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Mayors and GMs: Collaboration Moves Cities Forward

The most successful public transit agency general managers are masters of collaboration who build partnerships with transportation stakeholders as diverse as real estate developers, community activists, small business owners and engineers.

But perhaps their most important partnership is with their mayor. Every component of public transit, from infrastructure to fares and service hours to routes, has an impact on a city’s overall well-being.

Passenger Transport
asked a few mayors and GMs to talk about their shared goals in a two-part article that starts below:

Please share some strategies or practices that strengthen your collaboration to integrate community initiatives and public transportation priorities.

Cleveland: Thinking Big, Thinking Bold
Mayor Frank G. Jackson

The city of Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) are each committed to “thinking big and thinking bold,” a philosophy that serves us both well in our long and mutually rewarding history of collaboration, whether we’re advancing projects that keep Cleveland moving or policies that define our partnership.

Consider just one current project in the execution stage—the redesign of Cleveland’s Public Square, a historic transit hub that serves more than 40,000 RTA riders daily and is an essential factor in our revitalized downtown, which is experiencing unprecedented growth and investment. Together, along with philanthropic, business community, planning, design and engineering partners, we have a great opportunity to enhance Public Square as a signature destination—one that serves transit riders, encourages economic development, attracts people, is another great enhancement for our great city and continues the momentum for creating a sustainable foundation for downtown Cleveland.

But there are so many more examples—RTA’s two BRT lines, the HealthLine and the Cleveland State University Line, are considered the gold standard for BRT in the U.S.; the recently rebuilt Little Italy rail station on the Red Line (the first in 46 years) is already spurring economic development along the corridor and the agency’s 90 new CNG buses are helping to reduce our city’s carbon footprint by removing an estimated 100 tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) per bus annually from the air.

And when the Republican National Convention comes to Cleveland in July, RTA will be vital in moving delegates and visitors among venues while ensuring that daily passengers have the reliable ride they need.

These projects and many others would not be possible if we did not also collaborate on policy. This is where our partnership shines. A key member of my cabinet—APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall—serves an equally important role on RTA’s Board of Trustees. As a senior-level liaison and advisor, she ensures that both the city and the transit agency are fully engaged in shared discussions, decisions and actions regardless of the issue, from urban development to complete streets and public safety to access to jobs and healthcare.

Cleveland has a proud past, an exciting present and a promising future. Our collaboration with RTA ensures that Cleveland residents are along for the ride.

Joe Calabrese
CEO and General Manager
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

Collaboration happens when RTA is at the table.

That’s my long-held sentiment, based on helping to create successful collaborative partnerships among the city, civic  leaders, private developers and many others during my 17-year tenure.

That may sound simple enough, but RTA is at the table because people like Mayor Jackson make that happen. He knows the critical role RTA plays in connecting the dots to all the city has to offer. And he lends his support because he knows that every world-class city needs a viable and robust public transit system.

Key evidence of this is the fact that Cleveland is now getting ready to host the Republican National Convention in July. This is not Cleveland’s first time at the dance; in prior years it hosted the International Children’s Games, the International Gay Games and the National Senior Games. It takes public transit, working in partnership with the city, to create the structure that can support such significant attractions.

Aside from the big events, the city also recognizes the important role RTA plays in the day-to-day mobility of its residents and the longer-term economic development of the region. We participate in the planning and execution of major events, development projects and community initiatives with major civic, political and private organizations. Cleveland is the type of city where leadership checks its egos at the door, comes together, rolls up our sleeves, finds solutions and gets the job done.

Collaboration is also on display in governance in that the city is charged with appointing four of the 10 members of the RTA Board of Trustees. RTA employees and city residents will always see the mayor and his appointed board members at ground breakings and ribbon cuttings for every major infrastructure project. That’s because they are with us every step of the way.

Such major achievements as the Waterfront Line, HealthLine, Cleveland State University Line, newly designed Cedar-University rail station and the new Little Italy rail station are tangible successes achieved in great part because the city and RTA are working together.

We’re both actively engaging and collaborating on the hard work that makes these projects happen.

Albany, NY: Building a Spirit of Community
Mayor Kathy Sheehan

For Albany to achieve its potential attracting new residents and growing its economy, the city must have convenient and efficient mass transit.

Roughly 80,000 people come and go to our capital city each day to private and government jobs, colleges and universities, entertainment venues and hospitals, and if each commuter drove a car, travel times would be slow, the pollution levels high and parking far more difficult.

That’s why the city works so closely with the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA); when CDTA succeeds, our city becomes more livable and attractive. Strong bus transit is also a prerequisite for many people returning to cities and who want to live car-free.

Providing more than bus routes, CDTA offers buses to and from the numerous special events sponsored by the city, such as riverside concerts. CDTA also works closely with public safety officials, providing buses to firefighters as well as to displaced residents during fires and other emergencies.

Whenever the city engages in major traffic calming projects, officials work closely with CDTA to make sure bus use is attractive along redesigned streets. A strong bus system is also a key part of the Complete Streets legislation that has been adopted by the city. CDTA has expanded alternative transportation modes such as vanpooling, bus-and-bike options, buses to and from train stations, express commuter service and instituted Real Time Passenger Information , each making multimodal transportation a viable option for all those who live and work in Albany.

Carm Basile
CEO
Capital District Transportation Authority

The Capital District Transportation Authority is an integral part of the capital region in Upstate New York.

CDTA services stimulate and support the local economy. Community leaders, like Mayor Kathy Sheehan, are incorporating transit services into their planning efforts to foster environmentally healthy communities. The results have been outstanding—CDTA ridership has increased by close to 25 percent over the past five years, and we have broken our all-time ridership records for the last two years running, now exceeding 17 million boardings.

Our organization is focused on who we are and advocating for a better capital region. We provide special event services and support a number of community initiatives that all make our region more attractive to those who live here and those looking to make it home.

Our buses are safe havens for emergency officials, volunteers and others during fires, natural disasters and events where a covered, heated or air-conditioned environment is needed. We work with law enforcement officials to provide shelter and transport families to safe residences during troubling times. Our staff works with local school districts to move students to important educational opportunities. And we are tied into local calendars to make moving large numbers of people to and from special events easy and efficient.

The CDTA spirit is one of community, partnership and advocacy. We believe that being involved in communities where we live and work is good for everybody. Encouraging and recognizing employees who are involved ensures a strong CDTA and a strong and prosperous capital region.


Watch for Part 2 of this article in the next issue of Passenger Transport.

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