Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 2

C O M M E N TA R Y
BY DEBRA A. JOHNSON

ISSN 0364-345X

General Manager and Chief Executive Officer
Regional Transportation District
Denver, CO

Identifying Opportunities
Among Difficult Challenges
With the end of the calendar year rapidly approaching, December lends itself to
deeper levels of reflection in our personal and professional lives. Like so many of
you, I am preparing for what lies ahead while reflecting carefully on the past nine
months-a period unlike any we have lived through and, we hope, will not see again
in this lifetime. Who would have imagined that a global health pandemic would
lead to significant adverse impacts and lasting repercussions for our agencies and
industry in a matter of weeks?

T

HE PHRASE " 20/20 VISION " FEELS especially
apt right now, as its meaning-having average
visual acuity-is precisely what we've been trying
to do during this unprecedented time: making
decisions based upon factors and circumstances that are a
short distance in front of us. We are doing our utmost with
the information we have at the moment, driven to honor
our employees, especially our frontline, and serve our
customers in the most suitable manner possible. We have
made " business as unusual " a new way of doing business
as usual, and we are all adjusting to these changes together.
No one possessed a blueprint for this set of challenges; we
have been developing it daily.
I believe we are living and leading through a defining
moment for the transit industry, because COVID-19 will
enable us to look at our business model and repurpose it.
I have said countless times that as long as there are people
on this planet, there will always be a need for sanitation,
healthcare, education and transportation. That fact does
not change with the advent of a pandemic. It may change
the manner in which we provide transit services, but it does
not change the inherent need for transit.
Public transportation agencies in every city across the
globe are having to make hard but necessary decisions
related to service delivery, including reducing service for
an indefinite period of time in response to fewer customers
on our systems. The Regional Transportation District is no
different: In metropolitan Denver, we reduced service levels
40 percent in April, and our ridership is hovering around
40 percent of what it was before the pandemic.
I think that as transit organizations look thoughtfully
upon what it means to be more lean, we can optimize our
services for the betterment of those who are most dependent upon transportation. I am proud to lead a workforce
that includes essential employees who are moving essential employees across our region. When we place proper
emphasis on those essential services that have enabled us
to weather this proverbial storm, we are better equipped
to identify efficiencies that allow us to do more with less.
Whether it's COVID-19 or a catastrophic event that comes
our way in the next generation, we will have experience that
we can leverage.
This doesn't mean that the decisions will be easy, as we
know. Longstanding issues, such as chronic underinvestment in public transportation, have been laid bare during
the pandemic. Public and elected officials will remind us
of the constituencies they serve. Our core business often
lies in the inner cities and downtown areas, a fact that
does not suit everyone. Let me be clear: governing during
a pandemic is not a popularity contest-it's about acting
with integrity to do what's best in the public interest. It's
about holding responsibility for taxpayer dollars and making
the best use of them. It's about having respect for self and
others, recognizing the need to deliver our essential frontline workers-who have sacrificed so much of themselves

2 |

PASSENGER TRANSPORT

''

I think that as transit
organizations look
thoughtfully upon what
it means to be more lean,
we can optimize our
services for the
betterment of those
who are most dependent
upon transportation.

during this pandemic-to their places of employment.
Looking at service delivery through such an intentional lens
primes us to provide service in the most optimal manner.
I fervently believe that challenges are coupled with
opportunities, and I am constantly asking myself what I can
learn from this moment. One reality constantly affirmed is
the need to be highly communicative to manage people's
expectations, so assumptions are not made in the absence
of real information. Keeping our boards of directors,
employees and customers apprised of what's going on will
yield great returns in the long run. People may not like the
information they're receiving because it's not what they
want to hear, but they deserve to have it, nonetheless. It is
our responsibility to be as forthright as possible about the
realities before us.
RTD, like so many agencies, is having to reduce its workforce, a fact that no leader wants to carry forward. As we
work through this process, I commit to share information
with our employees and work in partnership with our union
to ensure that, when reinvesting in our transit system is
possible again, we could reinstate some of those employees. I recognize that their willingness to come back to our
organization may be determined by how we treated them
during this time of transition. As a person in the people
business, I believe it is paramount to honor the human element and show compassion.
We must be flexible and agile as we chart this course. We
all are learning how to make modifications on the fly within
a changing environment, and we must continue to do so
going forward. Crisis doesn't make a leader-it defines one.
To paraphrase former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: When
you want to see what a teabag does, put it in hot water and
see if it becomes stronger. The mission of public transportation has never been more important than it is now. As we
look toward the new year, we will meet the challenges the
pandemic has brought precisely because of all that we have
learned together.

The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis

VOLUME 78, NUMBER 23
ESTABLISHED 1943
Published bi-weekly by the American Public Transportation
Association, 1300 I St., NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC
20005; (202) 496-4800; Fax (202) 496-4321; www.apta.com
It is the mission of Passenger Transport to communicate
news and information about public transportation and
to serve as the voice of the public transportation industry.
Rosemary Sheridan, Publisher
rsheridan@apta.com
Kathy Golden, Editor
kgolden@apta.com
David A. Riddy, Senior Managing Editor
driddy@apta.com
Jack Gonzalez, Senior Director-Marketing and Sales
jgonzalez@apta.com
Erin Cartwright, Program ManagerCommunications and Marketing
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Mitchell Wood, Graphic Designer
mwood@apta.com
News & Commentary: Passenger Transport welcomes articles,
announcements, commentary, and letters to the editor. Submitted photographs
become the property of APTA and may be used for other association
purposes. Send submissions to driddy@apta.com. Illustration for Industry
Briefs courtesy of Denver RTD.
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Transportation Association (APTA). Statements and opinions expressed in
Passenger Transport are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect
those of APTA. Acceptance of advertising, advertorials, and articles does not
imply APTA endorsement of goods, products, or services.

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APTA Officers
Nuria I. Fernandez, Chair
Jeffrey A. Nelson, Vice Chair
Freddie C. Fuller II, Secretary-Treasurer
David M. Stackrow Sr., Immediate Past Chair

Executive Committee Members
Dorval R. Carter Jr., Chicago Transit Authority
Francis " Buddy " Coleman, Clever Devices Ltd.
Michael Goldman, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Kevin J. Holzendorf, Jacksonville Transportation Authority
Board of Directors
Karen H. King, Golden Empire Transit District
Michele Wong Krause, Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Jeanne Krieg, Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority
Thomas C. Lambert, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
Adelee Marie Le Grand, Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority
Richard J. Leary, Toronto Transit Commission
Henry Li, Sacramento Regional Transit District
Raymond J. Melleady, USSC Group
Brad Miller, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
Allan Pollock, Salem-Keizer Transit
Leanne P. Redden, Regional Transportation Authority
Catherine Rinaldi, MTA Metro-North Railroad
Doug Tisdale, Regional Transportation District, Denver
William T. Thomsen, Urban Engineers
Matthew O. Tucker, North County Transit District
Thomas Waldron, HDR
Eve Williams, Dikita Engineering

President and CEO
Paul P. Skoutelas
Pamela L. Boswell, Vice President-Workforce Development and
Educational Services
David Carol, Chief Operating Officer
Linda C. Ford, General Counsel
Christina Garneski, Vice President-Meetings and Membership
Services
Arthur Guzzetti, Vice President-Mobility Initiatives
and Public Policy
John S. Henry, Chief Financial Officer
Kym L. Hill, Vice President-Executive Office & Corporate Secretary
Jeff Hiott, Vice President-Technical Services and Innovation
Shelley Taggart Kee, Vice President-Human Resources &
Administration
Ward W. McCarragher, Vice President-Government Affairs and
Advocacy
Petra Mollet, Vice President-Strategic and International Programs
Rosemary Sheridan, Vice President-Communications
and Marketing


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Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23

Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 1
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 2
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 3
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 4
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 5
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 6
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 7
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 8
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 9
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 10
Passenger Transport November 2020 Vol 78 No 23 - 11
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