On October 1, the Chicago Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) awarded Executive Director Leanne Redden its 2015 Woman of the Year Award. Founded in 1977, WTS is an international organization dedicated to building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women. Below are excerpts from Leanne’s acceptance speech.
It is wonderful to be here. It’s an honor to be named Woman of the Year.
Like all of you, my professional and personal successes have not been achieved on my own–but by partnering with and learning from wonderful people along the way.
If someone were to ask me about the “secret” to success—or to at least to my secret– I’d say:
Find something that really interests you, work hard, and don’t be afraid to make the most of the opportunities given to you. And sometimes, give a door a nudge when it’s ajar. Know opportunities when you see them and make a bit of your own luck!
We all should feel especially lucky to work in the transportation sector. It is one that impacts nearly all of our 8 million regional residents and is key to our region’s economy.
Our public transportation system is the second-largest transit system in the U.S. by passenger miles traveled, behind only New York. The Service Boards– CTA, Metra and Pace–provided about 640 million rides last year.
As Executive Director of the RTA, I really enjoy getting up and going to work every day. I know what I do every day really makes a difference.
To some degree, the RTA is the “engine” that helps the Service Boards provide the services they do—with balanced budgets and regional strategic planning.
Not to say by any means that it’s always easy or that we’re always popular.
When I took over the helm of the RTA, our relations with the Service Boards were not necessarily the warmest they had ever been.
I am a believer in collaboration. Chairman Kirk Dillard and I have worked hard to foster that collaboration with the Service Boards at all levels. I think we’ve been successful and so far, this year’s budget process has proven that to be true. We’ve met deadlines earlier than in past year, without discord.
Public transit is a vital component of—perhaps really the backbone of–a greater shared-mobility ecosystem. Between the divvy bike share program, Uber, Lyft and some new businesses like GetAround there is a growing patchwork of “on demand” transportation options that supplement our fixed route system.
Data shows us the Chicago region is a top pick by millennials as a place to live. They choose the best transportation mode for each trip they take. They don’t just “jump in a car” or on a bus or train. Their decisions are “multi-modal”. Our regional system has to continue to work to meet these changing needs.
Technology is a common thread that runs through all our lives and that certainly includes moving around our region. Transit has to keep up, whether it’s with a new Ventra mobile app or charging areas at stations and on trains. Just Tuesday at City Club, CTA President Carter said that a 4G wireless network will be available throughout the CTA system by early next year. No more losing service while underground on the Red and Blue lines. These kind of changes really matter to riders.
I’m part of the test group using the new Ventra app to buy Metra tickets and nearly every day a rider asks me about it. When it rolls out, people are going to adapt immediately.
Many challenges lie ahead, not the least of which is funding.
There is still no state operating budget, and no state capital budget in the offing. As of today, there is also not a long-term federal funding plan for transportation.
I say all this not dampen the mood, but to reiterate that we have to work together to meet these challenges. I know we are up to the task.
Before I end, I’d like to acknowledge the RTA team here with me tonight and thank you again publicly for all your hard work.
And, finally—last but not least—my husband Brian who I want to thank very much for all of his love and support.