By Debbie Hersman
Yesterday, I started a week in Florida engaging with stakeholders in multiple transportation modes – the maritime industry, mass transit, and aviation. I anticipate an informative and productive series of meetings and events where we will discuss ways to raise the bar on safety. I’ll be blogging about these events, and in honor of Women’s History Month, I thought it would be good to emphasize women of character, courage, and commitment who work tirelessly every day to improve transportation safety.
Yesterday afternoon, I met with representatives from Miami-Dade Transit (MDT), the largest transit operation in Florida and the 17th largest public transit system in the nation. We discussed MDT’s innovative efforts to sustain a safe system, which recorded some of its highest ridership numbers in 2013, surpassing the 21 million mark. Each day starts with a safety “toolkit” meeting. MDT also has a strict distraction/cell phone policy for employees, and they are purchasing over one hundred new rails cars equipped with inward facing video.
Leading this effort is MDT’s Director, Ms. Ysela Llort who is a trailblazer, succeeding in a traditionally male industry and upholding a strong commitment to safer mass transit operations. Working with Ms. Llort is Ms. Karla Damian, the senior Public Information Officer for MDT, one of the individuals with whom I met yesterday. Karla started at MDT in 2003 in the Marketing Division, and now works closely with Ms. Llort in responding to media requests, and assisting Ms. Llort with her presentations and other tasks. Karla also serves as the Legislative Affairs liaison and spearheads MDT’s public outreach efforts.
Strong, capable women in the rail industry are not as unique as you might think. At the NTSB, we’re privileged to have Ms. Georgetta Gregory as the Chief of our Railroad Division. Throughout her career, Georgetta has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to safety, previously serving in such key safety positions as the Assistant General Manager at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and Program Manager at the California Public Utilities Commission. She was a charter member of the Federal Transit Administration’s Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety, supports Operation Lifesaver, Inc., and is a former board member of the California Operation Lifesaver Program.
Georgetta has said, “I love smart women,” and I couldn’t agree more. With intelligence, ingenuity, and passion, women have contributed extensively to our transportation system and held some of the highest transportation positions, such as former Secretaries of Transportation Elizabeth Dole and Mary Peters. Throughout the week, I look forward to noting more women of character, commitment, and courage in transportation safety.