A PUBLICATION OF THE CONFERENCE OF MINORITY TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS
IN THIS ISSUE: Meet State DOT Directors Attending Our NMTC Infrastructure Talks Stall in Washington Norman Mineta Honored by COMTO Advocating for Accessibility & Inclusion Jon Alexander is COMTOâ€™s Rising Star
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COMTO BOARD OF DIRECTORS National Chair
Freddie Fuller II
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1st Vice Chair
Tanya Adams 2nd Vice Chair
Sharmyn Elliott Secretary/Treasurer
Loretta Kirk At-Large Members
Carmen Garcia Gwendolen Gray Carla Williams Adelee LeGrand Mark Gale Council of Presidents Representatives
Ruben Landa India Birdsong Council of Presidents Alternate
Beverly Green Immediate Past Chair
Warren Montague Board Advisor
ACCELERATE is a publication of the Conference Of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) COMTO MISSION STATEMENT COMTO provides opportunities in the transportation industry for minority participation and advancement, through advocacy, training, and professional development. 1330 Braddock Place Suite 203 Alexandria, VA 22314 202.506.2917 firstname.lastname@example.org www.comtonational.org Articles may not be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission. Publisher: A. Bradley Mims Editor: McMillon Communications Design: Gloria Marconi Illustration & Design ©2019 All Rights Reserved
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT & CEO
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: INFRASTRUCTURE TALKS STALL IN WASHINGTON
ACCESSIBILITY COMMITTEE ADVANCES COMTO MISSION
IT STARTS BY ASKING, “WHAT IF?”
10 CENTRAL FLORIDA CHAPTER READY TO WELCOME NMTC
MEET AMERICA’S BLACK STATE DOT DIRECTORS •PAUL AJEGBA, DIRECTOR OF THE MICHIGAN DOT •JACK MARCHBANKS, DIRECTOR OF THE OHIO DOT •SHAWN WILSON, SECRETARY OF THE LOUISIANA DOTD •OMER OSMAN, SECRETARY OF THE ILLINOIS DOT
JON ALEXANDER IS A COMTO RISING STAR
NORMAN MINETA IS HONORED BY COMTO
20 CWWMN RECAP
MOBILITY FOR ALL – PRICELESS!
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DEAR COMTO FAMILY:
hen I began my tenure last fall as Chair, I set an agenda that includes four key goals. Those goals have been adopted and aggressively pursued by our strong national team and we are beginning to see rewards. The first goal is a focus on transportation technology. Our upcoming National Meeting and Training Conference is themed to reflect that emphasis: Intelligent Mobility – Transforming the Future of Transportation. The conference offers a variety of workshop sessions on such topics as Electrified Mobility and Preparing for Next Gen Charging Stations; Connected Vehicles in a Connected World and Accessibility and Innovative Mobility, among others. A second goal is to become a more visible and collaborative organization. To that end, we reached out to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) which represents state highway and transportation departments. As a result, the four African
American State DOT directors will attend our conference and share their insights. You can read more about these distinguished men on pages 12-15 of this issue. Our goal to grow diversity in membership is demonstrated by raising awareness of our Accessibility Committee’s activities to enhance inclusion and mobility for people with disabilities. Read more about their work on page 6 of this issue and note their Workshop Track at the conference. Succession Planning to attract energetic young men and women to leadership roles in COMTO is ongoing. Meet Jon Alexander on Page 17, a prime example of our success in that effort. I look forward to seeing you all in July! All the best,
Freddie C. Fuller II
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT & CEO DEAR COMTO MEMBERS AND FRIENDS:
n today’s charged political climate, it appears that diversity is under fire and inclusion is a word that should be whispered. In fact, a recent Gallup survey of major corporations indicated a widespread anxiety about diversity issues in the workplace. It is clearly time for COMTO to revisit our core mission to ensure opportunities and maximum participation in the transportation industry for minority individuals, businesses, and communities of color. We must approach our vision with renewed energy and vigilance. We call on all organizations who have a similar mission in the industries and communities they represent to do the same. At COMTO, we are determined to make sure that the resources are available to multi-cultural young men and women so they can build solid career paths in the transportation industry. We reinforce
our mission for HUB businesses to find a level playing field in their pursuit of contracts and work. We are encouraged by the efforts of our chapters that are raising considerable sums to finance scholarships for students interested in transportation-oriented fields. An initial example is the Southern California Chapter that recently surpassed a scholarship fundraising goal of $50,000! I also draw your attention to our new HUB Small Business Directory which aims to connect small businesses with organizations looking for partners and contractors. Sign up and get connected on page 24! I hope to see you all at our National Meeting and Training Conference in Tampa. Yours in Solidarity,
Our goal to grow diversity in membership... to enhance inclusion and mobility for people with disabilities.
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
It is clearly time for COMTO to revisit our core mission...
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INFRASTRUCTURE TALKS STALL IN WASHINGTON
The Green New Deal is a bold transformative plan to equitably transition to a clean economy, attack the problems of climate change while increasing access to highpaying jobs, economic development, energy efficiency and an overhaul of the nation’s transportation system.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE MAY 23, 2019:
OMTO National continues to carefully monitor legislative activities related to promised infrastructure legislation in the 116th Congress. All indications are that both sides of the aisle – Democrat and Republican – and both chambers of Congress – the House and the Senate – are highly motivated to construct a bi-partisan agreement on infrastructure legislation. We understand the Democratic leadership has met and is continuing to meet with White House officials, Congressional Republicans and other members of the Administration to try to forge a bipartisan plan to address national infrastructure policy and long-term funding for infrastructure improvements. Recent White House meetings reportedly resulted in an agreement on an approximately $2 trillion price tag for infrastructure investment. No agreement or details are available as to funding this investment were made available. President Donald Trump stated in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer that he thought Congress should act on the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal before tackling infrastructure. Despite his statement, further meetings were scheduled to take place. However, the White House abruptly cancelled the most recent infrastructure talks after a contentious exchange with Mr. Trump during which Speaker Pelosi accused the President of “engaging in a coverup.” It is unclear when these White House infrastructure discussions will resume. In the meantime, as part of the established
course of events, we have been advised by Full Committee Chair Peter DeFazio’s staff that public hearings are being scheduled at least once a month over the next year, and it is COMTO’s intention to be a high-profile player in the conversation as the committees proceed with their fact finding. We have made formal requests to have COMTO’s CEO A. Bradley Mims testify before the Full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, or its subcommittees’ hearings. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Chair of the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit is quoted as saying, it is her objective to bring together “… industry experts for a dialogue with committee Democrats to increase understanding of the emerging issues surrounding surface transportation throughout the country.” It is important for COMTO to emphasize the critical nature of “transportation” in the definition of infrastructure. Although Congress will certainly take the big picture approach when viewing infrastructure needs in this country, i.e., water, power, pipelines, IT, etc., we must ensure that transportation and all its distinctive components remain at its definitive core. Although no single piece of wide-sweeping legislation has yet been drafted in the current Congress, it is interesting to note that the Generating American Infrastructure and Income Now (GAIIN) Act, a bill introduced last November by Republican Congressman Mike Kelly, is garnering renewed attention. The bill proposed that the federal government sell off a portion of its lease asserts to fund infrastructure projects specifically in impoverished inner city and rural communities. COMTO is reviewing the details of this legislation and although it is said
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REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, CHAIR OF THE TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HIGHWAYS AND TRANSIT IS QUOTED AS SAYING: IT IS HER OBJECTIVE TO BRING TOGETHER “… INDUSTRY EXPERTS FOR A DIALOGUE WITH COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS TO INCREASE UNDERSTANDING OF THE EMERGING ISSUES SURROUNDING SURFACE TRANSPORTATION THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.” to have some bi-partisan support, a prognosis of GAIIN’s survival in Congress is unclear. We have received questions about the New Green Deal, what position COMTO might take and how it might impact our membership. In short, the Green New Deal is a bold transformative plan to equitably transition to a clean economy, attack the problems of climate change while increasing access to high-paying jobs, economic development, energy efficiency and an overhaul of the nation’s transportation system. The Green New Deal is not a single law. It was presented to Congress as a non-binding resolution. The next steps will be to develop a diverse collection of economic, social justice, labor, and environmental policies and programs
to accomplish the goals and objectives identified in the resolution. We will keep our membership updated on these issues.
Renee Banks Co-Chair, Legislative Council COMTO National President & Chief Communications Officer G.W. Peoples (GWP)
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COMTO’S ACCESSIBILITY COMMITTEE ADVANCES OUR MISSION
The Accessibility Committee was conceived in 2017, when CEO A. Bradley Mims and then-Board Chair Warren Montague emphasized that accessibility has a special meaning for COMTO that needs to be conveyed.
or the Co-Chairs of COMTO’s Accessibility Committee Christian T. Kent and Monica Simon, both experts in advocating for accessibility for people with disabilities in transportation, the COMTO mission is an ideal fit for their life’s work. Kent joined COMTO in 2007 at the invitation of former COMTO President and CEO, Julie Cunningham. “I had found a place where everyone is welcome, and where diversity, inclusion, succession planning and leadership training, and equal opportunity are not only core values but also real outcomes,” he said. “This is truly an organization that believes that we are all together better,” he added. Kent’s role with COMTO has expanded significantly over the years. “Almost immediately, Julie pressed me into service on the nominating committee for officers and board members, and then she said she was not done with me.” She shared her vision for an awards program to recognize the achievements of women in our industry, and soon thereafter, Kent found himself on the planning committee of the tremendously successful “Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation” event, and he served in this capacity for five years. “The Accessibility Committee was conceived in 2017, when CEO A. Bradley Mims and thenBoard Chair Warren Montague emphasized that accessibility has a special meaning for COMTO that needs to be conveyed,” said Kent. “People with disabilities have experienced many barriers, both physical and political, not only to public transit service, but also to jobs and contracting
opportunities within our industry. COMTO’s mission is to break down barriers and level the playing field for everyone, and that includes those with disabilities.” Drawing from Kent’s extensive career experience serving people with disabilities, Montague commissioned Kent to develop a charter for a proposed Accessibility Committee. He subsequently appointed Kent to the Board of Directors as Accessibility Advisor, and co-chair of the newly formed Accessibility Committee with another accessibility expert and COMTO member, Monica Simon. When the concept of the committee was first introduced to COMTO, Kent said, “We were delighted to discover that there was significant interest from the membership. Nearly 50 people signed up for our first presentation.” Simon agrees. “The passion and commitment of COMTO has given us a powerful forum to raise awareness and ensure equity for people with disabilities.” Both Kent and Simon are uniquely qualified as thought leaders in improving quality and understanding of the needs of the riding public, particularly as it relates to people with disabilities. With more than 32 years of experience in the public transportation industry, Kent is best known for his 12-year executive role as accessibility chief for the nation’s fifth largest paratransit service at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Kent now heads Transit Management Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in paratransit business strategy, leadership training and development, and executive recruitment.
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“AMONG OUR GOALS IS EDUCATING ORGANIZATIONS THAT COMPLYING WITH THE ADA IS NOT ONLY THE LAW, BUT THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I AM PROUD THAT WORKING WITH AND ADVOCATING FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES HAS BEEN MY FAMILY’S BUSINESS.”
— MONICA SIMON Simon, who has been a member of COMTO for more than twenty years, is Principal and Co-Founder of SIMON and SIMON Resources, Inc. She and her mother, the late Dr. Rosalyn Simon, a renowned accessibility expert, created the firm in 1999, to provide ADA training in the transit industry. The firm quickly expanded to include paratransit eligibility improvement plans, customer satisfaction measurement, and leadership training. “Among our goals is educating organizations that complying with the ADA is not only the law, but 19-CTS-AD-COMTO HALF PAGE ACCELERATE HORIZONTAL-V1.pdf
the right thing to do. I am proud that working with and advocating for people with disabilities has been my family’s business.” This year, at COMTO’s 2019 National Meeting and Training Conference, to be held July 12-July 16 in Tampa, Florida, Kent and Simon will host a meeting of the Accessibility Committee, and the Accessibility and Innovative Mobility track will offer increased visibility for the committee and its relationship to the COMTO mission. 1
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What if we showed you how we’re solving the world’s greatest transportation challenges by transforming intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world? At Jacobs, we think differently about the future. We start with “what if” to surface new possibilities and harness deep technical expertise to bring bold solutions to fruition. Jacobs is a proud sponsor of the 2019 COMTO National Meeting and Training Conference.
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IT STARTS BY ASKING, “WHAT IF?” INTELLIGENT MOBILITY, TRANSFORMING THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION
he theme of the 2019 National Meeting and Training Conference, “Intelligent Mobility, Transforming the Future of Transportation,” could not resonate more with the curious and innovating minds at Jacobs! We get excited and energized to solve our world’s connectivity challenges: there are tunnels to dig, tracks to lay, roads and bridges to build, airports and seaports to modernize and collaboration technologies to conceptualize. What does it take to transform the future of transportation? It begins with asking “what if” to surface new possibilities and harness technical experience to bring bold solutions to fruition. Technology is evolving rapidly, and the world’s transportation infrastructure needs must now factor in the ability to support a myriad of disrupters from driverless vehicles and intelligent traffic systems to automated container terminals and airport drones and solar powered freeway lanes and electric vehicle charging stations. These emerging technologies produce massive amounts of data to be harnessed and managed – data that must be translated into organizational knowledge and filtered through operational process and testing to deliver the next level of customer experience. We are already making great strides in the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads in conjunction with the Florida Turnpike Authority and Florida Polytechnic University, to design a test facility called SunTrax with a more-controlled environment to drive the technology forward.
The facility, when complete, will include a 2.25-mile oval track (construction for this phase will be completed in mid-2019) on a 475acre site and will test self-driving vehicles in simulated situations such as rain, fog and smoke. As master planner, Jacobs is developing the layout for 200+/- -acre infield area of the SunTrax facility that includes integrated services, complex road network design and architecture from concepts through construction documents. You can read more about it here: https://www.jacobs. com/projects/SunTrax
The SunTrax infield includes scenario testing for automated and connected vehicle technology with 11 separate proving circuits for multiple urban and suburban intersection conditions.
Our future depends on our commitment to inspiring minds and fostering study in these critical areas of need in the transportation industry. Jacobs is so proud to partner with COMTO and support three scholarships which will be awarded to deserving candidates this summer. We share in COMTO’s mission and vision to engage minority individuals, businesses, and communities of color through advocacy, knowledge sharing, learning, education and professional development. There will be so much to explore at the 2019 National Meeting and Training Conference in Tampa! One of the conversations we’ll be leading is a panel entitled, “What if We Showed You? Innovation, Connectivity and Equity in Regional Transportation Service.” The discussion will focus on the latest trends and strategic investments in innovation, digital disruption and technology across various modes of transportation. It is certain to be a lively and insightful conversation and we hope you will join us.
Safety is a top concern and a focus at SunTrax, where testing will help develop the technology to reduce the number of road accidents.
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CENTRAL FLORIDA CHAPTER READY TO WELCOME COMTO ANNUAL CONFERENCE
We hope to attract new members to the COMTO family and to our national mission to level the playing field for multicultural professionals and business owners in the transportation industry.
hen Central Florida Chapter President Carla Williams welcomes attendees to the 48th National Meeting and Training Conference in Tampa, she hopes to leverage the warm atmosphere of the state to provide a stress-free and productive experience. “Florida is noted as a vacation destination with a very relaxed feel, so I’m sure that will translate well for our attendees,” she said. “Plus, we are providing efficient and easyto-use guides and an app to our conference agenda that will reduce stress in identifying, finding and enjoying our valuable sessions, panels and seminars.” Williams, who is Manager of Community Relations for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), is eager to show off the advances in technology and environmentally sensitive transportation options available in the area: “Everything from Tampa International Airport’s latest people mover ‘SkyConnect,’ to our Downtowner ride share vehicles and our ‘Keeping it Green’ CNG buses,” she said. And, she adds, proudly “Our streetcars are free 7 days a week!”
Tampa, Williams continues, also offers a wealth of enjoyable sights and experiences for attendees’ off hours. “I recommend a visit to the historic district of Ybor City, famous for its hand rolled cigars and fresh-ground coffee as well as its vibrant character and charming architecture,” she said. She also urges a visit to the 110-yearold Columbia Restaurant to enjoy their historic 1905 Salad. Most exciting for Williams is the opportunity to showcase COMTO and its mission for Central Florida residents. “This is our chance to tell the COMTO story,” she said. “We hope to attract new members to the COMTO family – and it is truly a family -- and to our national mission to level the playing field for multicultural professionals and business owners in the transportation industry.” Learn more and register for the conference here.
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MEET AMERICA’S AFRICAN AMERICAN STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION LEADERS
highlight of this year’s COMTO National Meeting and Training Conference is the attendance of all four of the country’s African American State Department of Transportation Directors and Secretaries. They represent Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana. They will participate on a panel introduced by Executive Director at AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) Jim Tymon and moderated by Rodney Slater, former United States Secretary of Transportation. In addition to their titles, all share the characteristics of charm, humor and amiability. They also share connections to HBCU’s – two attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one attended Clark Atlanta University in Georgia and one attended Prairie View A&M University in Texas. On the following pages, we invite you to read their profiles and learn more about their backgrounds and their career paths to success.
A C C E L E R A T E
At MDOT...you have power over your own destiny. You can navigate your own career. You do your best work and let the work speak for itself.
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MEET PAUL AJEGBA DIRECTOR OF THE MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
n initial unhappy realization set Paul Ajegba on the path that has led him to reach the pinnacle of his career: Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Ajegba came to the United States in the early 1980s at age 19 to study architecture. “My neighbor in Lagos was a successful architect and I admired him greatly,” he said. “I signed up eagerly for the studies.” “But,” he continued with a wry smile, “I soon discovered that I couldn’t draw! These were pre- computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software days, and architects were expected to produce clear and clean designs by hand,” he explained. “I didn’t have the knack and I didn’t have the patience for it.” Fortunately for him, and the State of Michigan, he had also signed up for a civil engineering course. “I really liked it,” he said, “particularly the structural part. I understood the concepts easily. I got it and it got me.”
Ajegba ultimately earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Prairie View A&M University in Texas and a Master’s Degree in construction engineering from the University of Michigan. A modest man with quiet charm and an amiable honesty, Ajegba calls himself “a lucky guy” as he describes entry level work at a waste-water treatment plant, various consulting jobs in Detroit and then a successful career fair interview in 1990 with the Michigan Department of Transportation. “MDOT has an engineering development program where you are allowed to spend time moving about in various areas to see what is your best fit,” he said. “You have power over your own destiny. You can navigate your own career. You do your best work and let the work speak for itself.”
Over the course of 28 years with the Department, Ajegba’s work has spoken volumes. For example, during seven years in MDOT’s University Region, he oversaw his team’s involvement in the planning, design and construction of several major projects, including the US-23 Flex Route — a project nominated for the America’s Transportation Award, landing among the top 12 national finalists. Other notable projects include the I-94 rehabilitation project in Ann Arbor/Jackson, the I-96/US-23 interchange, and the I-75 freeway project. Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed him Director of MDOT in January of this year and he immediately began to review and plan an overhaul of the state’s aging infrastructure. “Our biggest problem has been funding,” he said, “but we are working to find ways to make improvements as well as squeeze out innovations to make our transportation system a 21st century model.” A COMTO member for many years, Ajegba has made significant contributions to the organization’s mission. He was recently honored by the National Society of Black Engineers with a Lifetime Achievement Award which cited his creation of the MDOT Diversity Recruitment Program, a partnership between MDOT and Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the United States. The program offers valuable on-the-job training and job shadowing to undergraduate students pursuing degrees in engineering and other transportationrelated careers. For young men and women pursuing careers in engineering and transportation, some simple words of advice: “First, know your basics and look for ways to learn more. Then, understand the power of teamwork and participate well. And, be respectful of, and attentive to, other people’s opinions at all times.”
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DIRECTOR OF THE OHIO STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
ack Marchbanks, Director of the Ohio State Department of Transportation (ODOT), had, as a teenager, dreamed of a career as a lawyer and a world changer. “I wanted to work at the United Nations and save the world,” he said with a chuckle. But his aspirations took him on a different track, leading him to transportation infrastructure. Now, he noted, “I’m still trying to save the world, but it’s one traveler at a time.” Born near Muscle Shoals, AL, his family moved to Dayton, Ohio where he grew up. There, he was inspired by Cleveland, Ohio’s Mayor Carl Stokes, the nation’s first Black mayor. Later, while studying at Clark Atlanta University (CAU), he met and admired Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first Black mayor. His dreams turned to politics and the study of city infrastructure, planning and investment. Transportation became a specific interest after Robert Holmes, a political science professor at CAU and State Representative, hired him as an intern to work on the planning study that set the stage for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). Marchbanks got his formal start in transportation in 1991, receiving an appointment to a regional administrator post. Through the years at ODOT he worked his way up through the ranks at the department, demonstrating an impressive record of success in positions of increasing responsibility. As District 6 Deputy Director from May 1996 to January 2007 and again from June 2016 to July 2017, he oversaw the investment of more than $1.7 billion in surface transportation infrastructure. After leaving ODOT in 2007, Marchbanks moved on to the private sector in Ohio as Business Development & Marketing Director for PRIME
AE Group, Inc, an engineering, architecture and construction inspection firm. When he returned to ODOT, Marchbanks was soon promoted to Assistant Director for Business & Human Resources for the department in July 2017. In this post, he was responsible for the overall management of the department’s 5,000 employees and the development of its $3.3 billion budget. He provided strategic direction to the statewide administrators of the agency’s finance, human resources, information technology, legal, and communications divisions, as well as the opportunity, diversity and inclusion programs. In January 2019, Ohio’s new Governor, Mike DeWine appointed Marchbanks as the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. “My number one priority for the department is transportation safety,” Marchbanks said. “We want to build systems that are smart, high quality, and hard-wired for safety with world class materials.” An enthusiastic supporter of the COMTO mission, he is also committed to to working with the organization helping small minority and women-owned businesses gain contracts in the transportation field and training diverse young people in a variety of transportation fields. “We want to attract talented people of all cultures to mobility,” he said. “And, we want them prepared for a multi-modal, high-tech future.” Marchbanks, who is a staunch believer in life-long learning, recently earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Ohio University. He also holds an M.B.A. from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Master’s Degree from ClarkAtlanta University. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.
MEET JACK MARCHBANKS
We want to attract talented people of all cultures to mobility. And, we want them prepared for a multi-modal, high tech future.
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MEET SHAWN WILSON SECRETARY OF THE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & DEVELOPMENT
DOTD has increased its DBE goals and is advancing more multi-cultural representation among professionals and leadership throughout the agency.
or Dr. Shawn Wilson, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), thoughtful planning and the provision of efficient and excellent services are “the core of government.” This philosophy has formed the base of his success as a leader throughout life.
He began working for the DOTD in 2004 and soon became essential to the efficient operation of the agency. From 2006 to 2016, he provided executive services to the department, supporting three successive Secretaries as confidential assistant and then Chief of Staff. Wilson was appointed Secretary of the DOTD by Governor John Bel Edwards on January 11, 2016.
Born in New Orleans, Wilson said that his family has always been interested in politics. “My father, mother and brother encouraged me to pay attention to the basics of service to community through government leadership,” he said. In high school he served as Student Council President and in college he was Student Government President.
Since his appointment, Wilson has been a tireless advocate for new revenue, maximizing federal dollars available to Louisiana, advancing a balanced and comprehensive transportation policy for Louisiana, and ensuring the Department is more collaborative in its work at every level.
Ultimately, he earned a B.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Louisiana and holds a Master of Public Administration degree, as well as a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Southern University.
Also, under his leadership, DOTD has been able to assist communities with alternative fueled transit assets, to focus efforts on advancing passenger rail, and to help launch bike share in Baton Rouge, LA. He is currently working toward developing rapid transit between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“In the course of my studies and the government jobs that followed,” he notes, “I realized that while running for, and serving in, high office is important, real and effective policy is made at the agency level.”
In addition to his attention to funding and building, Wilson has made a point of enhancing diversity and inclusion in his agency. “DOTD has increased its DBE goals and is advancing more multi-cultural representation among professionals and leadership throughout the agency,” he notes.
His interest in transportation policy evolved naturally from an understanding of the impact of transportation infrastructure on the prosperity of communities. “It became clear that providing excellent transportation options adds value to a community and has a positive impact on poverty,” he said.
“I’m a solid supporter of COMTO’s mission,” he added, “particularly as it relates to encouraging diverse young men and women to consider a career in transportation. We need a strong bench in order to put more people in the game.”
Smart and articulate, Wilson has been touted as a “problem solver” by the government officials he has worked with in the course his career.
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MEET OMER OSMAN SECRETARY, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (IDOT)
Osman was born in a Kerma, a small village in Northern Sudan, to parents who had little education but big ambitions for each of their 11 children, he said. “They taught us about our ancestors who were of the Nubian Empire. They were scramblers, hard workers, and they did what it took to make sure that all of us got a higher education degree,” he said with pride. “That’s the foundation I come from.” He said that growing up in a third world country also solidified for him the need for infrastructure and transportation to drive a strong economy. “Transportation linkages are the start of everything,” he asserts. “They drive investment, the economics…they push a society forward.” With that dedication, Osman came to the U.S. in 1984 to study civil engineering at Southern University and A & M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He also earned a master’s in civil engineering with an emphasis in construction management at Bradley University in Peoria. And, he fell in love with America. “That is my second strong foundation,” he said. “This country is truly the land of opportunity. With hard work, a dedication to doing the right thing and just a bit of luck, anyone can achieve his dreams.” Osman was appointed Transportation Secretary
by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2019. His role as secretary reflects three decades of experience at the Illinois Department of Transportation in engineering and management. Moving through the IDOT ranks gave him unique insight into department operations and scope, funding challenges and opportunities, as well as the need for strategic maintenance and infrastructure growth to support economic development and travel for Illinois residents. “I am enormously excited about this new challenge,” Osman said. “I feel the burden, the massive responsibility, but I have a strong team around me with differing strengths and specialties that can advise and support.” He notes that throughout his career he has had the excellent counsel of mentors and friends in the industry that have helped guide his decisions along the way. For example, his experiences with COMTO have strengthened his commitment to diversity and inclusion in the department as well as the need for providing training to the next generation of leaders. “At my first conference, I was particularly impressed by a panel of women who all held of high positions of leadership in the transportation industry,” he said. “That scene stays with me and crystallized for me the value of inclusion at all levels.” Under his leadership, IDOT will continue to champion diversity. “I am an advocate for eliminating barriers and increasing access to IDOT partnerships with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and minority- and female-owned businesses.” he said.
llinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Omer Osman shares his enthusiasm for transportation and its infrastructure with contagious energy. He has spent his career learning to understand and helping to shape an industry that he says “impacts everything.”
This country is truly the land of opportunity. With hard work, a dedication to doing the right thing and just a bit of luck, anyone can achieve his dreams.
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JON ROSS ALEXANDER IS COMTO’S RISING STAR
“We never had a car at our house,” he recalled with a smile. “If we wanted to get somewhere we depended on the bus. I got familiar with, and fascinated by, the whole process of public transport and city infrastructure planning.” Alexander was raised in South Central Los Angeles in a single parent household where he was taught the value of hard work and smart life choices by his mother, grandmother and aunt. Along the way, he developed a keen understanding of the value of public transportation as it relates to quality of life and community prosperity. After graduating from California State University, San Bernardino, Alexander’s transportation career started at LA Metro where he worked in social media then made his way over to service planning. This led him to study and obtain his Master of Science in Transportation Management from the Mineta Transportation Institute through San Jose State University. He began working for Apple after gaining experience in the public sector for Metro, Santa Clara VTA in San Jose and AC Transit in Oakland in various Operations and Service Planning roles. His interest and experience in transportation led him to join COMTO. “I participated in activities at both the Northern and Southern California chapters,” he said. “I got the chance to meet CEOs and COOs of transit agencies, business owners -- men and women who are opinion leaders and change agents.” He also earned a
COMTO college scholarship. Alexander’s pleasing personality, obvious intelligence and ease of self-expression attracted the attention of mentors who, he said, “made sure I was ‘on point’.” Today, he serves on COMTO’s National Emerging Leaders board. With the support and encouragement of those mentors, he shaped his personal ambitions in the industry. “My goal is to one day run a major transit agency,” he said. “I believe the public should have the best transportation options they can get, no matter what their income level.” As Apple’s Operations Program Manager, he is responsible for the day to day operations, planning and scheduling for employee coach shuttle service. He manages the quality assurance and maintenance oversight of vehicles for Apple’s transportation partners. Additionally, Alexander has developed and maintains a holistic, and expansive safety monitoring program for all commute operations that includes periodic auditing and 3rd party verification. He handles the commute program portfolio of strategic transportation suppliers to provide the highest levels of safety, compliance and on time performance. This collaboration with suppliers, he notes, helps to ensure the safety and efficiency of a staff of more than 120 drivers. “I guess I’m essentially running a ‘mini-transit agency’.” he said. Alexander firmly believes that a strong work ethic is key to success at any level. “I come to work everyday determined to be the best I can be.”
on Ross (J.R) Alexander, 30, Operations Program Manager for Apple Inc., developed a passion for the transportation industry at an early age.
I believe the public should have the best transportation options they can get, no matter what their income level.
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COMTO SALUTES NORM MINETA FOR ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH
As a member of Congress for the next twentyone years, he sponsored or co-sponsored 479 bills, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 and the Intermodal Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.
orm Mineta, a long-time supporter of COMTO, has accomplished many firsts for our nation. He was the first Asian American mayor of a major U.S. city, the first Asian American member of Congress from the mainland and the first Asian American member of a presidential cabinet just to name a few.
and the family settled in San Jose, where his father owned and operated a successful insurance agency. The family was living the American dream until after the outbreak of WWII. Then the Minetas were forcibly removed to an internment camp at Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, and in November, 1942, to the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming.
Now thanks to a new documentary, more Americans and future generations will know his story. Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story is now streaming on PBS.org. The documentary follows his experience as a Japanese American inside a U.S. concentration camp to his rise to prominence making him one of the most influential Asian Americans in U.S. history.
They were released after the war, and returned to San Jose in 1946 at which time his father was able to resume his insurance business and they move back into the family home. Mineta graduated from San Jose High School and the University of California, Berkeley. He served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Army in Japan during the Korean War from 1953 to 1956. Upon returning to San Jose after the war, he joined his father in the insurance business. Encouraged by his father to become active in community service, Mineta became involved in the Japanese American community in San Jose. His civic career took off when he was appointed to the San Jose Human Relations Commission in 1962 and then to the municipal Housing Authority Board in 1966. He was elected to the San Jose City Council after serving briefly in an appointed position, and in 1971 was elected mayor of San Jose, the first Asian Pacific American to serve in such a capacity in a major American city.
Minetaâ€™s story began on November 12, 1931 in San Jose, California where he was the youngest of five children born to Kunisaku and Kane Mineta. Both parents immigrated from Japan
A young Norm Mineta.
In 1974, Mineta was elected to the U.S. House of Representative to represent Californiaâ€™s 13th District. He was also the first Japanese American from the mainland to be elected to Congress. As a member of Congress for the next twentyone years, he sponsored or co-sponsored 479 bills, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 and the Intermodal Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. He served as Democratic deputy whip of the 97th Congress, and became
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HIS NAME WILL LIVE ON VIA THE NORMAN Y. MINETA SAN JOSE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND THE NORMAN MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE AT SAN JOSE UNIVERSITY.
a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He also served as chair of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee (1992-94), the Aviation Subcommittee (1981-86), and the Surface Transportation Subcommittee (1989-91). In 1994 he co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and served as its first chair. Mineta’s leadership role was crucial in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which granted reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned by the U.S. government during World War II. Following his resignation after twenty-one years of service in Congress, Mineta was later appointed by President Clinton to serve as his Secretary of Commerce at the end of Clinton’s second term, thereby becoming the first Asian American to serve on a presidential cabinet. With the election of George W. Bush in 2000, he was appointed as secretary of transportation for the Republican administration. As Secretary of Transportation during the 9/11 attack, he directed all civil aircraft over U.S. airspace to land shortly after the third plane attacked the Pentagon. Shortly thereafter, he instructed all airlines to refrain from racial profiling against Middle Eastern or Muslim passengers. Over the next year, the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was placed under his department, and his team oversaw its mobilization before the TSA moved to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Mineta’s legacy has been marked by many accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him by President Bush in 2006. In 2007, he was given the Grand Cordon, Order of the Rising Sun by the government of Japan. He also received the Distinguished Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service from the Japanese American National Museum in 2012. His name will live on via the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport
and the Norman Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose University. California State Highway 85 was also renamed in his honor. Given his contribution to the transportation industry, it is fitting that he is celebrated through such landmarks. Mineta currently resides in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Deni. He continues to mentor aspiring political leaders and holds speaking
engagements across the country and internationally. To learn more riveting details about Mineta’s life, visit PBS.org and stream Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story.
Article references: Sharon Yamato. “Norman Mineta,” Densho Encyclopedia https://encyclopedia.densho.org/ Norman%20Mineta (accessed May 24 2019). The Mineta Legacy Project, http:// minetalegacyproject.com/
President George W. Bush Presents Norman Y. Mineta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House in 2006.
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CELEBRATING WOMEN WHO MOVE THE NATION RECAP
OMTO’s Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation Breakfast was a sold-out hit! More than 400 attendees convened on Wednesday, March 20 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC to honor ten phenomenal women. Their leadership and commitment have had a positive impact on the transportation industry. The annual award recognizes the outstanding
contributions of women who are advancing American transportation. The March event is hosted in Washington, DC in observance of Women’s History Month. Awards are presented to women from all modes of transportation, representing all sectors of the industry. Since the CWWMN program was initiated in 2012, COMTO has honored 75 women with this prestigious award.
THE 2019 CWWMN HONOREES
GABRIELE M. MACK
Associate Vice President of Local Government & Community Relations, The Ohio State University
Director of Civil Rights & Fair Practices Maryland Transportation Authority
Vice President Economic Inclusion and Supplier Diversity Jacobs
HONORABLE JOYCE BEATTY
Deputy Chief Executive Officer Long Beach Transit
Congresswoman (D) – Ohio
JANNET WALKER FORD
Vice President & General Manager, Eastern Region, Americas Cubic Transportation Systems
Board Member Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
J. SOMER SHINDLER
Board President AC Transit
Executive Vice President Chief Operations Officer DART
Managing Director, Planning And Development, Corporate Real Estate (CREE), United Airlines
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For more Information on these women and their accomplishments visit our website. To view photos of the event, visit https://flic.kr/s/aHskPUaQSe
JOIN US - WEâ€™RE HIRING kingcounty.gov/metro/jobs METRO IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER. WE VALUE DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES. WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE OF ALL BACKGROUNDS TO APPLY. WE ARE COMMITTED TO PRO-EQUITY AND TO PROVIDING ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL.
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MOBILITY FOR ALL: PRICELESS BY WALTER E. ALLEN
Many people do not understand AV technology and are scared of the unknown.
he Federal Highway Administration says, “There is a consensus among economists that congestion pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion.” Since adding more roadway lanes in or around city centers is very difficult, and highways are facing increasing demand, it makes sense that charging a premium to use limited roadways will reduce congestion. But does congestion pricing only help the rich? At face value, the “haves” can afford to pay to drive in a less-congested toll lane, while the “have-nots” are stuck in traffic. Yet moving vehicles out of the congested lanes into toll lanes decreases congestion in the “slow” lanes, and when more people choose to share rides and take transit vs. pay a fee, everybody wins. Revenue goes toward maintaining and increasing the efficiency of public highway systems in addition to the billions of dollars already invested in our street and highway systems, infrastructure and parking. A new congestion pricing study by TransForm featured in Streetsblog USA describes even more benefits. Revenue from congestion pricing can be reinvested and “lead to more frequent and affordable public transit, safer pedestrian and bicycle routes, and improved health outcomes for vulnerable communities — all important components of an equitable transportation system.” Congestion pricing should get many drivers thinking about the true cost of owning and operating a car in the U.S. out of their singleoccupancy vehicles and into public transit or shared vehicles. Letting others pay for the pleasure of driving in the fast lane will result in greater investments in public transit and when
paired with the Green New Deal will help address climate change and renewable energy. Congestion pricing will be the foundation for making the transition from a car-worshipping society to a car-less society that is good for the environment and our mental health. It can be one of several tools that governments and private entities employ to improve mobility for all. MAAS APPEAL
How do we support both the “haves” and the “have-nots” as transportation continues to evolve and fewer people own vehicles? Mobility as a Service (MaaS), integrating modes of transportation, is another way to improve mobility equity. Rail lines, bus rapid transit and high-usage bus lines need improvement. These high-ridership lines will continue to move the highest volume of people throughout the urban core. Look at the sheer number of travelers who cross the San Francisco Bay Bridge, New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and travel throughout the Los Angeles city center. Connecting transportation choices with public transit at the center of MaaS encourages greater use of transit and allows for transportation innovations that may come and go and can help sustain the system. For example, the transit industry as a whole is facing a driver shortage, from public transit to transportation network companies (TNCs) to delivery services. This labor shortage has people leaving rural areas to drive in urban centers as professional drivers or TNC contract staff which puts more cars on the road. The current TNC model is not sustainable. Both major ride-hailing organizations are losing money. The investment community is no longer excited and is losing interest in the 2019 IPOs. Uber is diversifying into other areas of delivery and mobility to slow the losses. What happens
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CONNECTING TRANSPORTATION CHOICES WITH PUBLIC TRANSIT AT THE CENTER OF MAAS ENCOURAGES GREATER USE OF TRANSIT AND ALLOWS FOR TRANSPORTATION INNOVATIONS THAT MAY COME AND GO AND CAN HELP SUSTAIN THE SYSTEM. after Uber changes or goes away? A new type of transportation organization could emerge to improve MaaS for all. POLICIES THAT SUPPORT NEW TECHNOLOGY
Backed by public advocates, governments and businesses will need to set policies and work together to move forward the development of new technologies including electric and autonomous vehicles (EV/AV). According to Amos Haggiag of Metro Magazine, local governments and agencies are already funding the addition of electric buses to fleets. His top prediction is that more electric buses can be expected in the U.S. and Europe. AV shuttles and other vehicles serve as muchneeded first-/last-mile solutions for access to transit, including commuter rail, but cities and transit agencies must learn how to manage AV pick-ups and drop-offs from TNCs or other private mobility providers. How will cities regulate their streets and curb space? Transit agencies, airports, hotels and convention centers face similar issues around stations and feeder lines. Will state and local governments tax all vehicles or charge for vehicle miles traveled? There is time to work out EV/AV policies and logistics. We are years, if not decades away, from reaching fully automated AVs or Level 5 driving (fully autonomous self-driving), so like paper and cash, drivers are not going away in the short term. EDUCATING THE PUBLIC ABOUT INNOVATIONS
Many people do not understand AV technology and are scared of the unknown. The New York Times article “Wielding Rocks and Knives, Arizonans Attack Self-Driving Cars” makes this case. Alternatively, at a recent AV conference in Palo Alto, Alex Epstein of the National Safety Council stated that 40 percent of Americans believe they can buy a car today that can drive itself without safety drivers. The general public
needs educating about transportation advances. Justin Erlich of Voyage also commented that senior citizens will lead the AV revolution. The app GoGoGrandparent lets those without smartphones use TNCs. Early AV adoption is expected in gated retirement communities that have simple street layouts, less traffic and great weather such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Home owner association members will have the option to increase their monthly dues to pay for this service. Even if retirees get on board with AV/TNCs, mobility for all will not come overnight. Being stuck in traffic, greater vehicle ownership costs and loss of productivity will continue to try our patience before significant transportation transformation occurs. By working in tandem, congestion pricing, MaaS and policies that support transportation for all people will result in better public transportation infrastructure, more egalitarian access to transit options, affordable or free services and a healthier environment. A little education will go a long way toward greater acceptance of mobility options that can improve transportation for all. Let’s spread the word. WALTER E. ALLEN
For the past two decades Walter Allen, president and CEO of Acumen Building Enterprise, Inc., has worked as an infrastructure consultant with extensive experience in transportation systems, technology implementation, cost engineering, project planning and smart card technology. He follows transportation trends and writes about improving mobility. You can find him on Twitter @AcumenTransit.
An autonomous vehicle of the future.
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Get Connected to COMTOâ€™s HUB Small Business Directory! The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) and its Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Sub-Committee is pleased to announce the development of a comprehensive, searchable, small business database. This Small Business Directory will be available to multi-modal transportation industry corporations, municipalities and ancillary large contractors, giving them quick and easy access to our COMTO MWDBE members. We urge you to seize this opportunity to create a business profile with pertinent information about your company, its products and services and be included in the Directory!
Connections with Potential New Clients
National Visibility to Corporations, Municipalities and Large Contractors
MARKETING Marketing Support to Win Contracts and Develop Partnerships
If you need assistance or have questions, send an email to Info@Comto.org
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HNTB IS PROUD TO SUPPORT
COMTO AND ITS MISSION Together, HNTB and COMTO continue to partner developing opportunities and encouraging inclusion among minority individuals, businesses and communities of color in the transportation industry. Learn more about HNTBâ€™s social responsibility work: hntb.com
The HNTB Companies Infrastructure Solutions hntb.com
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BECOME A MEMBER TODAY! COMTO provides opportunities in the transportation industry for minority participation and advancement, through advocacy, training and professional development.
GET INVOLVED! • Renew your membership • Join a committee • Sponsor a small business or individual membership