OAKLAND, CA — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will present a total of 11 “Excellence in Motion” awards during a ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, to honor people, projects and organizations for exceptional contributions to Bay Area transportation. The ceremony is preceded by a reception at 8:30 a.m., with the awards presentation by MTC Commissioners beginning at 9 a.m. The 2010 program marks the 29th presentation of the now biennial Excellence in Motion awards, which began in 1977.
Four programs dedicated to helping students make smart transportation choices are sharing top honors as recipients of the 2010 Grand Award: the Bay Area-based Cool the Earth climate change education program; Marin County’s Safe Routes to Schools initiative; the City of San Jose’s Street Smarts traffic safety education program; and the Cycles of Change bicycle program in the East Bay. Among this year’s other award winners are Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore of the California State Senate and author of Senate Bill 375 (2008), which links regional transportation planning with the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and Henry Gardner, for more than 30 years of public and private service in local and regional leadership.
“Our 2010 award winners have gone the extra mile to make improvements that benefit everyone in the Bay Area,” commented MTC Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
The following is a brief summary of the award winners.
Grand Award — Transportation Education for the Next Generation, shared by:
- Cool the Earth, whose mission is to educate students about simple actions that they and their families can take to reduce carbon emissions;
- Marin County’s Safe Routes to Schools initiative, honoring both the Transportation Authority of Marin and its Marin County partners, as well as the Marin County Bicycle Coalition for their collaborative efforts to integrate safety, fitness, congestion relief and emissions reduction in a single program;
- Street Smarts, a program of the City of San Jose, for its effectiveness not only in teaching children to be safer pedestrians and bicyclists, but also in raising awareness among adult drivers; and
- Cycles of Change, promoting bicycling and bike safety, along with top-notch sustainability and employment skills programs.
John T. Foran Legislative Award — California State Senator Darrell Steinberg
Senator Steinberg (D–Sacramento) is the author of SB 375 (2008), California’s forward-thinking legislation requiring that regional targets be set for reducing greenhouse gas. Approved targets must be incorporated into the sustainable communities strategies that metropolitan planning organizations such as MTC are required to adopt as part of their next regional transportation plan. The planning process engendered by SB 375 builds on over a decade of efforts in the Bay Area to focus on maintaining the existing transportation infrastructure and improving public transit. While the focus of SB 375 is climate change, the policies that will help achieve the targets will deliver other critical benefits, including improved mobility, social equity and public health. John T. Foran is the former Bay Area legislator who authored the bill creating MTC in 1970.
Doris W. Kahn Accessible Transportation Award — Brian McLean, Fleet and Transit Manager, City of Vacaville
McLean’s leadership role in establishing the Solano County Taxi Scrip program and his strong consensus-building skills earned him the Doris W. Kahn Accessible Transportation Award (named after a former MTC commissioner who championed equal access to services). The taxi scrip program provides a deep discount to eligible disabled residents of Solano County — $100 worth of scrip can be purchased for $15 — and pairs transit agencies, taxis and riders in a flexible paratransit system for inter-city travel that is available 24/7. Instead of having to make an appointment a week or more in advance, riders simply call a cab when they’re ready to go, with a wait time averaging less than half an hour.
Miriam Gholikely Public Service Award — Jim Gleich
The late Jim Gleich’s life was focused on advocacy, community service and volunteerism. A champion of equal access, his daily work at AC Transit over the course of 16 years, particularly in his capacity as AC Transit’s Deputy General Manager from 1999 until his death at 66 in March 2010, focused on keeping fares affordable and avoiding service cuts. During his career, he worked at state and federal government offices, on an Indian reservation and for a national disability rights organization. Gleich’s community work with the homeless, the disabled, minority groups, incarcerated individuals, and on behalf of education truly exemplifies the spirit of Miriam Gholikely, a longtime MTC advisor and community activist.
Greta Ericson Distinguished Service Award — Henry Gardner
Henry Gardner, who recently stepped down as executive director of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) after nearly eight years of service, is being recognized for the breadth of his public service with the City of Oakland and ABAG. During his 20 years with the City of Oakland — 12 of them as city manager — Gardner dealt with challenges such as the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland Hills fire. He has been credited with improving ABAG’s rapport with other regional agencies and championing a number of new collaborative projects, beginning with the creation of the Joint Policy Committee in 2004 which coordinates the regional planning efforts of ABAG, MTC, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The 2010 Distinguished Service Award, named after the founder of MTC’s awards program, is given to Gardner in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in the public sector.
David Tannehill Special Employee Award — Alec Melkonians, Caltrans Project Manager
The Tannehill Award recognizes an employee who exemplifies the day-to-day dedication to duties that are essential to keeping the region moving. An engineer with Caltrans for 19 years before his untimely death at age 44 in February 2010, Alec Melkonians was assigned to a series of large and challenging engineering and construction projects, including replacement of the Interstate 880 Cypress Structure which collapsed in the Loma Prieta earthquake, seismic retrofits of the Carquinez and Richmond-San Rafael bridges, and the rebuilding of the West Approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to meet current seismic standards. His unwavering dedication to all of his projects and teams, his abilities — both technical and personal — and the high regard his colleagues, peers and co-workers had for him made Mr. Melkonians the most deserving of this year’s award.
In addition to the awards named in honor of outstanding individuals in Bay Area transportation, MTC also will present two Awards of Merit:
- Award of Merit — Mike Rosenberg/Bay Area News Group
“Running on Empty: Bay Area Transit in Trouble,” a five-part series, appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area News Group newspapers from January 10-14, 2010. Lead reporter Mike Rosenberg of the San Mateo County Times led a five-month-long journalistic investigation and, along with a team of 20-25 journalists, delivered a timely story that tracked the falling ridership and declining revenues of troubled Bay Area public transit operators.
- Award of Merit — Highway 101 Ramp Metering Project
The City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County and Caltrans District 4 have been selected to receive an Award of Merit for their roles in the activation of ramp meters on U.S. Highway 101 in San Mateo County. The project includes complex traffic engineering, an innovative stakeholder involvement process, and a high degree of interagency coordination. The end result is an average cut in travel time of 10 minutes after metering lights were turned on at seven on-ramps along the roughly 12-mile stretch of southbound 101 from State Route 92 to the Santa Clara County line.
MTC is the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area’s transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency.
John Goodwin: (415) 778-5262
Pam Grove: (415) 778-6706