Last year, things around the county might have seemed a bit rocky for Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller. But, statewide, his reputation looks like it’s doing just fine.
Miller was recently elected 2015-2016 chair of the Florida Public Transportation Association. The appointment came at the FPTA’s annual meeting, held this week in Daytona Beach.
“I’m honored to be chosen to lead the Florida Public Transportation Association over the coming year,” said Miller, according to a PSTA press release. “Just like the 600 employees of PSTA, Florida has dedicated transit professionals all across the state working hard to improve their communities.”
Miller’s public transportation career began more than 20 years ago. Before taking the PSTA’s reigns in 2011, he headed the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority in Des Moines, Iowa, worked on a commuter rail line in the Washington, D.C. area, and was chief operating officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System, in North Carolina.
He also holds an MBA in public administration from Syracuse University and an undergraduate degree from William and Mary.
Under Miller’s leadership, the PSTA has recorded four consecutive years of all-time ridership highs. (Note: the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Pinellas County’s total population increased by about 2.4 percent between 2010 and 2014 — or by around 21,000 people.)
It was also during Miller’s tenure that the agency became one of only three transit agencies in the country to receive a gold standard award from the Transportation Security Association two years in a row.
Miller’s other positive résumé points: under his watch, the PSTA implemented the first free Wi-Fi bus fleet in the state, and launched the agency’s first “real-time” system, where riders can track, via GPS, exactly where their bus is at any particular moment.
The FPTA announcement comes at a favorable time for Miller, as he could use some good press.
Recently — as first reported by SaintPetersBlog’s Janelle Irwin — the PSTA’s 15-member board of directors gave Miller the worst performance review of his career.
Based on a scale which equates a 5 with a perfect score, Miller’s collective score total came in at just 3.34 — down from 4.47 last year. The ranking puts Miller between the “average” and “meet[ing] expectations” categories.
And while none of the reviews named the exact instances which led to Miller’s low marks, it can be reasonably surmised that the Department of Homeland Security scandal didn’t help.
The incident involved Miller being accused of using grant money intended to promote security on buses to promote Greenlight Pinellas, a failed initiative that, in theory, would have brought millions more in annual revenue to the transit agency through an extra one-penny sales tax.
Today, Miller’s professional efforts are being focused on the PSTA’s Path Forward Plan — a new strategic direction that, according to those involved, will create a more efficient, cost-effective and customer-oriented transit system.
“Brad Miller has a robust passion for transit,” said PSTA Chair Bill Jonson. “His appointment as chair of FPTA will be great for transit systems across the state of Florida.”
The FPTA is one of the most active state transit associations in the nation. It includes 37 transit agencies, which stretch from Pensacola to Key West. Its mission is “to continuously support improved public transportation in Florida through advocacy, innovation, education and partnerships.”
A nonprofit association, the FPTA’s members include every major public transit agency in Florida, as well as interested citizens and businesses. Its membership touts 29 fixed route systems, a commuter railroad, a heavy-rail commuter system, and two people mover systems.
“Public transit has great momentum in Florida right now,” said FPTA Executive Director Lisa Bacot. “We’re looking forward to working with Brad and making some great strides for public transit in our state.”