#26 - Nat Ford | Ultimate Urban Circulator, Leadership, & the JTA
Future of Mobility
Nat Ford is CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (or JTA). Mr. Ford’s storied career includes tenures as CEO of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. He has received an incredible list of accolades, including the American Public Transportation Association’s Outstanding Public Transportation Manager for 2020, as well as the White House Champion of Change award. This forward-looking conversation focused on the role automated vehicles can play in public transportation, as well as the different ways in which a transportation authority (and specifically JTA) can have a significant impact on its community. JTA website: https://www.jtafla.com/ During the conversation, we discussed JTA's approach to hiring and developing their culture. Mr. Ford highlighted the Leadership Characteristics that the JTA has developed, which are shown in the show notes.
18 | Nat Ford, CEO of JTA: Jacksonville is the Future Hub of the Autonomous Driving Industry.
Not Your Average Investor
In this episode of the Not Your Average Investor Show, we sit down with Nathaniel Ford, CWO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.Transportation is often overlooked when it comes to how crucial it is to support a growing marketplace, and Jacksonville is lucky to have Nat "driving" the change. We discuss:What Jacksonville has learned from markets like San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta where Nat has held leadership positions in the pastHow the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) project is bringing the autonomous driving vehicle economy to Jacksonville ahead of almost all American marketsThe future of Downtown Jacksonville's explosive growthMuch more!CONNECT WITH US:Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CashFlowProperties/Join our Facebook Group - JWB Rental Property Investinghttps://www.facebook.com/groups/rentalpropertyinvestingSubscribe to the podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, or anywhere you listen to your podcastsYou can find this episode plus all previous episodes here.If you haven’t already, please rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcasts!
“I think, when we talk public transit, we are limiting ourselves. We are mobility managers.” Nat Ford started his public transit career as a train conductor for New York MTA. He went on to work for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Currently, he is the CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and Chairman of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). In this episode, Ford discusses JTA’s U2C project and his five priorities as Chair of APTA: Leadership and Advocacy, New Mobility Paradigm, Workforce Development, Leveraging Big Data, and Enterprise Risk Management. If you want to know more about JTA, you can check out their website jtafla.com. Remember to check out transitunplugged.com to learn from top transit professionals and stay up to date to catch all the latest episodes.
Streetscast: An Interview with MTA Chief Nat Ford, Part II
streetscast – Streetsblog San Francisco
Photo by Bryan Goebel MTA Executive Director Nat Ford sat down with Streetsblog San Francisco last week for an hour-long interview. In today’s segment, he addresses the funding crisis facing California transit agencies, the long-awaited implementation of the Bike Plan and the internal MTA battle over how to balance the different modes. I also asked him about criticism from some advocates and officials in other agencies that the Mayor has hamstrung the MTA in some areas, preventing bold action to make San Francisco a true Transit First city. "I think, from my meetings with the mayor, there’s some situations where he wishes we were moving a whole lot faster," said Ford. "There are situations where we are very aggressive, and then there’s some situations where we need to be a little bit more deliberate in what we’re doing." Part II of the interview with me and reporter Matthew Roth was recorded on April 8th: [audio: http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/upload1/NatFordPartII.mp3 ] On the funding crisis facing transit agencies: "All of us are working very hard to develop a strategy to talk about the relevance of the funding, and it is very interesting to me at a time where we are seeing ridership increases over the last year or two that now is the time we’re going to have a difficult time trying to increase our service capacity. So this couldn’t come at a worse time. We are working hard to educate our local legislators; we’ve sent letters to them. Two weeks ago, there was a state lobbying day for all of the transit systems. We participated in that. But we have a lot of work ahead of us, because I think the voters, this was a mandate from the voters; they wanted this state transit assistance program to be part of the state budget, and now for it to be raided and divvied up at a time that the citizens probably need transit more than they ever needed it for their transportation needs, it’s unfortunate. So we will be working closely with our colleagues across the state." On criticism the Mayor is preventing bold action at the MTA: "From my meetings with the mayor, I think there’s some situations where he wishes we were moving a whole lot faster, but for resource constraints and things of that nature, we want to be very deliberate in what we’re doing. We are testing out some things with the pavements, the parks strategy in terms of projects that make the city more walkable and enjoyable, and there are situations where we are very aggressive, and then there’s some situations where we need to be a little bit more deliberate in what we’re doing. I think we’re fortunate between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, we have passionate people about transit. They may have different opinions about how we go about it. Passionate about transit, but passionate about pedestrians, passionate about bicyclists. So we’re not short for any passion and advocacy on any of those fronts. We get an adequate amount of pressure to move things along, but I mean for example, with the bike plan, what is it, shoot and then aim? And I think in this case we shot and then ended up with an injunction that slowed us down significantly, because we wanted to be very aggressive in terms of expanding the bike network. I think that should be a lesson to all of us that while we all feel we have the greatest idea and the timing is right to move forward rapidly, not everyone agrees with us and there’s ways…legally, through the courts…to make sure that we adequately review what we’re doing before we implement it. " On moving the Bike Plan forward: "As soon as we get from under the injunction, we’re moving rapidly forward with the projects that are listed out in the plan. We do have to bring this back to the MTA Board to get their approval before we go forward, and full disclosure, one of the challenges that we’re seeing for I’d say a small percentage of the projects, is there are trade offs and some controversial trade offs as it relates to its impact on Muni versus impact to automobiles versus impact to pedestrians, and I think that’s a difficult challenge the staff will have to try and balance out. We have a transit first mantra, and that’s the city’s charter policy in terms of transportation decisions, but we do recognize that there is a shared use of our rider ways and our conveyances, and we need to balance that out. So I think the vast majority of the project is pretty straightforward; it’s striping, it’s building and getting some infrastructure in place, and we’re excited about that. And then we do have the more difficult trade off type situations that we just need to think through and make sure we’re trying to make the right decision." How do you balance the different modes? "I’ll tell you, I think that’s the type of stuff that keeps me awake at night and keeps a lot of our staff challenged and we’ll go in my conference room and we’ll lock the doors and we’ll come out hopefully with something that the vast majority of our citizens would prefer. The challenge that we do have is we live in a dynamic environment, and there’s no kind of cookie-cutter policy on these things. I guess some would say it’s cut and dry, transit first, bikes, pedestrians. We have to be very careful in that, and we want to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the city. I think it’s very clear, there’s a large majority of individuals that feel that automobiles should be last on the list, and automobile or parking infrastructure, parking availability should be last on the list, and we take that very seriously. We are transit first. We want everyone to ride Muni, and if they’re not on Muni, either walking or riding a bike, and we’ll put those filters into place when we make those decisions." What are the MTA’s goals for reducing the amount of auto trips? "Well one, our goal, initially I think our primary goal, is to get them on a reliable transit system, and then if people do choose and need to use an automobile, that when we provide our parking resources, that they’re adequately priced, so they help out the transit system. If there is a parking need, that availability is readily available so people don’t have to circle around to find a parking spot, thereby creating more greenhouse emissions, thereby creating more congestion. Our SF Go and SF Park projects are kind of build around that, primarily the SF Park project, which is real time information on parking availability, but also pricing that parking based on the availability at that moment. So it’s not going to be easier to park, but if you need to park, we’re going to make it readily available for you to quickly get in your parking spot, and then we’re going to charge you what the appropriate rate is to discourage you from doing it, but also to support the transit system and the bike infrastructure and the pedestrian infrastructure in the city. So that’s our global strategy in trying to deal with that. There are some people that definitely need to use an automobile, but we’re going to make sure all the other conveyances are first rate, and then if they choose to, that they’re doing it in a very orderly fashion." Next in Part III: Pedestrian safety and infrastructure in the city. Listen to Part I.
Streetscast: An Interview with MTA Chief Nat Ford, Part 1
streetscast – Streetsblog San Francisco
Photo by Bryan GoebelMunicipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nat Ford has been on the job for more than three years now and is a veteran public transportation manager. He began his career as a train conductor 26 years ago at New York’s MTA before moving on to a number of managerial positions. He was an assistant chief transportation officer at BART before being named to oversee Atlanta’s public transit system. Ford has often been criticized by advocates for not taking more aggressive and bold action to make San Francisco a true Transit First city. He sat down for an hour-long interview with Streetsblog San Francisco this week to discuss a wide range of issues. We’ll be examining segments of the interview and transcribing it in the days to come but for today, we bring you Part I: [audio:http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/upload1/NatFordInterviewPart1final.mp3] Highlights from Part I: How do you get around? "I split up alternating between taking public transit to the office, and during the day for the most part, I’m on public transit. But there are some situations where I need to use an automobile to get around. So I mix it up, but I think it’s pretty obvious that I ride the system quite a bit. I think a lot of our operators and employees are well aware of that, because I usually come back with something to report or talk about when I get back to the office." On rumors he wants to leave the MTA: "My career goal really is to focus on the San Francisco MTA and get it to I think a good state of operation, and stabilize it. We have more work to do, so right now I have more than enough in front of me to keep me interested and occupied, and it’s an interesting time in transportation around this country. So there are always opportunities out there in challenging cities, and I’m fortunate from time to time to get a phone call to see if I’m interested. But my plan at this juncture is to focus on the MTA and really continue with the voter’s mandate, which is a well-run, holistic transportation system that not only looks at public transit, but looks at all surface transportation needs and subway transportation needs for the city. So I’ve got enough to keep me excited and engaged." Why did you miss the Budget and Finance Committee hearing on word orders? "That hearing was called pretty late in the week last week. We had planned for a host of meetings with the 5000 employees of the MTA, to keep them focused on the job that they have in hand, and it was really a management decision that we sent a representative there. The Chairman of the Board was there, and the decision was I needed to focus on getting out there and talking with our employees about what was discussed in the board meeting yesterday." On other city departments raiding MTA funds: "Going back to the deep dive that we did on all of our expenditure about two or three years ago, we recognized that being a city department, we had to subscribe certain services to other departments for the agency, and in some cases, we increased the work orders, requested an increase of the work orders, particularly with police, on the T Third line, when we opened it up; we wanted to make sure we had adequate security out there on that corridor on our LRVs. So there have been incidences where we’ve requested additional services. And then there’s been times when for example, with 311, where it’s felt that we are the bulk of the calls into 311, primarily for vehicle location; people want to know when their next transit vehicle is showing up. And in that particular case, there’s been some growth because it initially started as a program that there was some assumptions on calls, and then it increased. I wouldn’t say it’s a rubber stamping of it, but it’s clearly a situation where there’s increased levels of work that we have identified, and at the same time, these other departments are suffering through budget cuts and challenges, and they’re trying to make sure that for whatever services they’re providing for the MTA, we are adequately reimbursing them for it. Is it a perfect system? No system is perfect. We do need to, I believe, improve the autotability of the charges, to make sure that what the MTA is paying for, we are actually receiving those services. And I think that’s where there’s a question in the debate, and I think there’s a simple way of figuring that out." How good a metric is reliability? "The challenge that this system faces is all of our operation, with the exception of the metro subway, is at street level, and we do have great separation out on the T Third line, and bus only lanes, but we know how strictly our citizens adhere to those bus only lanes and it creates some reliability issues. I get pages every once in a while on my Blackberry, where we’ll be blocked by somebody who inadvertently parked the car in the wrong place and infringed on the right of way of our LRVs. So I think the 85 percent goal was set because there was a great deal of frustration back when proposition E passed, and I think it was a stretch goal, and that’s where the citizens want the system to attain. We have some corridors where literally we have a bus every couple of minutes. In that particular case, I think the frequency of service is more important than the 85 percent on-time performance. If you’re standing at the bus stop, you want frequency; you don’t care really if that bus is five minutes late or ten minutes late, but you’re more concerned about your on-time performance. It would be an interesting metric if we looked at passenger on-time performance for a trip versus the vehicle’s on-time performance. And I talk to my staff about that quite often, because we go beyond 85 percent on time performance when we evaluate this, we start looking at okay, what are our largest corridors? What are our heaviest lines? What is the on time performance on those lines? And you’ll find that 15 corridors represent about 80 percent of our ridership. Our numbers tend to be a bit better there. They are the ones with the dedicated bus lanes. They are the ones that we’ve put parking control officers out there. There are the lines that we have our inspectors out there to make sure that the line is running evenly. So there’s more resources there. " Besides bus stop spacing, what aspects of the TEP will the MTA be able to implement?: "Clearly we need to revisit and modify our schedules of our service and our lines. We have schedules out there that were built quite some time ago, and the travel patterns have changed, and we are forcing or trying to have our operators adhere to schedules that create reliability issues, and are not realistic at this point, because of the increase in automobile use, because of the increase in pedestrians and bicycles, and there’s a lot more folks out there, and we want our operators to operate safely and on an adequate schedule. That’s going to require to make sure we have an adequate number of schedulers. Also, in terms of managing that, an adequate number of street supervisors that make sure that buses are leaving on time, on schedule, proper oversight of the operators who are running the system every day. Parking control officers, expanding their role beyond issuing parking citations, but they’re out there at these intersections making a clear path for our vehicles. I’d also say our proof of payment officers; I believe that the current system of trying to get everyone through the front door to ensure they pay their fare, in this dense city, with the ridership levels we have, that’s a delay factor, dwell time at the bus stops is also a delay factor. It’s my hope that either on a corridor basis or on a zone basis, there’ll be zones where we’ll allow all door boarding, but we will enforce fare enforcement with using our proof of payment officers. So right now we have planned to continue some of these activities, but we cannot be as aggressive with the hiring in those particular categories that I think will have the biggest impact."