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COMTO/APTA Session Highlights Equality

Annual Meeting attendees who participated in a session hosted jointly by APTA and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) were treated to a showing of a new documentary titled Free to Ride, an inspirational story about how public transit helped bridge physical and discriminatory barriers in Dayton, OH.

Free to Ride chronicles the civil rights struggle that occurred in 2009 when community members became aware of the dangerous journey faced by pedestrians forced to walk across a busy interstate overpass to reach their jobs, shopping, medical care and educational classes in suburban Beavercreek. The film highlights the roles of local public transportation leaders and FHWA to overcome suburban opposition to the expansion of a Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus route along a commercial corridor, and the system of checks and balances that allowed justice to prevail for an underserved community.

APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White introduced the session by calling public transit “the great social equalizer,” noting that it serves people from every social and economic group. APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. and Immediate Past Chair Doran J. Barnes also attended the session.

Following the 60-minute documentary, Dwight A. Ferrell, chief executive officer and general manager of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati, moderated a panel discussion on the role public transportation plays in creating opportunities, especially for historically segregated communities.

Panelists were Valarie J. McCall, a past chair of APTA and member of the Board of Trustees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; Jameson T. Auten, vice president of regional service delivery and innovations, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Kansas City, MO; and Mark Donaghy, chief executive officer of Greater Dayton RTA.

From left, Valarie J. McCall, Jameson T. Auten and Mark Donaghy discussed the lessons learned from the film Free to Ride at the COMTO/APTA Forum.

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