APTA Awards handed out in New Orleans
The American Public Transportation Association announced the individual and organizational winners of the 2011 APTA Awards this week in New Orleans during the APTA 2011 EXPO.
“As the ‘best of the best,’ the 2011 APTA Award winners serve as role models of excellence to everyone in the public transportation industry,” said APTA President William Millar. “Their work in public transportation has made lasting contributions, not only for transit riders, but for the entire public transit industry.”
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 2008-2010.
The 2011 winners of the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement awards are:
Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica, CA (Category: Providing more than 20 million annual passenger trips.) Despite the challenges facing every U.S. transit system in the current economic environment, the Big Blue Bus successfully increased ridership and implemented new service strategies and innovative, sustainable transit solutions for its community over the past year. These accomplishments were even more notable because, less than 18 months ago, the system faced a structural deficit that threatened to cause the Big Blue Bus to operate at a loss for the first time in its history.
Sun Metro, El Paso, TX (Category: Providing more than 4 million but less than 20 million annual passenger trips.) Sun Metro has seen a 21 percent increase in ridership at a time when an economic downturn caused national ridership figures to decline. In the last three years, Sun Metro saw the completion of four new transfer centers, a partnership with Google Transit, the installation of nearly 200 new shelters, the arrival of eight new vehicles, and began developing the Rapid Transit System.
Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc., Ithaca, NY (Category: Providing 4 million or fewer annual passenger trips.) Today, the 124-employee organization serves a semi-rural, albeit cosmopolitan community of 100,000, which clearly embraces public transit. From 2008 to 2010, TCAT’s annual ridership jumped 7.8 percent from 3.31 million to 3.58 million trips. TCAT operates 34 routes, 22 hours a day and 360 days a year. TCAT’s 55-bus fleet includes eight hybrids kept in the best condition possible through an aggressive preventive maintenance program. The past few years have been particularly ambitious for a small and lean organization with a $12 million annual budget.
This year APTA gave a first-time award called the Special Recognition for Extraordinary Recovery which honored the Regional Transportation Authority of New Orleans, LA for the agency’s tremendous comeback after Hurricane Katrina. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) lost most of its bus fleet, and its streetcars, facilities, offices, and technology systems were heavily damaged. It faced a myriad of operational, financial, and administrative problems, challenges no other transit system in the country had encountered. Despite severely depleted resources and the departure of many employees from the city, RTA leaders and employees worked tirelessly to implement partial bus service within 60 days of the hurricane, and partial streetcar service six months later.
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 2011 Innovation Award is Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Boston, MA. In November 2009, instead of trying to build its own smartphone apps, the MBTA decided to give its data to third parties whose expertise is in building these tools. Third parties, such as small software developers and large media companies, already have the resources and skills to build excellent applications. Within an hour, the first real-time bus app was released. Over the following months, more than 30 apps have been launched at no cost to the MBTA. Third parties continue to make regular updates and improvements to these terrific customer services apps, helping to ensure T riders have access to up-to-date information.
This year’s 2011 APTA Awards also recognized five individuals whose contributions have greatly advanced public transportation.
Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award – Stephanie Negriff (General Manager, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica, CA) As the Director of Transit Services for Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Negriff oversaw transit service delivery to over 22 million customers a year and a system that spans 52 square miles across the most densely populated area of Los Angeles County. In the past decade under her leadership, the Big Blue Bus has become a leader in environmental sus¬tainability, systems innovation, and alternative fuel technology. She directed a period of rapid growth that has seen significant expansions of both the fleet and transit facilities
Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award – Sharon Greene, (Principal, Sharon Greene + Associates, Laguna Beach, CA) Greene’s knowledge, expertise, and skills were recognized by APTA’s leadership and led her to be selected for key special assignments, including membership on the APTA Presidential Search Task Force, charged with selecting APTA’s new president. She currently serves on the APTA Executive Committee and in the past year, she served as the chair of the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG). Greene also served as co-chair of the APTA Governance and Committee Structure Task Force.
Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award – Crystal Fortune Lyons (Board Chairman, Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, Corpus Christi, TX) Crystal Fortune Lyons joined the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Board in 2004, when the City of Corpus Christi appointed her to serve as the city’s appointee “designated to represent the interests of the transportation disadvantaged.” She immediately took a leadership role within the board by being appointed chair of the Operations Committee in 2005. Then in 2007 she was elected board chair and won subsequent re-elections. Looking to the future of the RTA, Lyon’s foresight steered the Corpus Christi RTA Board of Directors to an exciting future that includes an alternative fueled fleet, implementation of a long-range system plan, development of a modernized and multi-use Customer Service Center, and the full utilization of GenFare technology on board RTA fixed route vehicles.
Local Distinguished Service Award – Cameron (Cam) Beach (former member of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors) APTA posthumously honored Cameron Beach, who died in March 2011, with the Local Distinguished Service Award, for his four decades of work in the transportation industry. A consummate transit professional, he worked for local, suburban, and intercity bus services; a Class One railroad; a private bus charter and leasing firm; and an airline. Considered the father of Sacramento’s highly successful light rail system, he oversaw the design and construction of the original 18.5-mile train line, which began operating in 1987, and later took on responsibility for all transit operations. In addition to serving on the MUNI board, Beach’s committee and board memberships included serving as chair of California Operation Lifesaver, chair of the APTA Light Rail Committee, and vice chair of the Committee on Public Safety.