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Lessons on Collaboration

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall noted that “collaboration begins at home” in her Annual Meeting opening speech and then brought that idea to life by moderating a concurrent session titled “Strengthening Public Transportation through Strategic Collaboration,” where she assembled public officials who work with various constituencies in cities with strong public transit systems.

Participating in the discussion were Frank Jackson, mayor of Cleveland; Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, CA; and Wade Harper, mayor of Antioch, CA. The panel was introduced by Tom Cochran, chief executive officer and executive director of the United States Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization representing mayors of ­cities with more than 30,000 residents.

“We need to tell the human story of what we’re doing,” Cochran said. ­“Mayors are going to continue to stand with APTA for smart transportation choices … to do what’s right to make a better America,” he added.

When McCall asked panelists to share ideas on how to foster a stronger, more influential public voice for transportation, Jackson responded, “We need to build and maintain credibility by getting projects completed on time and on budget; a solid track record creates public trust for more investment.” He added, “Collaboration works best when the timing is right. A mayor’s voice is one thing, but when everyone speaks with the same voice, we get things done.”

Liccardo emphasized the “three Es” of public transportation benefits—economic, environmental and equity—and their importance in building support for new infrastructure projects among stakeholders. “All of us need to find ways to better communicate with our communities about the advantages of investing in transportation projects,” he said. “Almost every constituency feels under-served in some way and that creates opportunities for new partnerships.”

Harper discussed the importance of community input. “In our city, collaboration helped us develop a strategic plan that began by asking what the community wanted,” he said. “Every stakeholder group signed off on that plan, and it ultimately helped Tri Delta Transit [also known as Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority] achieve the distinction of being named the 2014 best small transit system in the United States,” he said. Harper also highlighted the important role of transit board members because “they know the pulse of the entire community.”

The panelists agreed that mayors are in a unique position to bring different parties together, identify what needs to be done and set priorities, and they offered support for McCall’s priority to promote even closer working relationships among APTA, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and local officials.

“There needs to be a ­constant conversation,” McCall said, “and this is an excellent start.” 

Tom Cochran, CEO, U.S. Conference of Mayors, introduces a panel discussion with APTA Chair and moderator Valarie J. McCall, Antioch (CA) Mayor Wade Harper, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

Photo by Bill Maroni



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