APTA’s Emerging Leaders Program Class of 2024 is conducting group research projects to address a key issue or challenge facing the public transportation industry. The research methodology may include collecting survey data, interviewing industry leaders and stakeholders, or developing case studies. Their key takeaways, lessons learned, and recommendations will be shared in a series of online industry presentations, at their Capstone Session and Graduation, and with relevant APTA committees at the Mobility Conference in April 2024.

The schedule for the industry presentations with Q&A sessions is shown below. Click on the capstone project title to attend the live presentation via Zoom on the specified date and time (meeting passcode: “ELP”).

No advance registration is required. Please share these free, industry presentations with transit professionals and stakeholders. The full project descriptions and presenters are shown below.

Date Time
(shown in Eastern Time)
Group # Capstone Project Title
Wed., March 27 12:00-12:50 pm 4 Extreme Heat and Its Impacts on Transit Systems
Thurs., March 28 12:00-12:50 pm 1 Considerations and Recommendations for Implementing Zero-Fare Policies without Sacrificing Service
Fri., March 29 12:00-12:50 pm 6 Strategies to Better Serve Customers with Vision Impairments
Thurs., April 4 12:00-12:50 pm 3 Climate Resilience Strategies for Bus Stops
Fri., April 5 12:00-12:50 pm 7 The Microtransit Playbook
Mon., April 8 12:00-12:50 pm 2 Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD) & Anti-Displacement
Tues., April 9 12:00-12:50pm 5 Addressing Passenger-Facing Transit Cleanliness as a Barrier to Post-Pandemic Ridership Recovery

The presentation recordings, slides, and related materials for the Class of 2024 Capstone Projects will be posted on APTAU Learning in June 2024 (or search “Emerging Leaders”).

Group 1: Considerations and Recommendations for Implementing Zero-Fare Policies without Sacrificing Service

In recent years and especially since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, some transit agencies have implemented, piloted, or consider zero-fare on some or all of their routes and services. While there is a growing body of research on this topic, transit agencies and local political leaders may not be aware of the findings and lessons learned from other agencies, or how local characteristics might impact outcomes. For this project, the team reviewed the history of the free fare movement, conducted a literature review, analyzed new survey data, and conducted interviews of staff at agencies that have implemented zero fare policies. The final deliverable includes a decision tree to help agencies ask themselves a series of questions to consider the complexities of free fares and assist in informed decision making.


  • Nadine Chalmers, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) Metro
  • Tricia Chastanet, Connecticut Department of Transportation
  • Elias Fischer, HNTB Corporation
  • Taylor Gill, Metro-North
  • Kaj Huddart, Transit app

Group 2: Equitable Transit Oriented Development & Anti-Displacement

The proposed capstone project aims to explore and address the negative byproducts of Transit Oriented Development (TOD). TOD seeks to create vibrant sustainable and accessible neighborhoods around public transit. However, as it invites interest and investment, this often leads to increased property values, gentrification, and displacement of communities. The goal of this project is to bring attention to projects that have implemented effective anti-displacement policies and efforts, as well as highlight actionable solutions for developing more equitable TOD communities.


  • Liza Hoover, Susquehanna Regional Transportation Authority
  • Michael Panhuise, Amtrak
  • Zohreh Rashidi Moghaddam, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
  • Dana Sedlik, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
  • Peter Valenzuela, Kimley-Horn

Group 3: Climate Resilience Strategies for Bus Stops

Transit agencies have the responsibility to ensure that public transportation continues to be a practical option for commuters, especially as the impact of climate change leads to more frequent extreme weather events. These events, including heat, cold, flooding, severe storms, and high winds, present a significant challenge to the millions of North Americans who depend on public transit to access various services. Public transit services play a crucial role in the lives of many marginalized groups and communities. These groups often cannot afford personal vehicles and live farther away from their workplaces, making them reliant on public transit services like buses.

Buses play a crucial role in America’s public transit system as they account for half of all transit rides. They cater to more diverse populations in terms of race and economic background compared to any other transit mode. However, most bus stops suffer from underfunding and do not have proper bus shelters to protect riders. During extreme weather conditions, disruptions in bus services worsen the inequalities already experienced by marginalized groups and communities. This has led to discussions among transit agencies about investing in climate adaptation measures to improve the functionality and quality of new and existing bus shelters to protect riders from extreme weather events. This study aims to identify strategies that transit agencies can implement to protect bus riders from extreme weather conditions at bus stops.


  • Frank Adarkwa, Greater Richmond Transit Company
  • Caitlin Delaney, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
  • Kessia Harris, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
  • Peter Kersten, Regional Transportation Authority
  • Samantha Taylor, Pittsburgh Regional Transit

Group 4: Extreme Heat and Its Impacts on Transit Systems

Climate change is underway and extreme heat events are becoming increasingly frequent and severe. These events affect many aspects of transit systems, from infrastructure to worker safety, operating costs, and customer experience. Through research and interviews, this project will examine what transit agencies are doing today to cope with extreme heat events, and the plans and procedures they are developing to adapt to future events. Based on the information collected, the project will offer recommendations for transit agencies to consider as they prepare to meet their customers’ and workforces’ needs in a hotter future.


  • Frank Alarcon, Metro Transit
  • Pierre-Yves Ponsonnet, Kiewit
  • Betty Seifu, Gannett Fleming
  • Bryce Shields, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
  • Sarah Stentz, Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation

Group 5: Addressing Passenger-Facing Transit Cleanliness as a Barrier to Post-Pandemic Ridership Recovery

As agencies work to gain riders in a post-pandemic era, one barrier is cleanliness and customer perception of cleanliness on transit. This project aims to provide transit agencies and industry stakeholders with well-researched, technology-driven strategies for improving cleanliness and post-pandemic passenger experience on public transit. This capstone project focuses on developing strategies and recommendations for improving system cleanliness and passenger perception given limited funds for operation. We will talk to industry experts, synthesize existing research, and gather additional information to provide insights for the transit industry.


  • Todd Bateman, TriMet
  • Anna Geannopoulos, Cambridge Systematics
  • Monica Ghosh, Washington State Department of Transportation
  • Presley Morrissey, Sound Transit
  • Mathew Olson, HDR Inc.

Group 6: Strategies to Better Serve Customers with Vision Impairments

Improving service delivery and rider experience for passengers with disabilities, particularly those with vision impairment, is not only a legal and ethical obligation in public transportation, but can also lead to further reducing barriers to entry and increasing ridership among this population that greatly relies on public transportation as a primary means for mobility.  Passengers with visual impairments have diverse needs and preferences, which often lead to challenges when using public transportation. Transit agencies have an opportunity to make enhancements that create a positive impact on the customer experience for these individuals by providing thoughtful and targeted actions to improve wayfinding, information sharing, and operator interactions.

This capstone project will focus on how transit agencies currently design, fund, train, and operate service for this population and actions agencies can take to reduce barriers to entry and improve customer experience for people with vision impairments. Through a literature review, interviews of agency staff, and interviews with those with visual impairments–both riders and non-riders– the team will present findings on the current rider experience, existing barriers to entry, current best practices, and recommendations for improvements that could be made within the industry.


  • Edgar Sanchez Larios, Swiftly, Inc.
  • Ken Hendricks, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District
  • Natalie Chavez, VTA
  • Patrick Ryan, DB E.C.O. North America Inc.
  • Sarah Kerber, Sacramento Regional Transit

Group 7: The Microtransit Playbook

In our capstone project, we sought to understand the different Microtransit service models and business parameters. We looked into 18 organizations across the United States, representing different geographies and diverse system types. The lessons learned from all of them contributed to our understanding of microtransit as well as our suggested best practices for the service. In our presentation, we will look at the relationship between fixed route and microtransit, various success metrics of microtransit, as well as considerations for all stakeholders in the service delivery process.


  • Lynn Feng, AECOM
  • Riley Koehler, Orange County Transportation Authority
  • Rose Lisska, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Jorge Quintana, Foothill Transit
  • Kevin Sliger, Ben Franklin Transit

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