff was able to bridge the operating funds gap while continuing to build an infrastructure for improved service in the future. The Big Blue Bus completed a state-of-the-art maintenance facility that has greatly enhanced operations and has added its first 16 articulated buses to its fleet. With a strong customer service focus, the Big Blue Bus integrated bus routes and schedules into Google Transit and opened an online store.
Sun Metro, El Paso, TX (Category: Providing more than 4 million but less than 20 million annual passenger trips.) Sun Metro has seen a 21 percent increase in ridership at a time when an economic downturn caused national ridership figures to decline. In the last three years, Sun Metro saw the completion of four new transfer centers, a partnership with Google Transit, the installation of nearly 200 new shelters, the arrival of eight new vehicles, and began developing the Rapid Transit System. New facilities with amenities such as free Wi-Fi, real-time display monitors have been built and these were also built with energy savings, water efficiency and carbon emissions reductions. Beyond green buildings, Sun Metro’s entire fleet is powered by clean natural gas and is equipped with bike racks.
Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc., Ithaca, NY (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips.) Today, the 124-employee organization serves a semi-rural, albeit cosmopolitan community of 100,000, which clearly embraces public transit. From 2008 to 2010, TCAT’s annual ridership jumped 7.8 percent from 3.31 million to 3.58 million trips. TCAT operates 34 routes, 22 hours a day and 360 days a year. TCAT’s 55-bus fleet includes eight hybrids kept in the best condition possible through an aggressive preventive maintenance program. The past few years have been particularly ambitious for a small and lean organization with a $12 million annual budget. The Center City Project started with the 2007 rehabilitation of the Seneca Street bus shelter and the 2009 opening of TCAT’s flagship Green Street Station. Safety, workforce training, and cooperation among management and TCAT’s 82 bus operators and 19-member maintenance crew are all paramount to TCAT. Customer service inquiries are answered rapidly, typically within one hour.
This year APTA gave a first-time award called the Special Recognition for Extraordinary Recovery which honored the Regional Transportation Authority of New Orleans, LA for the agency’s tremendous comeback after Hurricane Katrina. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) lost most of its bus fleet, and its streetcars, facilities, offices, and technology systems were heavily damaged. It faced a myriad of operational, financial, and administrative problems, challenges no other transit system in the country had encountered. Despite severely depleted resources and the departure of many employees from the city, RTA leaders and employees worked tirelessly to implement partial bus service within 60 days of the hurricane, and partial streetcar service six months later. The transformation of the RTA and its contribution to the economic renewal of New Orleans are remarkable. The RTA now has completely new fleets for both bus and paratransit. Bus routes were revised to match resettlement patterns. Passenger information was greatly improved and a new state-of-the-art RTA website to improve customer service was created. Notably, quality has greatly increased, while costs have not. Due to its sound financial management and system-wide focus on efficiency, operating costs have been held flat for three years despite a 44 percent increase in passenger miles and a 22 percent increases in ridership in 2009 and 2010.
The Innovation Award is an award given to public transit agencies that demonstrate innovative concepts in the provision of public transportation services. The recipient of the 2011 Innovation Award is Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Boston, MA. In November 2009, instead of trying to build its own smartphone apps, the MBTA decided to give its data to third parties whose expertise is in building these tools. Third parties, such as small software developers and large media companies, already have the resources and skills to build excellent applications. Within an hour, the first real-time bus app was released. Over the following months, more than 30 apps have been launched at no cost to the MBTA. Third parties continue to make regular updates and improvements to these terrific customer services apps, helping to ensure T riders have access to up-to-date information.
This year’s 2011 APTA Awards also recognized five individuals whose contributions have greatly advanced public transportation.
Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award – Stephanie Negriff (General Manager, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica, CA) As the Director of Transit Services for Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Negriff oversaw transit service delivery to over 22 million customers a year and a system that spans 52 square miles across the most densely populated area of Los Angeles County. In the past decade under her leadership, the Big Blue Bus has become a leader in environmental sus¬tainability, systems innovation, and alternative fuel technology. She directed a period of rapid growth that has seen significant expansions of both the fleet and transit facilities. Negriff also oversaw the development of new transit services that reach new and diverse markets, greater community involvement through public outreach programs, and the further adoption of green technologies and operations policies. During her tenure at the Big Blue Bus, she was active on the national level serving on numerous APTA committees.
Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award – Sharon Greene, (Principal, Sharon Greene + Associates, Laguna Beach, CA) Greene’s knowledge, expertise, and skills were recognized by APTA’s leadership and led her to be selected for key special assignments, including membership on the APTA Presidential Search Task Force, charged with selecting APTA’s new president. She currently serves on the APTA Executive Committee and in the past year, she served as the chair of the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG). Greene also served as co-chair of the APTA Governance and Committee Structure Task Force, which led to the reshaping of APTA’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, providing new opportunities for members within APTA’s leadership. Reflecting the wide range of transit issues she is interested in, Greene has been an active member of six other APTA committees and five BMBG committees.
Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award – Crystal Fortune Lyons (Board Chairman, Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, Corpus Christi, TX) Crystal Fortune Lyons joined the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Board in 2004, when the City of Corpus Christi appointed her to serve as the city’s appointee “designated to represent the interests of the transportation disadvantaged.” She immediately took a leadership role within the board by being appointed chair of the Operations Committee in 2005. Then in 2007 she was elected board chair and won subsequent re-elections. Looking to the future of the RTA, Lyon’s foresight steered the Corpus Christi RTA Board of Directors to an exciting future that includes an alternative fueled fleet, implementation of a long-range system plan, development of a modernized and multi-use Customer Service Center, and the full utilization of GenFare technology on board RTA fixed route vehicles.
Local Distinguished Service Award – Cameron (Cam) Beach (former member of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors) APTA posthumously honored Cameron Beach, who died in March 2011, with the Local Distinguished Service Award, for his four decades of work in the transportation industry. A consummate transit professional, he worked for local, suburban, and intercity bus services; a Class One railroad; a private bus charter and leasing firm; and an airline. Considered the father of Sacramento’s highly successful light rail system, he oversaw the design and construction of the original 18.5-mile train line, which began operating in 1987, and later took on responsibility for all transit operations. In addition to serving on the MUNI board, Beach’s committee and board memberships included serving as chair of California Operation Lifesaver, chair of the APTA Light Rail Committee, and vice chair of the Committee on Public Safety. He was also a member of APTA’s Alternate Fuels Committee, Heritage Streetcar Subcommittee, and Light Rail Transit Technical Forum.
Hall of Fame Award – Roger Snoble (former CEO of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) Roger Snoble is distinguished as a leading expert and practitioner in the transportation sector. From his beginning days as a planner for the Akron Metro Transit District to leading the transit systems in Dallas and San Diego, he went on to an unprecedented eight-year term as chief executive officer of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- one of the largest transportation agencies in the nation. Under his leadership, the agency garnered top national awards for excellence. During his eight years as CEO at Metro, Snoble was responsible not only for bus and rail operations that transported more than 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday, but also for the construction of new transportation projects and county-wide programming of local, state, and federal transportation funds.
More detailed information on the 2011 APTA Award winners is available at: http://www.apta.com/members/memberprogramsandservices/awards/Pages/APTAAwards.aspx