2012 Awards

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Each year, VTA recognizes outstanding leadership and contributions by individuals who are working to advance public transportation in their community; VTA also recognizes innovative, effective programs by our public transportation providers.

The Virginia Transit Association presented the following awards at its 2012 Awards Luncheon to recognize outstanding service by individuals and exceptional transit programs, and to advance and expand public transportation in the Commonwealth.


 green dot Senator Richard L. Saslaw: Transit Advocate – In Recognition of His Outstanding Leadership
 green dot Senator Frank W. Wagner: In Recognition of His Leadership to Advance Multi-Modal Transportation Options
 green dot Delegate James M. Scott: In Recognition of His Outstanding Leadership
 green dot Delegate Joe T. May: Transit Advocate – In Recognition of His Outstanding Leadership
 green dot Senator John C. Watkins: Transit and Passenger Rail Advocate – In Recognition of His Leadership
 green dot The Honorable Sharon Bulova: Public Official of the Year
 green dot Mr. Dale Zehner: Transit Professional Distinguished Service Award


 green dot Program Winner: Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation
 green dot Honorable Mention: Blacksburg Transit


 green dot Award Winner – Small System: Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT)
 green dot Award Winner – Large System: Virginia Regional Transit (VRT)
 green dot Honorable Mention: GRTC Transit System (GRTC)


 green dot Award Winner: Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (OmniRide)


Transit Advocate – In Recognition of His Outstanding LeadershipSenator Richard Saslaw

Richard L. Saslaw sponsored a budget amendment in the Senate to provide an additional $10 million in transit operating funding. It was especially important this year with increasing ridership and fuel costs and more demand for service. These funds will minimize service cuts, fare increases and help accommodate new service.   Senator Saslaw is a strong advocate for transportation and well respected member of the money committee. He was first elected into the General Assembly in 1976.  He voted for the 1986 revenue increase under Governor Baililes that funds our current transportation system and hasn’t been increased since then. He’s a consistent and sometimes outspoken advocate for increasing revenues to support transportation.  He’s a strong supporter of WMATA and has fought to complete and fund the Silver Line.  We appreciate his leadership and advocacy for public transportation.

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In Recognition of His Leadership to Advance Multi-Modal Transportation Options

Senator Frank WagnerAs chair of the Senate Finance transportation subcommittee, Senator Frank Wagner strongly supported the transit and rail funding amendments sponsored by senators Saslaw and Watkins.

He’s been a strong supporter of light rail in Norfolk and of extending the line to Virginia Beach. He’s committed to providing good travel choices, which was behind the high speed ferry service pilot for which he won funding. This will result in high speed ferry service between military bases in Hampton Roads with the intent of reducing road congestion. As the sponsor of the Governor’s transportation funding legislation he initiated changes to the bill to benefit all modes not just roads.

We appreciate his leadership and support of multi-modal choices.

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Transit Advocate – In Recognition of His Outstanding LeadershipDelegate JIm Scott

Delegate James M. Scott is a strong advocate for transportation and sponsored the companion budget amendment in the House to provide an additional $10 million in transit. Delegate Jim Scott represents the 53rd House District. He is a former teacher and Director of Community Affairs for what is now INOVA Hospital.  Delegate Scott has served in the General Assembly since 1991 and understands transit and local government.  He’s been a stalwart supporter of public transportation and has sponsored many bills to increase revenue for transportation and transit.  A friend and champion for public transportation, VTA is proud to present him with the 2012 Transit Advocate award.

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Transit Advocate – In Recognition of His Outstanding Leadership

Delegate Joe MayDelegate Joe T. May represents Loudoun County.  As Chair of the HouseAppropriations transportation subcommittee he seized the opportunity to help advance Delegate Scott’s transit funding amendment this year. He has worked with the transit community on many bills and is a steadfast supporter and advocate of public transportation and rail. Two years ago he brought the House Transportation Committee to Northern Virginia for a transit tour organized by Northern Virginia transit systems.  We appreciate his leadership in Transportation.

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Transit and Passenger Rail Advocate – In Recognition of His LeadershipSenator John Watkins

Senator John C. Watkins serves the 10th Senatorial district in the Richmond region.  He has been a driving force behind the advancement of intercity passenger rail in Virginia and this Session he successfully sponsored a $28 million budget amendment providing one time funds to maintain and expand regional Amtrak service in Virginia. He’s been a strong advocate and consistent ally in funding public transportation. This Session he gave support to Senator Saslaw’s transit funding amendment. He’s long fought too, for funding to extend public transportation into Richmond’s suburban counties.

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Public Official of the Year Award

Hon. Sharon BulovaThe Honorable Sharon Bulova is one of the founders (some would say a  god-mother) of the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail system, and currently serves as Chairman of the VRE Operations Board. Over the course of her service, VRE has advanced from a speculative proposal to a successful reality. During her term as Chair, VRE has experienced their best year ever with record ridership, and record setting service quality with on-time performance reaching 92.6%. Under her direction VRE instituted a VRE Audit and Finance committee which is now a model for other transportation systems. Mrs. Bulova has shown tremendous leadership promoting more public transportation service in Fairfax County and the region. She’s been a leader in:

  • Extending the new Metrorail Silver Line through Tysons to Reston and continues work to complete the line to Dulles Airport.
  • Guiding the transformation of Tysons Corner into a successful mixed-use, transit-oriented livable community.
  • Providing express bus service on the new Beltway New HOT/Express lanes.
  • Expanding the availability and efficiency of service on the Fairfax Connector, Metro bus routes and the I-66 corridor.
  • Adapting transportation and revitalization with BRAC.

Northern Virginia Residents and travelers are benefiting from her personal involvement and will benefit for years to come. VTA honors her work on the VRE Board and her efforts to advance public transportation and rail.

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Transit Professional Distinguished Service AwardDale Zehner

VRE is a very successful commuter rail service connecting Manassas and Fredericksburg to the District of Columbia via the I-66 and I-95 corridors, respectively.

VRE is unique in several ways, including operating on the rights-of-way of three separate railroads using a private management company. It is owned by two separate transportation district commissions (NVTC and PRTC), directed by a large board of local elected officials and funded by nine localities as well as the Commonwealth and federal government. Each of these features creates special management challenges requiring strong leadership and careful coordination.

Under Dale Zehner’s leadership, VRE has come a long way since it struggled to overcome start-up hurdles through the mid-1980s and finally became known as the “little engine that could” when service began in 1992. Since then VRE has prospered, with ridership now averaging around 20,000 daily passengers. VRE’s customers are primarily well-to-do commuters who could easily switch to their private automobiles, so expectations are high.

Dale has consistently exceeded expectations since he was appointed to his current position in May 2004. After a decade of his leadership, VRE is stronger than ever. As Dale leaves, VRE has 71 new railcars and 20 new locomotives, on-time performance consistently in the 92-97% range, ridership that has doubled under his watch and a culture of customer service that is second to none.

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Program Winner: Harrisonburg Department of Public TransportationHDPT logo

James Madison’s University announcement to close campus to drive through traffic was an opportunity for the City to increase commuter passengers and reduce traffic congestion around campus. Harrisonburg Transit began a program of customer amenities which consisted of shelters, new JMU and city transfer centers, bus service for the expanded football stadium, and real time transit information. Aggressive marketing was done to inform students of changes prior to the gating of campus. Additional buses were added to ensure bus transportation for all students when classes began August 2011. A 9% increase of miles and hours of service has resulted in a 20% increase in both city and JMU passengers. Staff and employees participated in all phases of this program which included design, marketing, and installation of new bus stop signs and shelters.

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Honorable Mention: Blacksburg TransitBT logo

Blacksburg Transit launched the Commuter Route in January, 2011 prior to the start of the January academic semester at Virginia Tech. The commuter route, developed from user input, provides public transportation between neighboring towns of Christiansburg and Blacksburg for those working a traditional 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule. Since implementation the route has increased in ridership from 4.9 passengers per morning to 11.8 passengers.

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Award Winner-Small System: Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT)

CAT logoDiscover Reasons to Ride CAT, a multimedia testimonial and awareness campaign, communicates advantages of using Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) through positive first-person recommendations. Annual passenger surveys have consistently returned high ratings for CAT. This campaign gives a voice to that approval, detailing benefits of the service valuable to customers, promoting a favorable image of transit, and ultimately increasing CAT ridership. In a four-month period during and following the campaign, CAT experienced a 16% growth in passenger boardings and 75% increase in views of the system’s online real-time arrivals map when compared to the same timeframe a year prior.

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Award Winner – Large System: Virginia Regional Transit (VRT)VRT logo

VRT and its “Bus Crazy Guy” are excited about the array of public transportation options available to Virginians to enjoy and want to spread the word to folks who might not be aware of them. In conjunction with Nasura, Inc., VRT has produced four new television commercials for its “Bus Crazy Guy” video marketing campaign, starring CEO Mark McGregor as the title character. The commercials run in VRT’s service areas across Virginia and are intended to introduce suburban/rural bus transit to potential passengers who might not be familiar with it. They also aim to make transit a more interactive experience for riders by giving them the tools to find out more about VRT, as well as encouraging feedback by emphasizing VRT’s growing social media presence. Finally, they make transit more appealing to potential riders by emphasizing VRT’s investment in improving passenger amenities.

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Honorable Mention: GRTC Transit System (GRTC)

GRTC logoA series of unfortunate events in fall 2009 led to a severe decline in employee morale and public opinion of GRTC.  In response, GRTC’s extensive training and safety procedures were immediately reworked, enhanced, and enacted.

In 2010, new CEO, Eldridge F. Coles, wanted to show the true face of GRTC – its dedicated, well qualified, and hard working employees.  In spring 2011, the Marketing department produced a commercial showing the bus operator’s journey from training to arriving at the bus stop, featuring a cast of employee volunteers.  Once the ad hit the local TV, social media, and Regal theaters, bus operators started receiving positive input from the public.  The employee morale and company profile that seemed to have bottomed out in the fall of 2009 were restored and brought to new heights in two short years.  The cornerstone of that turn around was the “Safety First. Service Always.” video.

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Award Winner: Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (OmniRide)PRTC logo

In September 2011, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, PRTC, marked its 25th anniversary with a month-long celebration featuring activities and events for the general community, passengers and staff members, and state and local dignitaries.  As a result, PRTC experienced an increase in ridership, website visits and views of its Facebook page.  The milestone anniversary events also enabled PRTC to demonstrate its importance as a transportation provider, community partner and employer.

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