Beverly Scott is being honored as a Champion of Change for her time and effort developing innovative ways to help grow and expand the transportation industry.
I am deeply honored and humbled to be recognized by the White House as a Transportation Innovator Champion of Change.
For the better part of thirty-plus years, I have been privileged to work at public transportation systems serving diverse communities across the United States. At the end of the day, regardless of size and complexity, geography, economics, race, ethnicity, gender, or age, the availability, overall quality – safety, convenience, choices -- and affordability of our transportation systems and services matters!
Since 2007, I have been at the helm of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), the ninth largest public transit system in the United States. I have served a time when most of us have had to take the actions and make the hard “reset” decisions necessary to recharge and reposition our agencies and our workforce for the future. Because, make no mistake about it – at the end of the day, to borrow a phrase from my Mayor, the Honorable Kasim Reed, that is the business that we are in – “the future-making business.”
In the Atlanta region and the State of Georgia, smart decisions on transportation investment have always been a game changer. It is also a space where the realities of race, class, economic prosperity and opportunity meet, and where important unfinished business remains to be completed.
Today is no different. The importance of transportation investment is absolutely front and center. And, on July 31st, there will be a historic statewide transportation sales tax referendum -- with an investment list for the 10-county Atlanta region that includes over 50% transit projects and services – a true first. Is it a perfect list? I doubt that list exists. Is there a Plan B? Certainly, but it is not pretty. At MARTA, we have done our level best over the past several years to be good regional partners; to be open and transparent in our decision-making; to take the actions needed to be responsible public stewards; and, to be respectful, but unafraid to make our case and speak truth to power.
What makes me tick? Personally, I try not to forget a few key things. First, as much as I love what I do, it is not about us! The transportation decisions that we make every day at all levels (or, fail to make – both big and small) make the difference between who gets to Point A and Point B, which communities and businesses are healthy, thrive and prosper, and which ones do not. In the final analysis, that’s the “IT.” Next, as a leader, it is my job to help our team run our leg of the race the very best that we can, including preparation for the hand off, respecting that everyone is a “professional” (regardless of title) that does their job well and gives it their best effort. And, we are all always learning. I know that I am.
Finally, I do not forget that as an African American female executive, I am privileged to stand where I am – in no small measure because of the sacrifices and work of a lot of good people (none perfect) – family, friends and others that I have never known, all shoulders that I stand on. And, it is supposed to make a difference. Particularly when it is most chaotic, I listen for my inner voice. Pretty simply, if the tables were turned – how would I want to be treated?
I always say that I am a “start-up, fix-up, change, transition manager” with a typical organizational lifespan of about five years. Candidly, I am a high impact player, absolutely passionate about the value of all aspects of our nation’s critical transportation infrastructure and services – rubber tires, trains, boats, planes, roads and streetscapes, trails, channels, ports and terminals, as well as the workforce that we depend upon to make it all work.
And I can honestly say that I am even more energized today than I was over thirty years ago -- when I first began working in public transportation. For me, it has been and remains a major part of my life’s work.
Beverly Scott is CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority