ACCELERATE A PUBLICATION OF THE CONFERENCE OF MINORITY TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS
COMTO GOES INTERNATIONAL
TRB ARTICLE FEATURE
WELCOME COMTO TORONTO CHAPTER
PLANNING FOR HEALTH DISASTERS
HOPE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
COMTO BOARD OF DIRECTORS National Chair Freddie Fuller II, Vice President, Jacobs 1st Vice Chair Tanya Adams, Vice President, Community Relations and Diversity Manager, WSP USA 2nd Vice Chair Sharmyn Elliott, Vice President of Somat Engineering Inc. Secretary/Treasurer Loretta Kirk, Deputy General Manager Finance and Administration Retired, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) At-Large Members Carmen Garcia, Assistant Vice President, Office of Diversity, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Gwendolen Gray, President & Founder, G2B Consulting, Inc. Carla Williams, Manager of Community Relations, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) Adelee LeGrand, Vice President of Transit Planning and Chief Strategy Officer, Transdev North America Mark Gale, CEO/Director of Aviation, Broward County Aviation Department
Council of Presidents Representatives Ruben Landa, Senior Communications Manager, WSP USA Beverly Greene, Executive Director of External Affairs, Marketing & Communications, AC Transit Council of Presidents Alternate Michelle Hiett, Revenue Systems IT Consultant, LTK Engineering Immediate Past Chair Warren Montague, Manager of Mobility Services, MV Transportation Board Advisors Christian Kent, Principal, Christian T. Kent Transit Management Consulting India Birdsong, CEO & General Manager, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA)
Visit the COMTO National website to learn more about the COMTO National Board of Directors.
COMTO ACCELERATE ACCELERATE is a publication of the Conference Of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). Articles may not be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission. PUBLISHER, A. Bradley Mims, President & CEO, COMTO EDITOR IN CHIEF, Tara Baten McDaniel, Chief of Staff, COMTO DEPUTY EDITOR, Gatwiri Muthara, Membership & Communications Manager, COMTO STAFF WRITERS, Dante Flood, Administrator & Membership Coordinator, COMTO; Gatwiri Muthara, Membership & Communications Manager, COMTO; Mariah Stanley, Program Manager, COMTO DESIGN, Shahara Anderson-Davis, Founder & Visionary, 3D Vision COMTO provides opportunities in the transportation industry for minority participation and advancement, through advocacy, training, and professional development. COMTO National Office 1330 Braddock Place, Suite 203, Alexandria, VA 22314 Phone: 202-506-2917 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.comtonational.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR Freddi e Ful l er l l , Nati onal Chai r, COMTO provi des an update.
LETTER FROM THE CEO A. Bradl ey Mi ms, Presi dent & CEO, COMTO provi des an update.
HELLO, COMTO TORONTO COMTO wel comes Toronto as i ts f i rst i nternati onal chapter.
SURVIVING COVID-19 COMTO asked government of f i ci al s, corporate l eaders and i ndustry experts to provi de thei r take on the ef f ects of COVID- 19 so f ar.
TRB REPORTS The Transportati on Research Board (TRB) reports on how to pl an f or heal th di sasters i n the transportati on i ndustry.
SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEWS COMTO i ntervi ews Beverel y Lester, COO of Fi rst Transi t and Reverend Dr. Lester Woods.
Â© 2020 All Rights Reserved
From the Chair
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a ripple effect impacting all of us and our work – from loss of life to social distancing to an economic down-turn. During this time, your Board of Directors and COMTO National have been working diligently behind the scenes to sustain COMTO. Like the transportation industry at-large, we have had some obstacles to overcome with the cancellation of the National Meeting and Training Conference and our Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation event also postponed. Despite the challenges, our organization is growing as we added COMTO Toronto to our roster making us an international organization. We also added two chapters in Virginia -- Hampton Roads and Richmond. We are also cognizant that our agency and corporate members are tightening their belts as the economic fall-out of COVID 19 has affected them greatly. We are coming up with creative solutions to keep our organization viable and members engaged. One of those solutions has been to form a COVID-19 committee whose task will be to provide direction and leadership to guide our organization during this challenging time. I would like to thank the COMTO staff for the amazing work they have done in response to the federal funding available to support organizations and happy to announce that COMTO was able to obtain an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to ensure the financial sustainability of our organization. This summer, our nation saw thousands gather in the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd and denounce police brutality. COMTO began to address some of these issues in our Town Hall on Race. It was indeed a powerful moment where our COMTO family could share their thoughts and feelings on the racial turmoil in our country, and even examine systemic racism within our own industry. With all that is going on in the world, we remain hopeful that COMTO is resilient and will see itself through these changes, remaining steadfast in our mission. Remember to be bold in your conversation and don’t be afraid to tell people how you feel. If not now, when?
Freddie Fuller ll National Chair, COMTO ACCELERATE | FALL 2020 | 4
From the CEO
Much has happened since our last Accelerate in Fall 2019. We had a successful 2020 membership drive, announced our 2020 Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation honorees and welcomed COMTO Toronto as our first international chapter. No one could have predicted what 2020 had in store for us with COVID-19 and now our country is confronting racism and police brutality head-on. We’ve made tough decisions during this time, especially regarding the National Meeting and Training Conference, which was cancelled. We look forward to reconvening our conference in-person when it is safe to celebrate our 50th Anniversary on July 16 – 20, 2021 in Hollywood, FL at the Diplomat Hotel COMTO National is working on recreating elements of the 2020 conference to keep our members engaged, including a virtual CEO Roundtable and Legislative Plenary to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I want to recognize the work of local chapters that continue to find innovative ways to do the work of COMTO and give back to the communities. Despite the pandemic and the disruption to our industry, people are still interested in engaging with COMTO judging by the number of individuals who are running for seats and participating in elections. We have also seen an uptick in individual memberships as people want to remain active and take advantage of COMTO's benefits. We hope this special COVID-19 issue of Accelerate will provide insight and spark conversations on how our industry can overcome the fall-out from the pandemic and how diversity and inclusion can remain top of mind as we scramble to get back to the “new normal.” Whether it’s a pandemic or social change, COMTO remains committed to its charge to expand opportunities for minorities in transportation and to advocate for the industry and the communities we serve.
A. Bradley Mims President & CEO, COMTO
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COMTO Welcomes Toronto as First International Chapter
Annette Salfarlie, President, COMTO Toronto
Interview with COMTO COMTO is now an international organization, thanks to the addition of our newest chapter â€“ COMTO Toronto! We recently sat down with COMTO Toronto President, Annette Salfarlie of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), to learn more about Diversity and Inclusion in this world-class city and the chapter's plans to spread COMTO's vision and mission in Toronto and surrounding areas. Name? Position with COMTO? Profession outside of COMTO? My name is Ms.Annette Salfarlie, and I am the President of the newly formed international COMTO Toronto chapter. I work for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Toronto, Canada. I am also the Director of Shared Services which is part of the Business Transformation Office that reports directly to the CEO's Office of TTC. Through this role, I am also responsible for locating efficiencies within the organization, consolidating services across various departments and
divisions, and looking externally to partners or other transit agencies that also have a need for common services. How were you introduced to COMTO? What encouraged you to form a Toronto Chapter with COMTO? I was introduced to COMTO through the current CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Mr. Rick Leary. Through our various conversations, COMTO sometimes came up as the topic of discussion, because Mr. Leary had experience working with COMTO when he ACCELERATE | FALL 2020 | 7
worked for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Mr. Leary expressed to me that it would be a great idea to introduce COMTO and its vision, mission and mandate to some of our marginalised employees who do not see opportunities to prepare for leadership roles outside of those they see in Operations. COMTO being in Toronto would also present an opportunity to expose other transit agencies outside of the Toronto Transit Commission to some of the benefits of having a COMTO chapter in Toronto. What are your thoughts about Toronto’s diversity and inclusion? What are some of the diversity and inclusion challenges Toronto faces and Canada at large? I believe that Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Toronto has a great openness in accepting others and a unique curiosity in wanting to learn and understand about new cultures. Toronto also has “pocket” areas throughout the city that cater to specific cultures, such as little Italy, little Portugal, and little Chinatown. When it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, Torontonians as a whole are exposed to it a lot and enjoy the food and culture of the various countries that make up the tapestry of Toronto. Toronto does have its challenges though when it comes to embracing diversity and inclusion in our various businesses based in the city. There is still a large number of organizations in our industry that do not have appropriate representation of BIPOC or women in their leadership ranks. The leaders in these organizations do not reflect the communities that we serve. This is where COMTO would come in to help initiate discussions with these organizations to advocate on behalf of our members in the transportation industry. ACCELERATE | FALL 2020 | 8
Does the Toronto Chapter have any planned upcoming events or activities so far? If not, what are some of the plans for the future?
With every rocky year, also produces opportunity. This is the main focus of the Toronto chapter at this particular time. Toronto did have some chapter events and activities in the works, however due to COVID-19 and the restrictions on social distancing, it has put Toronto’s operations to a mere halt. As a result, this tampered with COMTO Toronto’s ability to reach out aggressively to begin building their membership, to begin generating an interest around the fact that the COMTO Toronto chapter is now active, and the benefits it has to offer the people of Toronto and Canada as a whole. COMTO Toronto was planning a launch party, in which different events would have been hosted across Toronto, as well as, reaching out to other agencies in the Toronto area to engage with, unfortunately it all has been put on hold. Myself and the Toronto agency is waiting to see what the Fall and Winter seasons bring, in terms to start reaching out to transportation employees and agencies in a place where it is safe to discuss the potential of the COMTO Toronto chapter and the long-term goals and short-term goals that can be achieved, such as building the membership and highlighting the strategic goals of the chapter for the coming years. Planning was halted due to COVID-19; however, we are now utilizing this time to plan and define what type of chapter Toronto and region would like to become, as well as engaging with potential partners once the timing is right.
How do you feel about joining the COMTO family and being the first international chapter? I am very humbled and honored to be the president of the first COMTO international chapter, and very excited and optimistic about my role, affiliation, and endeavors to come with COMTO. I am ecstatic that Toronto is the first international community to be a part of such an organization like COMTO. Looking forward, I foresee opportunities to inform Toronto’s employees across different transportation agencies their potential and what that potential could look like if they participate in activities and events that will allow for their personal growth throughout the organisations that they represent. I cannot wait to see what we can do from a strategic planning perspective, trying not to set goals that are not realistic, but rather set ourselves up for success, while also leveraging the lessons that have been learned and experienced from the other existing COMTO chapters.
As the COMTO Toronto sponsoring organization, do you foresee future organizations or agencies joining the COMTO Toronto chapter? I absolutely foresee future agencies and organizations joining under the COMTO Toronto chapter. We are actually in the process of developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CUTA (Canadian Urban Transit Authority) and have been working with the President of CUTA, Mr. Marco D’Angelo. Our intent is to reach out to other agencies across the country, primarily the Toronto region, but also leverage the relationships that CUTA has with agencies across Canada in order to receive support and interest in the Toronto chapter, as well as reaching out to gain membership, organize events and to help leverage their own diversity and inclusion strategic goals within those organizations.
Since becoming a chapter, how has COMTO helped you so far? COMTO has done a marvelous job of showing me the process of becoming a COMTO chapter. My dealings with COMTO National has been eye-opening in the structure and approach it took in establishing the COMTO Toronto chapter. The process has led to personal-growth as well as a glimpse into some of the major activities and events that COMTO National has to offer, such as View from the Hill and the National Meeting and Training Conference. COMTO has exposed me to the ideas, activities, structure and support Toronto and Region will look to from all levels of government as well.
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Navigating through the "New Normal" Itâ€™s now been 7 months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Despite social distancing, wearing masks and other precautions, the virus continues to spike around the nation, with the U.S. leading the world in number of cases and deaths. In addition to sickness and loss of life, our economy has been hit hard with businesses either slowing down, being brought to a stand-still, or shutting down all together.
Surviving a Global Pandemic Our very own transportation industry is one of sectors which has taken a severe hit with a significant decline in travel and ridership due to various reasons, including businesses closing, employees working from home and school taking place virtually. In this special issue of Accelerate, we asked government officials, corporate leaders and industry experts to provide their take on the effects of COVID-19 so far, and what we can do to move forward.
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Peter DeFazio U.S. House of Representatives, Oregon; Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Interview with COMTO COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our nation’s economy and way of life. With the country in various stages of re-opening, what’s next for our nation and the transportation industry? Peter DeFazio, U.S. House of Representatives, Oregon
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has brought our nation to its knees, but from the very beginning of this crisis we’ve seen Americans across the nation, especially those in the transportation industry, step up and do their part to keep our country moving while trying to help slow the spread of this vicious virus. As we continue to respond to this pandemic, it’s critical we lead by putting public health and safety first. Without healthy people, a healthy economy doesn’t exist. In the most recent coronavirus response bill, The Heroes Act, I worked to ensure that key provisions to expand protections for frontline workers and families were included, such as: Federal requirements on masks/face coverings for workers and passengers on commercial flights, Amtrak trains, and public transit in the U.S.; $15.75 billion for public transit agencies; and $15 billion to help State departments of transportation and certain local governments mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Looking toward the future, we have to face the facts: our country is now on the precipice of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression with tens of millions of Americans out of work and entire swaths of the economy shut down. The best way to restart our economy, once it is safe to do so, will be to put workers first with a massive investment in the kind of infrastructure that will help future generations succeed, just like President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal which gave Americans a fighting chance. Earlier this year I unveiled the Moving Forward Infrastructure Framework, a $760 billion plan to rebuild America, that would put millions of Americans to work while investing in better bridges and roads, robust transit and passenger rail service, fully-functioning ports and harbors, and more. I hope to move this legislation to the House floor in the coming weeks.
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How will the transportation industry rebound? Throughout this unprecedented public health crisis, members of the transportation industry have shown just how committed they are to keeping our nation moving. Rebounding from this crisis won’t be easy, but the fighting spirit that transportation workers have shown has been remarkable and we’ll need to harness that same spirit in order to help the industry come back stronger than before. In Congress, I will continue to advocate for policies that ensure opportunity and maximum participation in the transportation industry for women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities, while finding solutions that put people back to work, invest in our outdated transportation systems, and bring about a new era of American ingenuity and innovation. What are some lessons learned so far? Even before President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it was clear the Trump administration had no strategy or plan to combat an insurgent virus like COVID-19, and today, the Trump administration is still reluctant to take decisive actions that put public health first. To that end, the transportation industry, as a whole, needs to work together to create preparedness plans for communicable disease outbreaks. U.S. transit workers are dying at an alarming rate from the coronavirus and hundreds have tested positive, meanwhile the White House has failed to recommend a national mask requirement to protect frontline workers. For that very reason, I helped secure key provisions in The Heroes Act to require masks on airplanes, Amtrak trains, and certain public transit. What is the status of the Moving Forward Framework? In what ways will this help the transportation industry? Joined by my congressional colleagues, I unveiled the Moving Forward Infrastructure Framework earlier this year because I firmly believe our nation needs a bold plan to invest in our outdated transportation and infrastructure systems to meet the moment and finally bring America into the 21st century. This framework is a road map for how Congress can help communities around the country undertake transformative projects that are smarter, safer, and made to last. It sets a path toward zero carbon pollution from the transportation sector, ensures a transportation system that is green, affordable, reliable, efficient and provides access to jobs, prioritizes the safety of the traveling public, and creates tens of millions of jobs by doing so. Already, pieces of the framework have been passed through committee or even enacted into law, like my long-standing priority to unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure fishermen, shippers, and vessel, tug, and barge operators have safe access to our ports and harbors. I hope to move this legislation to the House floor in the coming weeks.
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What about the industryâ€™s commitment to diversity and inclusion? Just like the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, I believe the industry, responsible for transporting all people, all the time, should be reflective of those it serves. We already know that building a diverse workforce is critical to generating success and positive business outcomes and we know that members of our communities who rely solely on public transit are more likely to be women, people of color, and from low-income households. As the pandemic has already laid bare, frontline workers affected by COVID-19 are disproportionately people of color, too. The industry has a responsibility to honor its commitment to diversity and inclusion by acknowledging those facts and putting solutions in place that protect the health and safety of transportation users and operators alike. Having a diverse workforce that includes frontline, mid-level, and c-suite level employees is vital to achieving transportation equity. Lastly, moving our transportation systems out of the 1950s and into the 21st century will require a workforce that reflects the people it serves and the equitable economic opportunities we are all fighting for.
Doug Mann President of Corporate Development, HNTB
Interview with COMTO COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our nationâ€™s economy and way of life. With the country in various stages of re-opening, whatâ€™s next for our nation and the transportation industry? Although uncertainty remains, we have learned from past crises and historical events that our nation is resilient. Doug Mann, President of Corporate Development, HNTB
This resiliency strengthens all of us and provides opportunity to improve and be even better. As we carefully begin to re-open our economy, we see how connected we are and seek ways to lessen all things that hinders progress. We know transportation is essential to our daily lives, economic vitality, and quality of life. We experienced how critical it is to not only move people to and from work and social engagements, but also to move goods, food, and medical supplies throughout the country quickly. In addition to health care workers, we are grateful to all our essential worker commuters and supply chain operators for their dedication to all of us during this pandemic. How will the transportation industry rebound? The industry will rebound with a consistent and sustainable funding mechanism. House Democrats introduced the $3 trillion HEROES Act providing nearly $1 trillion in relief for state and local governments. ACCELERATE | FALL 2020 | 14
The bill allocates $15 billion for state transportation departments and nearly $16 billion for transit operating assistance to maintain basic transit services. $11 billion of the transit money is designated for the 14 largest transit systems. The bill received a negative response from the President and many Republicans due to the billâ€™s huge price tag. Senate Republicans are expected to put forward a much more modest COVID-19 response bill than proposed by House Democrats. In regard to Surface Transportation Reauthorization, the FAST Act expires on September 30th and House Democrats are working on a five-year authorization bill that would include a 40% increase in funding over the FAST Act in the first year, and modest increases in years two through five. The Highway Trust fund was estimated to have enough of a balance to cover a one-year extension of the FAST Act at current funding levels. However, revenue loss due to COVID-19 means the trust fund will be bankrupt sometime around June 2021. The Highway Trust Fund bankruptcy will put additional pressure on Congress to address reauthorization and long-term funding of transportation. What are some lessons learned so far? Given data analytics and transportation operations monitoring we have learned several things. One is the growing need to integrate our transportation solutions. This integration is both in terms of agencies working collaboratively together and more cohesiveness in our transportation systems. We need to revolutionize mobility for every member of our society while increasing efficiencies across the board. This integration will optimize our performance and provide for a greater return on investment for every mobility provider. Having options for commuters and transport of goods to move efficiently is crucial. Gathering and analyzing data on what commuters and freight operators need and how they use the transportation network will dictate when and how innovations occur. By meeting with public and private operators, we can form the partnerships needed and create a seamless environment for how people and goods move throughout the nation. Another lesson learned is that we needÂ to innovate relentlessly while adapting to market conditions. Agencies quickly had to adapt to work at home environments, provide contactless payment options for users and creatively develop approaches to advance vital transportation programs. For instance, we saw a dramatic increase in e-commerce with home deliveries and bicycle use to get around. There is a lot of action around improving transportation efficiencies across all modes while keeping everyone safe. The third lesson goes back to my initial point. We need to remain resilient. As noted earlier, this is not our first crisis. Taking the lessons that we have learned so far and making the necessary adjustments to prepare for future events are essential. Carrying forth these strategies will keep supply chains open and restore transportation infrastructure seamlessly.
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What about the industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion? The industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion remains strong and this is mandatory for future success. It is essential that we create ideas, exchange knowledge and share diverse perspectives on how to advance the movement of people and goods across our nation and the world. In order to revolutionize mobility for every member of our society while increasing efficiencies across the board, we need every member of our society to be involved and contribute. That collaboration will ensure solutions that serve everyone and ensure sustainable progress.
Kim Fletcher Director, CNA Analysis Solutions’ Institute for Public Research; Principal Investigator of NCHRP Report 769 Interview with COMTO
Kim Fletcher, Director, CNA Analysis Solutions Institute for Public Research; Principal Investigator of NCHRP
Can you give us some background about your career in Emergency Management? I have been an Emergency Manager for most of my career (38 years). In that role I have had leadership roles in helping organizations respond to disasters.
I have had roles where I led the development of certain policies and plans across the federal government. I’ve also done a lot of work at the state level in terms of advising states on how to be prepared for various disasters. I worked at the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the Environmental Protection Agency. I’ve been a consultant for several years and currently work as a Director at CNA Analysis Solutions’ Institute for Public Research. We are a nonprofit that does work in the public sector on the topic of emergency management, national security, homeland security, and disaster recovery. Please tell us more about NCHRP Report 769: A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. I worked with TRB (Transportation Research Board) on a committee where I was the lead investigator. We proposed to do a series of interviews across the country with the kinds of transportation systems they wanted us to look at. They wanted us to look at small, urban, and rural transit systems, but they also wanted us to look at transit systems that had relationships with public health communities. There was a very specific focus. We sat down with them and asked, “What do you know about emergency planning?” and “What do you know about pandemic planning?” The answer was we know a fair amount about emergency planning such as if there were a crash, but we don’t know much about pandemic planning.
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We focused on some things that we really thought were very important for transportation systems to understand; a little bit about planning, but a lot about preventing the spread of the disease, such as disinfection, what to do about your workforce, and how to communicate risk relative to the pandemic. The report and its content have been very popular with TRB’s audience. Many systems have said that they used the report to help them write their pandemic plans. What are some gaps you’ve observed regarding response to the pandemic? The lack of consistency where consistency would’ve given us more comfort and faith that we were doing the right thing, because it was based in science. I think another gap that falls out of that is the whole question of risk communications. I don’t think there has been much consideration given to how we communicate with our workers and our citizens about what the risks are. We say wear a mask and social distance, but just looking across the country we see people that are ignoring those risks and that science. One of the gaps that I fear is that organizations – transit and others – are not going to do adequate after-action analysis, because this thing is not really ever going to stop. It’s lingering. We’re seeing spikes in different parts of the country. We’ve been told that it’s going to cycle back through in the fall. I think there’s this idea that I do an after-action analysis when the emergency or pandemic is over. My recommendation to my clients right now is that they do an after-action analysis because we have routinized what we’re doing. As it slows down and as the spikes shift across the country, I think it’s imperative for organizations to stop and take the time to do a legitimate after-action review of the last 8-10 weeks and ask “Are there any flaring, big gaps that we need to fix right now.” And to feed that information into the rewrite of their pandemic plan. There are very few transit organizations that spent a lot of time doing pandemic planning. The ones that did are grateful that they did it. The ones that didn’t – scrambled. There’s a direct relationship between after-action reporting and improving your plan. What are some lessons learned? 1 - Plan You have to have a plan, and it has to be a collaboratively developed plan. We can no longer write plans in a vacuum. (There’s a model in the guide on how to do a plan.) There’s an old adage in emergency management which says: “I want to meet you in the planning process. I don’t want to meet you for the first time in the emergency operations center.” People need to know their responsibilities prior to an emergency or pandemic and be aware of what others’ roles and responsibilities are.
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It’s not just about the transit system. It’s about the local government that’s partnering with that transit system. It’s about the riders. The constituencies for a transit system are really broad, and they should be brought into the planning process. 2 - Document There have been a lot of missteps along the way. There are going to be a lot of investigations. I recommended to my clients and colleagues that documentation of decisions is critical. It’s critical because it is far better to document your decisions while they are happening, then trying to recreate your decisions weeks after they have happened. 3 – Mental health and well-being We need to tend to the mental health and well-being of our workers. We’re isolated because of the pandemic. If we don’t pay attention to the health and well-being of ourselves and our fellow employees – that ultimately harms the system. What are some things that worked during the pandemic? I think the speed with which transit systems responded was impressive. There was a very quick realization that we serve the public, and the public needs this system. Right now is the time to embrace the opportunity we have to make change happen in our system.
IF YOUR AGENCY/COMPANY NEEDS PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT, PLEASE VISIT: WWW.COMTONATIONAL.ORG/PPE
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Planning for Health Disasters in the Transportation Industry by Beth Ewoldsen / Transportation Research Board (TRB) Reprinted with Permission from TRB Our partners at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) offer valuable reports which can help transportation professionals in the fight against COVID-19. With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hitting the transportation industry hard, TRB’s catalog of research on infectious disease and other biological threats to people and transportation systems is crucial in helping to advise transportation professionals. Transportation officials must be prepared to know how to minimize the consequences to their communities. In regards to biothreats, a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report suggests that there are advantages to addressing natural, accidental, and intentional incidents as part of the same family of challenges. Strong interagency coordination is required from different components of the U.S. government effort in addressing these threats. Given the role that rapid travel of people, goods, and services plays in the spread of potential biothreats, there are important steps and plans that the transportation industry can take at the federal, state, and local levels to coordinate with and learn from experiences in the United States and globally.
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Preparing for any disastrous circumstance TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) A Guide to Transportation's Role in Public Health Disasters helps prepare transportation officials to minimize the vulnerability of travelers, employees, and physical assets. The report also includes a tool to assist with recognition of mass-care transportation needs and potential criticalities in essential services during extreme events. A new NCHRP project will help transportation systems to be adaptive by providing state DOTs and other transportation agencies with the information they need to integrate resilience concepts strategically and systematically into the transportation planning process. Delma Bratvold, Director and Senior Consultant at Analytic Aims, LLC, has been active in two NCHRP projects that address biological threats. She says, “We’ve all had to develop emergency response plans. The guide talks about how you evaluate different kinds of threats, recognizing the level of contagiousness and what the persistence and ease of disinfection is. Response plans should be developed with that kind of range of awareness.” An active NCHRP project to provide guidance on wireless communications equipment is incorporating sections on cleaning and disinfection of communications devices. TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) report, Public Transportation Security, Volume 3: Robotic Devices: A Guide for the Transit Environment, points out that hazardous environments – including biological threats – do not affect a device, but require it to be decontaminated. Sensors, X-ray cameras, hazard or explosive detectors, or any other devices used, therefore, must meet requirements for liquid-sealing and corrosion resistance, and the report can aid in selecting the right devices for various circumstances. In looking towards the future, Bratvold notes that plans must be living documents. “Manufacturer’s ‘cleaning bulletins’ for transportation equipment have all been updated in the past few weeks and further updates are in progress to note specific agents and formulas that can safely disinfect their products rather than cleaning agents by brand name. So, specific recommendations that might have been true at one time, may not be accurate today. It’s worth checking it out again." Maintaining safe public transit Once security plans are in place, keeping public transportation safe for passengers and employees takes a variety of forms. Terrorist attacks on public transit in the mid-2000s created a need for security checks like bag searches. With the concern of spreading COVID-19, health checks are being performed for staff at workplaces from supermarkets to hospitals around the world. TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Public Transportation Passenger Security Inspections: A Guide for Policy Decision Makers provides guidance when considering the introduction of a passenger security inspection program into public transportation agency operations. The report explores promising screening technologies and methods and their operational considerations. ACCELERATE | FALL 2020 | 21
Knowing that the public might be most comfortable with health screenings for transportation in places where security screening is common, like airports, can guide planning. The report also examines legal precedent in connection with passenger screening activities, and includes a passenger security inspection policy decision-making model. Taking lessons from airports The airport industry knows from experience that strong relationships and joint planning between airports and public health organizations protect community health and ensure business continuity. In dealing with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive threats (CBRNE), TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) report An Airport Guide for Regional Emergency Planning for CBRNE Events suggests ways to align airport emergency preparedness teams with immediate and long term functions. For instance, medics or other first responders may be able to immediately size up and assess the impact of a situation while a public information officer takes the lead in alerting individuals at an airport, airlines, and the greater traveling public. At the same time, other team members could simultaneously coordinate with outside agencies to make decisions about resource management, including neighboring jurisdictions’ plans and requirements, which can expand the concept of mutual aid. Sick people fly every day, and while COVID-19 is highly contagious, immediate disinfection can be highly effective. Another ACRP report, Preparing Airports for Communicable Diseases on Arriving Flights, notes that a well-conceived and practiced communicable disease response plan with established partners is an effective response. This system allows for calm coordination, collaboration, and communication as first responders and public health experts are able to come to fact-based decisions. Planning, training, exercising, and evaluating are productive ways to build healthy relationships so that recovery activities are simply another form of those relationships in action. In that vein, ACRP’s Legal Research Digest 34: Airport Public Health Preparedness and Response: Legal Rights, Powers, and Duties addresses the legal issues concerning the measures to detect communicable diseases, regulations to control communicable diseases, methods for decontamination, emergency legal preparedness, privacy, and potential sources of liability. In the ongoing pandemic, one-time incidents of smaller contagious outbreaks may continue. People may be unknowingly contagious and travel in and through any number of modes. TRB research can help you plan ahead, keep calm, and carry on. For a list of TRB and National Academies resources, visit the TRB Blog. About TRB As part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) provides leadership in transportation improvements and innovation through trusted, timely, impartial, and evidence-based information exchange, research, and advice regarding all modes of transportation. For example, committees, researchers, and staff are currently focused on advancing resilient infrastructure, exploring transformational technology, and caring for the public’s health and safety.
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Lessons in Leadership: Beverly Edwards COO, First Transit Beverly Edwards, COO, First Transit
Interview with COMTO
Beverly Edwards, Chief Operating Officer of First Transit, spoke to us about her career journey, important leadership qualities, and the value of COMTO to First Transit and its employees. Ms. Edwards was promoted to COO in 2017 where she manages the day-to-day operating platform that First Transitâ€™s transportation and maintenance locations utilize to deliver safe, reliable, and cutting-edge service to their contracted clients.
Can you describe the journey to your current position? Early in my career, I was fortunate to have worked in a multi-modal, family-run, transportation business, which provided me with unique exposure to the public transportation world. Over time, my understanding of transport operating functions, the procedural connectivity of service delivery and the importance of building an enviable workplace with employees engaged in the values and mission of the organization grew. My experience provided me with an understanding of what a successful transport model requires to meet the needs of its many stakeholders. ACCELERATE | FALL 2020 | 24
What has been the most valuable tool(s) for you during your career journey? My degree in accounting coupled with my early work in transport operations provided me with an excellent business foundation. When I was 25, I managed a multi-model transit business in Pittsburgh with 350 employees. I felt a sense of personal responsibility for our employees and ridership. Though I worked long hours, I knew I still had plenty to learn. I continually read about business and our industry, absorbing as much information as I could and using it to improve my skills as an employee and a leader. This has become a habit, even today.
I know that success in this industry requires consistent dedication to staying informed on current trends and learning from those around you. In this early position, we were the beta site for the development of a weekly management staff meeting. To this day, round table staff meetings and action plan management are high on my list to advance teamwork and continual improvement. What in your opinion constitutes a great leader? Feel free to provide any names of those who have been influential to you. A great leader listens, participates and accepts responsibility. Communication must be clear, measured and consistent. I think for all of us, we have worked or will work for a variety of leaders with different management styles. Over time I have been influenced by many talented people. I later recognized that I developed how I managed, and how I did not want to manage, from that exposure. Good experiences, and those not so good, all provided key learnings. What are some leadership traits you possess and how do you work on improving them? I have always sought to lean in, do more than what was asked, and be involved. Inquisitiveness coupled with dedication, empathy and strong work-ethic are key to growing professionally and as a leader. I am better today at understanding there are numerous right answers to a question than I was earlier in my career. Not everyone approaches challenges from the same point of view or background but having a team with different opinions is key to collaboration and makes the organization stronger and more resilient. Being truly open-minded as a leader takes impartiality and faith. It’s a necessary balance to propel the organization forward.
What is your own personal leadership philosophy? I believe leadership is the culmination of your ability to build a team that excels individually and together in creating an operating platform and the supporting systems needed to execute excellence in service delivery. In my world, that means riders’ needs are exceeded and clients are pleased with service delivery. Please describe how you’ve been active in COMTO and in your community at-large. Our company is an active member in COMTO. I recently had the opportunity to speak at a panel event for COMTO in Cincinnati. I have been involved in many organizations over the years. Supporting professional organizations by opening our internal opportunities is critical to improving inclusiveness. How have you benefited from being a COMTO member? Our employees find development, friendship and opportunities as members of COMTO. Many have been involved in leadership roles. This organization provides an environment for career advancement and networking that leads members to new opportunities by creating a space for personal and professional growth. What words of advice do you have for up and coming transportation leaders? Transportation requires passionate, levelheaded, caring leadership dedicated to the important work that we are all doing to connect people. I love transit. It is a world of vast, ever-changing, opportunity. Engineering, accounting, operations, safety, training, IT innovation and human resources are just a few of the leadership opportunities available to up-and-coming managers. Transit management is a solid career choice that will continue to evolve. Seek advice from mentors, continue to network, and stay up to date on industry trends and you will have numerous opportunities for growth in this field.
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COMTO Provides Inspiration in Trying Times with Reverend Dr. Lester Woods Reverend Dr. Lester Woods, COMTO Member (Above)
Interview with COMTO
This challenging time of COVID-19 has not only affected our physical health and wellbeing, but also, our mental and spiritual. Whether it's anxiety and worry from fears of becoming sick or dealing the economic downturn, or depression from social distancing and isolation – COVID-19 has taken emotional toll on us all. With that in mind, COMTO National held it first-ever "Moment of Inspiration" led by long-time COMTO member, Reverend Dr. Lester Woods, to provide members a reminder that they can find hope during these dark times. We recently sat down with Rev. Dr. Woods to hear more about how faith can help anyone feeling despair. How was your experience being the first person to do the Moment of Inspiration with COMTO? I was rather honored and truly humbled that COMTO selected me to provide the first Moment of Inspiration, knowing that the Board of Directors has a very wide reach across the nation and could have selected anyone to provide the Moment of Inspiration. COMTO is family to me and I have been connected with COMTO since 2006, I was also a member of the COMTO Board of Directors for 8 years.
I got involved with COMTO through one of the previous President and CEOs, Ms. Julie Cunningham. I also would like to thank current President and CEO, Mr. Brad Mims, and Board Chairman, Mr. Freddie Fuller, for allowing me to provide the Moment of Inspiration to COMTO, especially during these unprecedented times.
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What is the importance of faith and inspiration during this time? Hope and faith actually go together, which are two spiritually impacting words that can connect us with our creator. Although everything seems to be over our head, holding on to hope gives us the understanding that it is all still under God’s feet. He explains that even though the crisis is out of our hands, we can still place it in the hands of God and it will be handled. Holding on to hope, will ultimately hold us in place until what we have faith for comes to pass, “this too shall pass.” Hope is what keeps us at peace until faith comes to pass. What words of inspiration would you have for those who may not be religious? There is a difference between religion and relationships. We do a lot of things, religiously, meaning that we do certain things continually over and over again, out of tradition and out of practice. People do things religiously because it has been passed down in culture, therefore being religious in a certain activity. People should not be concerned about religion, but rather more so relationships. It does not matter what type of religion one has, but what is most important is if one has a relationship, further stating that one can have a relationship with God without necessarily being religious. The most important thing is if we believe in something bigger than us that will pull us through whatever crisis comes our way, and the only way you can have that is through that relationship. The coronavirus is teaching us as a people that the world is smaller than what we know, because we are all connected, and we are all connected together because we are in this together.
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During such a time, relationships are very important to have amongst everyone because we are interdependent upon each other and we are not independent of ourselves, what anyone does, effects and affects everyone around them. The relationships we have with God are just as important as the relationships we have with each other. Just because we are social distancing, does not mean we are socially disconnected, distant but still connected with one another. I understand you just received your Doctorate’s Degree. Could you share some more information about that journey and achievement? My journey to earning my Doctorate Degree began in 1996, where I earned my Master’s Degree. The study I began prior to earning my Doctorate degree, actually began with Ms. Julie Cunningham, one of the previous COMTO President & CEOs, in 2006. MODOT, my employer at the time, was preparing to build a $500 million dollar project through the heart of various communities in St. Louis, MO. Due to previous unfinished building projects in the area, MODOT, determined they would not allow such a thing to happen again. I was then asked to reach out to COMTO to see if they could help MODOT facilitate and improve upon the process of including minorities and women in the highway construction industry for that particular project going on through those various communities. Ms. Cunningham came into the picture and developed a community engagement which soon lead to the establishment of a Community Partners Agreement, which involved community based organizations, the contracting community, federal agencies, as well as other local key players.
The agreement allowed for workforce development, training and employment, as well as minority, women and disadvantaged business enterprise development, training and contracting. As a result, this agreement put people to work, gave people hope, and provided opportunities for people to grow. Ms. Cunningham and I had faith-based organizations involved as well, such as churches and pastors. As a result, I began to ask myself how churches would be a part of this process for workforce development and business development in their own local community since they needed access to jobs and life skills or soft skills training. Since I had that background and history with my current employer, MODOT, I decided to put together a study in the context of my own local church model, where church is the leader for developing their parishioners and preparing their parishioners to be employed and/or more gainfully employed, and partner with community based organizations that can conduct life skills training, soft skills training, and partner with hiring corporations in their own communities. I went to school for this, established a project, and got my dissertation work completed through this strategy of enhancing the social equity of socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in the community. In 2017, I was able to enroll in the Doctorial Program at United Theological Seminary. I defended my dissertation back in January of 2020. Despite the graduation ceremony being cancelled, I will receive my Doctoral Degree soon to confirm that my project was successful and that it was a relevant study, which I will continue to share in my community and hopefully soon across the country to other churches in various community. The title of the project was A Collaboration Model that Enhances Social Equity of Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals and was conducted at a church called Urban Empowerment Ministries in Columbia, MO.
How are you coping and working through the stay-at-home orders of the quarantine? I have been able to balance teleworking and working from the office. As the Chief Administrative Officer, I have been overseeing the Human Resources division, employee health and wellness, as well as their communications division and equal opportunity division. Overseeing these divisions requires me to engage leadership under this crisis. The continuity of operations proceeds statewide under the DOT. Social distancing is still a practice being done by many if not all across the state as well as orders from the local governor as far as stay-at-home orders. Can you share with us your thoughts, memories, and/or experiences of your involvement with COMTO? How has the overall nature of COMTO changed in your opinion? Over the last several years, I attended some of Kansas Cityâ€™s local chapter meetings and events and give kudos to current COMTO Kansas City Chapter President Mr. Whitney Morgan who has been doing a phenomenal job. When I was on the COMTO Board of Directors, COMTO had and still has a lot of influence with regard to state government agencies, local government agencies, the minority / women owned businesses, etc.Â The industry nation-wide is very respectable and the goals and responsibilities of the organization, to level the playing field for minorities and women to be involved with contracting and employment in the transportation industry, is definitely a goal that COMTO has lived up to and continues to live up to. I believe in COMTOâ€™s mission, as I have been a part of it in the past from a National level, and continue to see progress being made on all of the local levels as well. I am very excited to still be a part of such a family and an industry, and look forward to more successes down the road as COMTO continues to move the nation!
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COMTOâ€™s Dante Flood Skates Passes the COVID Blues by Dante Flood, COMTO Greetings COMTO Family! My name is Dante Flood, Membership Coordinator and Administrator for the COMTO National Office. I pray that you and your families continue to stay safe and healthy during this unfortunate period of time. As we all work together to push through this crisis, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share with you some of the ways I have been coping during this time. My family and I reside in Maryland, therefore we have been following the stay at home orders of Governor Larry Hogan. In our home we have a designated "cleansing" area, where we have several bottles of hand sanitizer, a box of plastic gloves, and a box of masks for when we have to go out. The only time we have and will leave our home is for groceries or medicinal reasons. We also continue to make sure that we wash our hands a more than often, but more importantly, we make sure to keep our hands away from our face. This stay at home quarantine has put a lot of pressure on many families, however there are still things you can do to keep yourself entertained and occupied throughout this time. Aside from my COMTO work life, one of the things I have been doing to keep myself occupied, and active during this time, is rollerskating. For many, roller skating was a childhood activity, but that is one hobby of mine that will forever be a part of me. Unfortunately, I have to roller skate on the concrete versus the smooth wooden floor at my local roller skating rink, but I have adjusted and dealt with it accordingly. Roller Skating has always been very therapeutic for me, especially now more than ever. And now that I have had more time than usual, I decided to not only rollerskate around my neighborhood, but also create a YouTube channel for it. (If you would like to see more, please feel free to click the following link). Being able to do this under the global circumstance has been refreshing, rejuvenating, and relieving. We are all in this together and you are not alone. Many of us are used to our normal day-to-day workflow, however readjustment has been a challenge for myself and many others. Although there has been an amount of negative impacts surrounding COVID-19, it is important to stay aware of them. It is imperative that we also look at the positive outcomes. People are spending more time with their families, getting back into the hobbies and spending more time outdoors. COMTO family, we will always find the light in a dark situation, but it is up to us to create it! COMTO is here for you, and here with you. COMTO family, please stay safe and healthy. We are in this together we will continue to move the nation!
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ACCELERATE is COMTO's publication that shares COMTO members making national news, industry trends, events and member career advancement.
Published on Nov 4, 2020
ACCELERATE is COMTO's publication that shares COMTO members making national news, industry trends, events and member career advancement.