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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 (APTA) announced the individual and organizational winners of the 2015 APTA Awards today in San Francisco, CA during the APTA 2015 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 2015 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 2015 APTA Award recipients.  More information on this year’s APTA Award winners is available at:​ 

Two 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 in the three year period of 2012-2014.  

Connect Transit, Normal, IL received the 2015 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips).  
From 2012 through 2014, Connect Transit transformed the agency with new leadership and a new vision. During this three year period, Connect Transit saw a 40 percent increase in ridership and in Fiscal Year 2014, there was a 25 percent increase in ridership.  The refocused public transit system currently serves the community with a fleet of 56 transit vehicles and 120 employees.  

Part of the new vision included a greater commitment to delivering superior customer service. Connect Transit employees view themselves as ambassadors for the Bloomington-Normal community and educate the community on how people can use public transportation to add value to their lives.  Connect Transit employees are always in the community proudly telling the agency’s story and encouraging residents to try public transit. 

Connect Transit has also embraced technology as a way to not only increase productivity and efficiency for operations and maintenance, but also to enhance the Connect Transit passenger experience. A new CAD/AVL system allows greater supervisory control over on-street operations and convenient real-time bus tracking for customers. The result is increased on-time per¬formance and fewer instances of overcrowding while achiev¬ing more overall boardings per hour.

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), Houston, TX received the 2015 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips)
METRO, the Houston region’s largest public transit provider, serves a 1,303-square-mile area with buses, light rail, paratransit services, vanpools and nearly 100 miles of HOV/HOT lanes.

METRO has achieved great success in recent years. The agency has expanded its light rail system from 7.5 miles to nearly 23 miles and recently redesigned and launched its local bus system. System-wide ridership has also increased each year for the past three years, with annual total trips topping 110 million across all modes. 

Safety is a top priority at METRO in all areas of the organization. There is an extensive marketing and outreach cam¬paign on rail safety.  Pedestrian fencing has been installed where light rail is located near schools and city parks.  METRO also identified one intersection where up to 25 percent of all light rail accidents occurred and worked with the city of Houston to make traffic signal and lane striping changes. As a result, accidents declined by 66 percent.

This year’s 2015 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, Elonzo (Lonnie) W. Hill and Jerome (Jerry) C. Premo, have a total of more than 90 years in the public transportation industry.

Elonzo (Lonnie) W. Hill received the first 2015 Hall of Fame Award.  Hill served on the Metra Board of Directors from 2003 until his passing in 2009. One of his greatest accomplishments was providing leader¬ship to secure funding to replenish the entire fleet of cars on the Metra Electric Line, which serves Chicago’s Southeast Side and suburbs.

Hill also had numerous accomplishments at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) where he worked for 37 years. His journey at CTA began as a bus operator in 1961. Over the years, he ascended through the ranks by demonstrating his leadership abilities, integrity and professionalism in all his positions. From bus supervisor to deputy executive director/operations to executive vice president of service delivery, he forged a legacy of excellence and accountability.

Hill was a founding member of the APTA Rail Safety Audit Task Force and headed the APTA Task Force of Accident Reductions in San Francisco, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Atlanta. From 1987 through 1989, he chaired APTA’s International Bus Roadeo Committee. In this position, Hill developed the APTA Rail Rodeo, which has expanded to rail cities through¬out the United States and Canada. Today, it is still going strong with 15 to 20 agencies that compete at the national level.

Jerome (Jerry) C. Premo, received the second 2015 Hall of Fame Award.  Premo has dedicated nearly 50 years to the public transportation industry in both the public and private sectors.  Premo joined the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, the predecessor organization to FTA, as one of its first dozen employees. He then became the first executive director of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the first executive director of New Jersey Transit Corporation, resulting in APTA’s recognition of that agency as the outstanding large transit system of 1983.

Throughout his career, Premo has been devoted to helping create the next generation of transit leaders. Many of today’s transit leaders can trace their development to him, whose trademark is to provide opportunities to create, innovate and succeed. He has been a longtime member of the Leadership APTA Committee and is especially proud of the named scholarship for the American Public Transportation Foundation supported by AECOM. He also serves as chair of the Eno Center’s Transportation Leadership Committee. 

Premo’s association with APTA spans decades. He has served twice on its Executive Committee, Board of Directors and as vice chair; co-chair of APTA’s (PT)2 cabinet; chair of the 2008 EXPO Committee; chair of the Legislative Committee for six years; Business Member Board of Governors for 11 years; APTA Presidential Selection Committee; and 2014 Strategic Planning Committee, among many others. In 2008, he received APTA’s Outstanding Business Member Award.

Jeff Morales, Chief Executive Officer, California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority), Sacramento, CA received the 2015 State Distinguished Service Award.  This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions at the state level to public transportation through policy, legislative initiative, and leadership. 

Before joining the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority), Morales was a senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff, where he worked with transportation agencies to develop and implement major capital programs. Prior to Parsons Brinckerhoff, he was the former director of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), where he managed a $10 billion program and more than 23,000 employees working to build, maintain and operate the largest state transportation system in the United States.

Since taking the helm as the chief executive officer of the Authority in June 2012, Morales has led the Authority to a number of successful milestones. He led the team that developed the 2012 Business Plan, which created the foundation for a statewide rail modernization program with high-speed rail at its core.  Under his watch, the Authority has delivered two of the most robust and extensive environmental documents that led to state and federal approvals for the systems and successfully executed more than $2 billion in design-build contracts.  In addition, he helped secure an ongoing revenue stream through California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund that has opened numerous doors for the private sector to engage sooner in high-speed rail. 

John C. Spychalski, Ph.D., Board Chairman of the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) located in State College, PA, received the 2015 Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award.  Spychalski has been a member of the CATA Board of Directors for eight consecutive terms spanning more than three decades.  His fellow board members have elected him chairman annually for the past 14 years and during his tenure CATA has grown in size, sophistication, and reputation.  Additional proof of this success was when CATA won APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation System Award in 2001.

Under Spychalski’s oversight as a board member, CATA has been a forerunner in a number of areas, including in 1994 when the authority became the first transit system in the state of Pennsylvania to operate a carpool matching program. That program has evolved into CATACOMMUTE and presently includes 43 vanpool groups. CATA’s fleet conversion to natural gas began in 1996, and culminated in 2005, when the system became one of the first on the east coast to have an active fleet powered entirely by CNG.

As part of his commit¬ment to the future of public transportation, Spychalski has person¬ally mentored a number of students who have expressed an interest in pursuing a career in public transportation, providing his official endorsement of their qualifications for American Public Transportation Foundation scholarships and personal financial support of the foundation.

Angela Iannuzziello, Vice President, Canada Transit Market Lead of AECOM, located in Markham, Ontario, received the 2015 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.  

In the mid-1990s, equipped with an engineering degree and public sector experience with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Iannuzziello started ENTRA Consultants, an engineering firm focused on transportation planning and improving mobility for all members of any community. She co-authored a groundbreaking report examining transportation funding through public transit, school buses, social services and non-emergency health transportation programs, which garnered international attention.

As project manager for the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) effort to set priorities on transit projects across the region in the late 1990s, Iannuzziello’s work for the GTA has survived in different iterations into what is currently used today. During the ’90s, she introduced bus rapid transit in the GTA and then in other communities across North America.

Iannuzziello is a member of the APTA Executive Committee, immediate past chair of the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG), a past co-chair of the Governance Review Task Force and has held numerous other volunteer leadership positions with APTA.  She became active in APTA more than 20 years ago, bringing her focus on universal design and paths of travel that can be used by everyone.  Her hallmark issue has been initiating a public transit industry conversation about the private sector’s role in financing transit projects.

Keith T. Parker, General Manager/CEO, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Atlanta, GA received the 2015 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.  

Parker has built an outstanding public transportation career in diverse communities across the country, having spent 20 years of his 22-year career at the executive level. Along the way, he has built teams that produce quantifiable and sustainable system improvements. A common theme dur¬ing his career is the utilization of public involvement and technological innovations to improve the overall public transit experience.

In December 2012, Parker took the top job at MARTA and shortly after he reorganized the management team, resulting in cost savings exceeding $1 million per year.  He and the MARTA board have made transit-oriented development (TOD) the cornerstone of the agency’s business model. MARTA’s TOD initiatives are designed to increase ridership, improve neighborhoods and generate revenue.

With the support of the MARTA Board of Directors and dedi¬cated agency staff, Keith’s plans are paying dividends. Since his arrival, MARTA has passed three consecutive balanced budgets, provided raises to employees, increased transit ser¬vice frequency, deployed new customer-focused technology and has improved its relationship with the state’s legislature. Additionally, MARTA has added more than $50 million to its budget reserves, an impressive $150 million turnaround, without increasing fares. As a vote of confidence in the direction that MARTA is taking, Moody’s Investor Services recently upgraded the agency’s credit rating. 


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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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