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American Public Transportation Association

 Transit News



Virginia Miller

 Top Public Transportation Leaders Honored By the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

 Celebrating Excellence in the Public Transportation Industry

The American Public Transportation Association announced the individual and organizational winners of the 2013 APTA Awards yesterday in Chicago, IL during the APTA 2013 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 2013 APTA Awards winners are stellar examples of leadership and excellence in the public transportation industry in North America,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.  “On behalf of the 1,500 member organizations that belong to APTA, I congratulate this year’s winners and thank them for their many outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.”

Below are summaries on the 2013 APTA Award recipients.  More information on this year’s APTA Award winners is available at:

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 2010-2012. 

Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA), Flagstaff, AZ received the 2013 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips). NAIPTA has provided unparalleled service, engaging in partnerships that benefit the entire community, earning the public trust and creating a safe and engaging work environment for its employees. This commitment has paid off; NAIPTA ridership increased from less than 200,000 trips in 2001 to nearly 1.75 million trips in 2012.

As NAIPTA moves more passengers, safety is always the cornerstone of all its operations. The Mountain Line fixed route system went from one accident per 12,868 miles in 2010 down to one accident per 29,095 miles in 2012.  This year-over-year decrease is a direct result of an intense driver training program, an Accident Review Committee that reviews all accidents to determine the root cause, and a safety-based Employee Incentive Program.  Between 2010 and 2012, accidents per mile decreased 64 percent.

Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid), Grand Rapids, MI received the 2013 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips). The Rapid serves the greater Grand Rapids, MI, area, covering 281 square miles with a population of 569,935. The agency has seen significant growth since its inception in 2000. In that time, ridership has gone from 4.6 million to nearly 12 million trips annually.  Comparing service levels from 2000 to today shows a 50 percent increase in vehicle revenue miles and a 63 percent increase in vehicle revenue hours, trends that have been intensifying over the past three years. In 2010, the board adopted a 20-year vision for transit growth.

The Rapid continues to be a leader in sustainability. After opening the first LEED-certified public transit facility in the country in 2004, a LEED Gold-certified operations center opened in 2012.  In terms of economic sustainability, the recent service enhancements provided increased access for workers throughout the area. In fact, The Rapid was rated #11 out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. by the Brookings Institution for job access via public transit.

GO Transit (GO), Toronto, Canada received the 2013 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips). Since May 1967, GO has evolved from a single train line along Lake Ontario’s shoreline into a network of train lines and bus routes spanning 4,200 square miles in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) carrying 65 million passengers annually. Between 2010 and 2012, GO’s daily service offerings increased from 180 to 195 train trips and from 2,045 to 2,333 bus trips. Three new rail stations have opened since 2012 (for a total of 63 stations), and through rail corridor purchases, GO now owns 68 percent of the rail network on which it runs.

Customer service defines GO’s culture more than 7,000 customers have provided feedback on GO’s online advisory panel.  GO’s is committed to sustainable development and operations and many of its facilities have been received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Finally, GO’s farebox recovery ratio is nearly 80 percent, one of the highest for any North American systems.

This year’s 2013 APTA Awards also recognized six individuals whose contributions have greatly advanced public transportation. 

This year two 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 two Hall of Fame recipients, William W. Millar and Richard J. Simonetta, have a total of more than 80 years in the public transportation industry.

William W. Millar received the first 2013 Hall of Fame Award.  During a 40-year career, Bill Millar’s leadership made positive differences in the lives of the people, agencies, and institutions he touched on the local, state, and national levels.  Early in his career he co-authored a study that led to the founding of the Red Rose Transit Authority.  He established a free public transit program for senior citizens while at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.  In 1977, he started working at the Port Authority of Alleghany County in Pennsylvania and founded the ACCESS program, a forerunner of paratransit services, and at one time, the largest transit program for the disabled in the nation. In 1983, Millar was named to lead the authority and began an aggressive agenda to improve all aspects of the organization.  

With a passion for research, Millar served as the Transportation Research Board chair in 1992 and was also instrumental in the creation of the Transportation Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).

As an APTA member, Millar served in many capacities—including 13 years on the APTA Board of Directors and seven years in three different positions on the Executive Committee—before being chosen as APTA’s president in 1996. In his 15 years as APTA’s president, he transformed APTA into a true industrywide partnership that reflects the full diversity of the industry and the changing identity of those who work in it: women, minorities, public transit, passenger rail, waterborne services, public agencies, private entities, governing boards, and officials at every level of government. Last but not least, federal investment in public transit tripled while he APTA president.

Richard J. Simonetta received the second 2013 Hall of Fame Award.  His public transportation career began in 1971, when he was offered a planning internship at the Port Authority of Allegheny County in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. His first boss told him that he could have a successful public transit career if he embraced diversity and committed himself to developing future generations of public transit professionals. Supporting diversity and developing people became the fabric of his long and distinguished career.

Between 1973 and 1994 Simonetta led four public transportation systems.  He served as executive director at the Capitol Area Transit (Harrisburg, PA); deputy general manager, Regional Transportation District (Denver, CO); executive director at the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (Ann Arbor, MI); and general manager at Central Ohio Transit Authority (Columbus, OH).  Simonetta was the general manager/CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority in Atlanta, GA when the Olympic Games were held in 1996 and more than 25 million passengers were transported during the Olympics. His last position at a public transit system was as CEO of the Valley Metro Rail (Phoenix, AZ).

He currently works for The Burns Group, leading its business development efforts in rail & transit. He continues to mentor staff at The Burns Group and throughout the public transit industry, maintaining his career-long commitment to diversity and developing future generations of transit professionals.

Phillip A. Washington, (General Manager, Regional Transportation District (RTD), Denver, CO) received the 2013 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award today.  This prestigious award is given to an APTA public transportation manager who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry. 

Washington has served in top leadership at the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) for 14 years, including the past four as the transit agency’s general manager and CEO. During his tenure, RTD has undertaken an unprecedented number of innovative, cost-effective, and customer-focused initiatives to build projects and improve service to the public.

The most visible project under Washington’s leadership is RTD’s FasTracks Program – the largest voter-approved public transit expansion in the nation – building 122 miles of commuter and light rail, 18 miles of Bus Rapid Transit service, adding 21,000 parking spaces, and redeveloping Union Station into a multimodal transportation hub.  Opened eight months ahead of schedule, RTD’s first FasTracks-funded rail line added 12 miles to the existing system for a total of 47 rail lines. 

Washington was recognized by the White House this year as one of the Transportation Innovators “Champions of Change” for developing the Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program, a collaborative partnership that creates career transportation opportunities   for unemployed and underemployed residents impacted by regional infrastructure projects. 

The late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (former U.S. Senator, HI) received the 2013 State Distinguished Service Award.  This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions at the local level to public transportation through policy, legislative initiative, and leadership. Throughout his time in elected office, Senator Daniel K. Inouye demonstrated unflagging support for public transit in Hawaii and, for more than 40 years, championed rail transit for the City and County of Honolulu. Thanks to Senator Inouye, the rail transit system Oahu residents will enjoy boasts several one-of-a-kind attributes and will be among the most innovative in the nation.

On December 19, 2012, two days after Senator Inouye’s death, the city of Honolulu and the Federal Transit Administration signed a historic agreement that secured $1.55 billion in federal funding for the construction of Honolulu’s rail transit system. The elevated rail project will provide Oahu residents and visitors with a safe, reliable, and efficient transportation alternative to some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion. It will bring new public transit options to the growing region and create a modern transportation system that is built to last for future generations.

Charles (Chuck) R. Wochele (Managing Partner/Owner, TransitConsult LLC, Rochester, NY) received the 2013 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. 

Wochele attended his first APTA meeting in 1984 and has been an active APTA business member since the early 1990s. He was elected to the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) in 1999 and has been a board member ever since, serving as chair of the BMBG from 2010–2012 as well as serving two-year terms as first vice chair and second vice chair of the BMBG. Wochele has been a member of APTA’s Executive Committee from 2010 to 2013, the Member Services Committee since 2002, and the Standards Development Oversight Committee since its inception in 2003. In addition, APTA chairs have appointed Wochele to serve as a member of the Buy America Task Force, the Authorization Task Force, the Governance Task Force and, most recently, the APTA Early Career Program Applicant Selection Task Force. He has also been a key player in the establishment and success of APTA’s High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, serving as vice chair of the committee for a number of years. 

Wochele’s leadership was particularly effective in getting APTA’s business members engaged in communicating the business message to Capitol Hill.  To support APTA business members’ advocacy efforts, Wochele led a Geographic Information System legislative initiative to identify congressional districts where APTA business members have offices and other facilities.

Randall D. Chrisman (Board Member, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Dallas, TX) received the 2013 Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award.  Chrisman has been a member and chair of the DART Board of Directors during one of the agency’s most dynamic and challenging eras. In his 11-year tenure, the agency undertook and completed the longest rail expansion in North America, navigated sobering fiscal challenges, and weathered the occasional political storm. Through this period, he consistently made decisions that kept the agency on course and positioned it for continued growth. By 2014, DART will have opened 48 miles of new light rail since Chrisman came on board, bringing the overall rail system to more than 90 miles.

Considering the success of the agency during Chrisman’s tenure on the DART board, it’s not surprising that non-DART cities in the region have begun to clamor for public transit.  A frequent speaker throughout the region Chrisman has helped to whet the public appetite for public transit well beyond the borders of the DART service area.

In addition to his DART board service on multiple committees, he is secretary of APTA’s Transit Board Member Committee, chair of the Transit Board Members Legislative Subcommittee, and co-chair of APTA’s Authorization Task Force.

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 The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.  More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems.


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