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American Public Transportation Association

 Leadership APTA

Leadership APTA Class of 2017
Our 20th Year!

Leadership APTA is the American Public Transportation Association’s premier professional development program designed to develop and support those experienced managers and leaders aspiring to hold senior and executive leadership positions in APTA, their organizations, and the public transportation industry. The Leadership APTA program year 2016-2017 will mark the 20th year of this industry recognized program.

Candidates for Leadership APTA should show the promise and potential to be part of executive teams, the chiefs' suite, and other senior leadership positions.

Leadership APTA is committed to identifying and selecting a diverse, broad-based group of highly motivated and dedicated industry professionals from among our membership to participate in this industry's highly recognized senior and executive leadership program. Leadership APTA has become the path to prepare you to join the next generation of senior and executive leadership of APTA and public transportation industry.

Each year, the Leadership APTA Committee selects 25 individuals from among APTA member applicants to participate in an intensive year-long program that includes skill-building workshops, conferences, executive roundtables, team leadership projects, teleconferences, online meetings, and web-based events.

Leadership APTA Class of 2016 with 2015-2016 APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall (far left), and Leadership APTA Chair Susannah Kerr Adler (far right)
  • COMMIT to an intensive and rewarding program that connects class members with APTA's executive leadership, national and regional, public and private sector transportation industry leaders and experts.
  • TRANSFORM yourself through an intensive year of executive-level workshops and sessions, leadership projects, and professional development opportunities.
  • DEEPEN your understanding of APTA and the public transportation industry.
  • STRENGTHEN and refine your core competencies as a senior and executive leader.
  • EXPAND and GROW your network of colleagues and mentors.
  • DEVELOP your knowledge and skills through a comprehensive program of executive roundtable sessions, customized workshops, small team assignments, online meetings, transit agency site visits, and leadership projects that address industry challenges with today's forward-thinking opportunities.
  • BENEFIT from invitations to be a featured speaker at APTA and industry conferences, committee meetings, workshops, and events.
  • ADDRESS pressing leadership challenges facing the industry. Work in collaboration with classmates to recommend and develop solutions.
  • PROMOTE our mission to strengthen and improve public transportation through a number of APTA initiatives and programs.
  • GIVE BACK to APTA, the industry, and your organization.
  • BE PARTof a prestigious group of 25 individuals chosen from a competitive pool of applicants to be the Leadership APTA Class of 2017.


2015-2016 APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall addresses the Class of 2016

Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders Today
For APTA and the Public Transportation Industry

Susannah Kerr AdlerLeadership APTA - A national industry program for aspiring senior and executive industry leaders
A letter from the Leadership APTA Committee Chair, Susannah Kerr Adler, AIA

Leadership APTA is the American Public Transportation’s flagship program to develop and support those experienced managers and leaders aspiring to hold executive and senior leadership positions in APTA, their organizations, and the public transportation industry. Each class represents the richness and diversity of our industry.

Several Leadership APTA alumni have risen to top executive positions in both the public and private sectors. Many serve as members of the APTA Board of Directors and its Executive Committee. Others serve in leadership positions on a number of APTA’s committees, subcommittees, and task forces. APTA's current Vice Chair Doran Barnes is a graduate of the second Leadership APTA class. APTA’s former President and Chief Executive Officer, Michael P. Melaniphy, is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2005.

Three years ago, the program raised the bar for admission into the Leadership APTA program. We likewise made substantive programmatic changes. We are inviting more top-level executives to lead more round-table sessions that are addressing new challenges and opportunities which are transforming the industry. Class members themselves are bringing a higher level of conversation to the table and are demonstrating new levels of applied learning.

Leadership APTA is committed to identifying and selecting a diverse, broad-based group of highly motivated and dedicated industry professionals from among our membership to participate in this industry-recognized leadership program. This year, the Leadership APTA Committee is refining its internal guidelines and improving how committee members review and select the incoming class. In addition, Committee members will have a more robust set of online tools and resources to better assist them in the class selection process. Our commitment to select the best set of applicants that represents the rich diversity of our industry stands firm. 

The class leadership projects targeting Chief Executive Officers, General Managers, and executive leaders continue to provide an excellent venue for class members to engage in conversation with top leaders inside and outside of the transit industry. Each year at the APTA Annual Meeting and Leadership APTA Graduation Program, APTA features graduating class members who share highlights of their project topics and presentations. These leadership presentations and written reports become highly regarded industry resources.

The Leadership APTA program is also about growing future leadership of APTA and giving back to APTA and the industry. Applicants must possess the drive and demonstrate a desire to serve on APTA committees and task force addressing industry issues. All class graduates must commit one year of active service to APTA immediately upon graduating from the Leadership APTA program, and their organizations need to uphold and support their commitment.

Each of us has a responsibility to build future leaders for this industry. Invest in the future of APTA, the sustainability of the public transportation industry and your own organization.

Thank you for your continuing support of Leadership APTA.

Program Highlights

Eligibility Requirements

Only employees of organizations that are APTA members are eligible to apply.

Target Audience

Candidates need to be proven experienced managers having the drive, dedication, and promise to join the ranks of senior and executive leadership positions. They may come from other positions having strong leadership potential working for public transportation systems, private sector businesses supplying goods or services to the public transit industry, or other organizations related to the industry including small businesses. Candidates might be new general managers of small to mid-sized organizations; transit agency assistant general managers or assistant general managers working for public transit services providers. They might be rising business and private sector program and project senior managers with a track record of recognized success and plans for senior and executive leadership.

  • Candidates need to demonstrate the potential to be a strong and effective leader. Candidates need
     to be at a director-level/equivalent position or higher, department or division head/equivalent, and at a high enough level in your organization where he or she can speak with confidence to the goals, priorities, and major issues your organization is addressing. Candidates might also be principals of small businesses.
  • Candidates for Leadership APTA need at least 10-15 years of significant work experience from the public or private sector/other, including at least three years  of transit experience, plus a proven track record of demonstrated successes.
  • Candidates applying for the Leadership APTA Class of 2017 need to be able to become actively involved in APTA immediately upon graduation. They need to have the drive and desire to serve on APTA committees and task forces in areas of interest and benefit to them and their organizations. They need to be willing to eventually assume leadership roles in committees, working groups, and task forces.

Please note: APTA member organizations can submit only one candidate as your applicant for the Leadership APTA Class of 2017. Organizations submitting more than one applicant run the risk that all their organization's applicants are disqualified from consideration.

What To Expect

  • Highly recommended attendance and full participation in the 2016 APTA Annual Meeting including Leadership APTA orientation program and customized workshops for incoming class members; participation in committee meetings, conference sessions, and Class of 2017 introduction during the Class of 2016 graduation program.
  • Required attendance and participation in multi-day workshop sessions in December 2016, March 2017, and July 2017.
  • Required attendance and full participation at the 2017 APTA Legislative Conference.
  • Required attendance at the 2017 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO to present class team leadership projects at committee meetings, conference sessions, and the Leadership APTA graduation program.
  • Full and active participation in class workshops, activities, assignments, presentations, leadership team projects, teleconference and online activities, and other related program events.
  • Active participation in an APTA committee, task force and/or special initiative upon graduation.

Additional Benefits

The program tuition fee is $5,000. Tuition fees include Leadership APTA workshop sessions, related workshop books & materials, and some meals. Fee also includes complimentary registrations for the 2016 Annual Meeting, 2017 APTA Legislative Conference, and the 2017 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO.

Agencies and organizations sponsoring participants are responsible for the following: tuition fees; travel costs to and from: the Leadership APTA sessions and workshops; 2017 Legislative Conference; 2016 Annual Meeting; 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO; hotel expenses; some meals; and related miscellaneous expenses.

Members of the Leadership APTA Class of 2017 receive complementary registrations to attend the 2017 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference and the 2017 APTA Rail Conference. (Note: No formal Leadership APTA workshop sessions are held at either of these conferences).


Leadership APTA participants are sponsored by the public transportation system or organization where they are employed. An organization’s sponsoring a candidate, providing the monetary resources, and allowing the time necessary for their candidate to participate in the related events, activities, and project work are critical to the success of Leadership APTA.

Sponsoring Organization Commitment

Sixteen women and men pose in front of the White House, holding a purple APTA EXPO rally towel. 

Class of 2016 members hear from Leadership APTA Committee, federal, and industry executive leaders


General managers, presidents, executive directors, and chief executive officers sponsoring candidates recognize that sending participants to Leadership APTA is extremely valuable to their organizations. Since the first Leadership APTA Class of 1998, public transportation leaders have watched their investments in this program return great dividends.

The executive leadership of sponsoring organizations also understands that their commitment and support means allowing their Leadership APTA participant to attend the required workshops and conferences listed below:

  • 2016 December workshop session
  • 2017 APTA Legislative Conference and class workshop sessions
  • July 2017 capstone session
  • 2017 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO that honors the graduating class and features them at committee meetings, conference sessions, and their graduation program to present their executive leadership projects.

The Leadership APTA Committee highly recommends that incoming class members attend the 2015 APTA Annual Meeting, including related class workshops and orientation programs.

Executive leaders from sponsoring organizations need to recognize that their Leadership APTA participants will spend time over the year, from March to September, working on their executive leadership projects and will participate in related conference calls, online meetings, and web-based events. Upon graduation, Class of 2017 members will also serve as program coaches and mentors for the incoming Class of 2018.

Additional Benefits: One of the goals of Leadership  APTA is to develop future leaders of APTA. The Leadership APTA program requires that each sponsoring organization actively supports at least one additional year of APTA involvement from its Leadership APTA participant immediately upon graduation through work on APTA committees, task forces or special projects.

APTA thanks and recognizes our industry members who leverage their Leadership APTA graduates as valued leaders within their organizations and the industry. 

 Get Started


Ready to apply? Visit How to Apply to find out how to access the online application.


 Leadership APTA Class of 2017 Timeline


June 1, 2016: application deadline

By early July 2016: participants selected and notified

Mid-Sep. 2016- October 2017: participants attend workshops, online meetings, and other events, and complete class projects

October 2017: Leadership APTA graduation program at 2017 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO




If you have questions about Leadership APTA, please contact:

Joseph Niegoski
Senior Director-Educational Services


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