Ellis: New leadership will guide regional transit reality - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Ellis: New leadership will guide regional transit reality

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Tempe council member Shana Ellis is a member of the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and METRO light rail boards of directors. Ellis served as chair of the working group that hired Steve Banta to replace the retiring RPTA executive director, Dave Boggs.

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012 12:49 pm | Updated: 10:35 am, Sat Mar 10, 2012.

Transit is becoming more relevant in our daily lives. It gives people an option to get out of their cars and be more sustainable. Transit gets us to jobs, school and social activities. It becomes a lifeline for an aging population and persons with disabilities. It energizes our economic vitality and it is constantly pushing cities and towns to work together to find solutions in a decade of economic challenges.

Recently, the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and METRO light rail boards, who represent local cities, towns and Maricopa County, selected Stephen R. Banta as the solution to lead both agencies as a single CEO. His initial charge is to work towards greater efficiencies in local public transportation.

The selection is both timely and optimal for the Valley. Prior to his 2010 arrival in metro Phoenix, Steve acquired extensive knowledge and multi modal experience working at several large public transit systems in the U.S. He also now understands the Valley’s transit environment. For passengers, this new leadership will translate into greater value as bus and rail are united in an administrative capacity. For the taxpayer, it will mean a more prudent and constructive use of public dollars. We believe that Steve is committed to keeping the service on the streets, while also being mindful of system expansion.

Steve has an understanding for the service that riders expect, whether it is light rail, bus or Dial-a-Ride. He has an incredible intellectual investment and hands-on background in public transportation that will benefit the region. He has served in leadership roles at TriMet in Portland, Port Authority in Pittsburgh, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.

I believe that his expertise will greatly favor our transit system and protect the investment that we’ve made to expand and regionalize local services. The momentum to drive regionalism can’t be ignored or denied any longer. When Proposition 400, the half-cent countywide transit sales tax, was approved by voters in 2004 they were giving us the green light to develop a regional transit system.

Steve will begin his leadership by working to combine and streamline the agencies, while ramping up transit system satisfaction. The entire Valley has a major mission ahead in leading these agencies, which have intense day-to-day operations serving more than 245,000 passengers daily. This is a new era for public transportation in the Valley.

Steve will be managing significant regional bus and rail projects that will impact our region for years to come. We will be watching with great anticipation as the evolution of regional transit unfolds. This year, as METRO light rail breaks ground on its first extension in Mesa, adding 3.1 miles to the existing 20-mile line, the unification of RPTA and Tempe transit operations will be underway.

To accomplish these and other major feats, he will reorganize agency structures to maximize roles and responsibilities, paving the way for new opportunities within both organizations.

For the passenger, taxpayer and visitor, this equates to a transit system that is more relevant and, undeniably, truly regional.

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