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National RTAP / Federal Transit Administration

Transit professionals from rural and Tribal transit systems, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and state RTAP programs gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona March 18-21, 2012 to participate in the 1st Technical Assistance and Tribal Transit Program Conference and Roadeo. Final attendance totaled 213 individuals from 30 states plus the District of Columbia, representing 46 Native American Tribes and 12 state departments of transportation.

The conference got off to a strangely wintry start on Sunday, March 18. Judges, officials, and 22 roadeo contestants persevered through rain, cold, hail, wind, and at times, sunshine to participate in a competition designed to test driving skills and recognize the achievements of rural and Tribal transit operators.

Transit professionals from rural and Tribal transit systems, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and state RTAP programs gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona March 18-21, 2012 to participate in the 1st Technical Assistance and Tribal Transit Program Conference and Roadeo. Final attendance totaled 213 individuals from 30 states plus the District of Columbia, representing 46 Native American Tribes and 12 state departments of transportation.

The conference got off to a strangely wintry start on Sunday, March 18. Judges, officials, and 22 roadeo contestants persevered through rain, cold, hail, wind, and at times, sunshine to participate in a competition designed to test driving skills and recognize the achievements of rural and Tribal transit operators.

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All contestants completed the course and celebrated at the roadeo banquet, where six winners in two divisions were presented with trophies and other prizes. (see article)
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Plans for a welcome reception outdoors in the mild Arizona air on Sunday evening had to be changed, but the weather finally improved. Conference attendees enjoyed views of spectacular mountain and desert scenery from inside as they caught up with old friends and made new ones at the opening get-together.
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The opening session got underway on Monday morning after the posting of the colors by Navajo Transit System veterans and a prayer by Evans Jensen. Leslie Rogers, Region 9 Administrator, greeted the audience and gave a leadership update from FTA and summarized recent events on Capitol Hill. Richard Thompson, President of the National Tribal Transit Association (NTTA), and Patti Monahan, Executive Director of the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP) welcomed attendees on behalf of their organizations, which partnered with FTA to sponsor the conference.
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Breakout sessions filled the rest of Monday and continued throughout Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Sessions were organized into four tracks: Tribal, Transit Management, Transit Operations, and RTAP Program Management. Throughout the day on Monday, FTA staff presented a series of technical assistance sessions for Tribal Transit Program grantees, covering topics such as updates on grant programs, resources available from federal partner organizations, and use of the FTA TEAM system prior to and following grant awards. Other sessions focused on issues and topics of interest to rural transit industry stakeholders and
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Breakout session topics throughout the conference included the following:

• National RTAP's ProcurementPRO
• National RTAP's Emergency Procedures training
• National RTAP's Customer Service training
• National RTAP's Crossing Great Divides
• National RTAP's GTFS Builder
• Cloud Computing
• Safety and Security Resources
• Training Program Makeovers
• Serving Riders with Disabilities
• Ethics and Credible Transit Leadership
• Managing a State RTAP Program
• How Transit Agencies can use Social Media
• Developing, Enhancing and Sustaining Tribal Transit Services
• Rural National Transit Database (NTD) Training
• Coordinated Scheduling and Dispatching
• Mobility Management
• Tribal Transportation Challenges and Best Practices
• Use of Driving Simulators in Training Programs
• Table Talk with RTAP Managers

National RTAP training and technical assistance products, presented by nationally known experts, transit providers from across the country, representatives of technical assistance organizations, state RTAP managers, and National RTAP staff. Highlights included demonstrations of a driver training simulator provided and installed for the duration of the conference by FAAC.
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Incorporated (see article)
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Preceding dinner on Monday evening, conference attendees were honored by a performance by the River People Traditional Dancers and Singers from the Gila River Indian Community. Young dancers in traditional regalia were accompanied by seven singers playing drums and other instruments. After several dances and songs, the group invited members of the audience to join them in a circle dance. National RTAP presented the River People with a plaque to thank the group for their performance and the opportunity to learn more about the culture of their Tribe.

Major events on Tuesday included a keynote luncheon and Exhibitor Expo. Charmaine Knighton, Acting Region 8 Administrator for FTA, delivered the keynote speech at Tuesday's luncheon. Drawing on the theme of the conference for the topic of her talk, Charmaine spoke about opportunities for partnerships between stakeholders across the rural transit industry. Charmaine called upon several transit providers to share examples of collaboration and coordination from the field to illustrate her theme.

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The Exhibitor Expo on Tuesday afternoon featured displays by 19 technical assistance programs, Native American artists, and transit industry vendors. Oh, yes, and ice cream with all the trimmings! (see article)

NTTA conducted a business meeting for current and prospective members on Wednesday morning. Topics of discussion included plans for another National RTAP/FTA/NTTA conference, a legislative update by Kelly Shawn of CTAA, the mechanics of NTTA operation, and collection of data on tribal transit services to aid in advocacy efforts. The business meeting was followed by presentations by seasoned tribal transit managers about successful projects and services they have implemented.

The conference ended with lunch on Wednesday, which was preceded by the retrieval of the colors by Navajo Transit System veterans, accompanied by Raymond Klah on the harmonica. The theme of the 1st Technical Assistance and Tribal Transit Program Conference and Roadeo was creating partnerships to help all those involved in the rural transit industry improve mobility for residents of their communities. The topic of partnerships was evident not only during organized sessions, when transit providers, industry experts, federal and state program managers, and technical assistance organizations discussed challenges and shared best practices, but also during conversations among participants over the course of the three days. By all accounts, the conference delivered practical information on a wide range of timely topics to attendees, and provided valuable networking opportunities.

 

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