The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced the individual and organizational winners of the 2017 APTA Awards today in Atlanta, GA during the APTA 2017 APTA Annual Meeting/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.

“The 2017 APTA Award winners are dedicated and skilled individuals and organizations that have advanced the cause of public transportation for millions of people,” said APTA Chair and Jacksonville Transportation Authority Chief Executive Officer, Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr.  “I commend the recipients on the significant contributions they have made to public transit and the communities they serve.”

“The 2017 APTA Award winners are the ‘best of the best’ of the public transportation industry,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White. “On behalf of the more than 1,500 member organizations that belong to APTA, I congratulate this year’s winners and thank them for their leadership and many outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.”

Below are summaries on the 2017 APTA Award recipients.  More information on this year’s APTA Award winners is available at:

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 2017 Innovation Award is State Road & Tollway Authority (SRTA), Atlanta, GA. In February 2015, SRTA and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) launched an unparalleled pilot program in the transportation industry with the launch of Ride Transit, a program designed to entice commuters to try public transit. Toll credits were awarded to people who used the GRTA Xpress routes instead of driving during Metro Atlanta’s heavily congested morning and evening commute periods. 

The results were very successful.  Eighty percent of the participants who signed up for the six-month Ride Transit pilot earned toll credits totaling nearly $9,000. Assuming each commuter would have driven solo to make these trips, this indicates a potential reduction in auto trips on the I-85 corridor of up to 4,500 trips.

Ride Transit demonstrated that people are willing to try something new given the right incentive.  It is an innovative example of how public transit and tolling can work seamlessly together to increase ridership while reducing traffic congestion.

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 in the three year period of 2014-2016.  

Knoxville Area Transit (KAT), Knoxville, TN received the 2017 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips).
Currently providing three million passenger trips per year along 26 routes, KAT has been described as “big city transit with a small-town feel.”  Over the past three years, KAT made significant improvements increasing service, improving safety and efficiency, and developing effective outreach and partnerships.  One successful partnership is a statewide maintenance bus alliance that enabled them to save up to $70,000 per vehicle.

Coming into the third year of KAT’s Five Year Plan, KAT has made improvements to 14 of 23 regular fixed routes, along with restructuring three downtown trolley routes. During this same period, KAT has continued to emphasize the importance of safety throughout the organization.  With preventable accidents down 20 percent over three years and workplace accidents cut in half, results indicate success.

While all of these improvements have been made behind the scenes, KAT’s outreach and marketing efforts have been visible throughout the city from participation in large events such as Earth Day to New Transit on Tap events that spark discussions on public transit in a casual fun setting.  Last year, the outreach efforts reached 5,000 people and ranged from major events such as Earth Day all the way down to individual travel training.

Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), Albany, NY received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category: Providing more than 4 million but fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips).
CDTA is a progressive and innovative public transit agency that is changing the way people think about public transportation in New York’s Capital Region.  It serves four major cities, spanning 2,300 square miles with local, express, commuter, and bus rapid transit services. A new bike-share program, regulatory oversight of regional taxicab service, and ownership of two regional train stations round out CDTA’s regional mobility profile.

CDTA developed an Innovation Platform that has improved the service network, reduced operating costs, and sharpened CDTA’s community image.  Making the system easier to use for customers is the biggest change CDTA has made.  The Universal Access program allows area businesses, schools, and universities to provide unlimited access to CDTA’s route network.  The agency works with 20 partners from the education, health, and service industries that account for more than four million trips annually.

The results have been outstanding with CDTA ridership at record or near-record levels for the past three years.

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Toronto, Ontario, Canada received the 2017 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award (Category:  Providing 20 million or more annual passenger trips).
As the third largest public transit system in North America, TTC moves 1.8 million customers a day on a multimodal, integrated network of bus, streetcar, light rail, para trans, and subways.  In 2013, the TTC implemented an ambitious plan of top-to-bottom modernization and developed a strategy that puts the customer at the center of all that it does, from service planning to service delivery, including a new station management model, customer charter, and fleet and infrastructure renewal.

TTC introduced new vehicles, rolled out a new fare payment system; commissioned an outstanding new streetcar maintenance and storage facility; and opened a second subway platform at Union Station – the busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada.

TTC also hit record levels of ridership and record customer satisfaction scores, now at 82 percent, reflecting riders’ increasing satisfaction with service.

This year’s 2017 APTA Awards also recognized six individuals whose contributions have greatly advanced public transportation. 

Robert Prince received the 2017 Hall of Fame Award. This award is reserved for an individual who has had a long and distinguished career in the industry; who has made extraordinary contributions to public transportation, and who has actively participated in APTA activities. Prince’s career in the public transit industry is defined by his outstanding management of transit operations at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), his work in renewing and expanding the T’s historic infrastructure, and his dedication to support and mentor the next generation of public transit leaders. Prince started his career in Boston as a bus operator at a time when forced school busing was tearing the city apart. Over the next 25 years, Prince held more than 20 jobs at the MBTA, culminating in July 1997 as the first African-American general manager of the fourth largest multimodal transportation agency in the United States, carrying more than one million passengers a day.  Prince was a pioneer and a leading voice for the state of good repair while other public transits agencies were still focused on expanding their systems. After retiring from the MBTA in 2001, he subsequently joined AECOM and served as its vice president, transit business development director for 14 years where he worked on public transit projects in Puerto Rico; Columbus, OH; Miami, FL; and Los Angeles, CA.

Prince loves public transit: from the people who rely on it to the people who provide it. He has brought that attitude to the industry in many ways.  He was very active in APTA as a member of the APTA Executive Committee, chairing the American Public Transportation Foundation, and serving on many other APTA committees throughout the years.

This year two individuals received the 2017 Local Distinguished Award which is given to an individual who has made significant contributions at the local level to public transportation through policy, legislative initiative, and leadership.  The two recipients of the Local Distinguished Award are Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board Chairman Kirk W. Dillard and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Kirk W. Dillard is a distinguished leader, consensus-builder, and an outspoken advocate for public transportation. He currently serves as the chairman of the board of directors for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in Chicago, IL.  Before becoming RTA chairman, Dillard served as the senator for the 24th District of the Illinois State Senate for nearly 20 years. As state senator, he served on the Transportation Committee, was a strong supporter of public transit, and the sponsor of the Secretary of State’s Railroad Safety Initiatives, which resulted in a significant drop in grade-crossing fatalities. During this time, he was widely known to work “across the aisle” to build consensus in a state where partisan acrimony is legendary.

From the moment he became RTA chairman, Dillard has thrown himself into the role wholeheartedly, walking the hallways of the state and U.S. Capitol buildings to let leaders know the importance of the regional transit system. He was critical to the agency’s work on the federal level to assure passage of the FAST and PATH Acts.  Whether facilitating teamwork in the redevelopment of Chicago’s iconic Union Station or testifying before his former colleagues in Springfield, IL, about the importance of transit funding, RTA Chairman Dillard has been and continues to be an important and effective proponent of public transportation in the RTA region.

With nearly two decades in elected office, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has always been a champion for public transit.  As a Georgia state senator, Reed routinely found common ground to pass MARTA-related bills and to block measures that would debilitate the cash-strapped agency. Among policies he pursued, he urged his colleagues to consider state funding to beef up MARTA’s security measures, and fought to remove restrictions on how the agency allocated its operating and capital budgets.

Mayor Reed has been a strong ally for MARTA and was actively involved in galvanizing public support for the passage of last year’s $2.5 billion transit referendum. The result was a resounding win—71.4 percent approval at the ballot box—and the highest approval percentage of any transit referendum in the country.  Over the next four decades, the transit-focused sales tax will generate $2.5 billion dedicated to MARTA expansion and major transit upgrades around the city.

Richard J. Ober, Board Chairman of the Beaver County Transit Authority (BCTA) located in Rochester, PA received the 2017 Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award.  This award is given to an APTA public transportation board member who has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry.

Ober has been a leader and innovator throughout his career. First appointed to the BCTA Board in 1980, he has been elected chairman 17 times since 1985. Ober was instrumental in building a public transit organization that grew from a company with no assets and only a handful of leased buses, operated by a subcontractor, to one that now owns $37.5 million in assets, operates service directly, and employs nearly 100 people.

Under his leadership and vision, BCTA constructed the Rochester Transportation Center in 1991. A park-and-ride was built at the same time and later that decade, in 1998, BCTA partnered with the Port Authority to build the first regional park-and-ride in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 2001, BCTA built the Expressway Travel Center, a new operations and maintenance facility that became an example of a public transit agency’s role in economic development.

During his tenure on the board, BCTA has achieved ridership records unmatched by another public transit authority in Pennsylvania.  Also, in 1988 and 2006, BCTA received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.

Patrick Scully, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Motor Coach Industries (MCI), located in Des Plaines, IL, received the 2017 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.

Scully has nearly thirty years in the public transportation industry. He began his transportation career when he joined Ontario Bus Industries’ aftermarket parts group in 1988. He transitioned to Detroit Diesel Corporation in 1994, joining Daimler Buses North America in 2001 and Motor Coach Industries (MCI) in 2012. Scully currently serves as MCI executive vice president, sales and marketing, where he contributes to long-term planning and tactical execution, leading a strong team representing MCI coach models in the private and public sector markets.

Most critically, Scully has been active in APTA’s efforts in lobbying Congress and the Federal Transit Administration on key industry issues and has led business member fly-ins to Washington, DC. During his two-year term as chair of the Business Member Board of Governors he gained business member support for APTA’s highly successful Stand Up for Transportation Day on April 9, 2015.

Art Leahy, Chief Executive Officer, Metrolink in Los Angeles, CA received the 2017 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.

Throughout his 46-year public transit career, Leahy has recognized as a visionary with the ability to take on projects that transform the fabric of a region.  He has been the CEO of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) since 2015. In just two years he addressed some of the organization’s most pressing problems. Metrolink is now a thriving agency, spurred by his desire to embrace innovative ideas such as mobile ticketing and cleaner fleets.

Prior to leading Metrolink, Leahy distinguished himself as an innovative and engaged other agencies he led:  LA Metro (Los Angeles, CA); Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), Metro Transit (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN); and Southern California Rapid Transit District (now LA Metro).

Leahy is a true ambassador of public transportation whose impact on the sector will last well beyond his time as an executive.


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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.  

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