WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2024 – Nathaniel P. Ford. Sr., Chief Executive Officer of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), received the prestigious Sharon D. Banks Award for Humanitarian Leadership during a ceremony held at Transportation Research Board's 103rd Annual Meeting at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
The Sharon D. Banks Award is a biennial award established in memory of Sharon D. Banks, the former General Manager of AC Transit in Oakland, California, who chaired the TRB Executive Committee in 1998. She passed away in 1999. The award recognizes innovative and successful leadership in people-oriented initiatives in transportation, sustained over an extended period that exemplify Banks' ideals of humanity and service.
Examples of Ford's leadership in people-oriented initiatives during the pandemic include deploying autonomous shuttles in support of the lifesaving operations at the Mayo Clinic, partnering with local restaurants to provide thousands of meals for essential medical and transportation workers, and launching Wellness on Wheels. This innovative, award-winning initiative retrofitted buses for Agape Family Health professionals and ultimately helped more than 12,000 transit-dependent people receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Additionally, during the pandemic, the JTA delivered 66,00 pounds of food to 19,00 in underserved communities.
"Nat is someone I've had the pleasure of knowing for two decades. He is a true visionary leader who continues to innovate on behalf of the people,” said Susan Shaheen, Professor at UC Berkeley and former TRB Chair. “I was most touched by his nearly automatic response to the challenges of the pandemic by deploying autonomous vehicles to help with the transportation of COVID tests, and then repurposing JTA busses to distribute vaccines to people who did not have access to transportation. Both of these actions are demonstrations of who he is and his service to his community. Nat is an exemplary individual following in Sharon Banks’ footsteps.”
Under Ford's leadership, JTA joined forces with the Mayor's Downtown Homeless Task Force, the Salvation Army, Changing Homelessness, the Clara White Mission, and Sulzbacher Village for women in transition to help those in need by opening an Urban Rest Stop. Ford fostered a humanity and service team atmosphere that resulted in JTA and its employees opening Career Closets, which allows men and women access to professional and business clothing for job interviews; partnering with Farm Share and the Food Insecurity Task Force, and opening a clothing and supplies closet for children and their families in one of Jacksonville's most underserved neighborhoods.
"I remember serving as Assistant Chief Transportation Officer in San Francisco for BART, where I had the privilege of knowing Sharon Banks," said Ford during the ceremony, "Her courage, commitment, and dedication to serving others inspired me deeply, both then and now.
I've become increasingly cognizant of the next generations of transportation leaders, and I hope that my efforts might inspire others to take up this cause."
Actively involved in his community, Ford serves on various boards and committees, including the Advisory Board of Jacksonville University's Davis College of Business, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and Goodwill Industries of Northeast Florida, which he chairs.
Ford is a former member of the TRB's Transit Research Analysis Committee, Transit Cooperative Research Program Oversight and Project Selection Committee, Subcommittee on Planning and Policy Review, Division Committee, and Executive Committee, which he chaired in 2022. Ford also served as Chair of the American Public Transportation Association.
"At TRB, we bring together practitioners and academics to anticipate and answer the challenges we're facing in the transportation sector," said Victoria Sheehan, TRB Executive Director. "It's vital that practitioners like Nat help inform and balance the work of our researchers across different agencies so that we can produce the results that the American Public is relying on."
For the past decade, Ford has led the JTA as its CEO. During that time, the organization has been recognized with many individual and agency awards for leadership, innovation, and championing change. Although these recognitions vary in scope, they reflect Ford and the JTA's tremendous work to improve the quality of life of the greater Jacksonville and Northeast Florida community. Notable recognitions include the Honorable Ray LaHood Award from the Women's Transportation Seminar of Northeast Florida in 2022, the "2020 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager" by the American Public Transportation Association, the "Thought Leader" by the Eno Center for Transportation in 2019, and the "White House Champion of Change in Transportation" by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2016.
About the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA)
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is an independent state agency serving Jacksonville, Florida, and Northeast Florida with multi-modal responsibilities. The JTA provides mass public transit services and builds roads, bridges, and other infrastructure to enhance mobility in Jacksonville. Public transportation services include BRT and regular bus service, paratransit, the St. Johns River Ferry, Skyway APM, and other mobility and on-demand services in Duval, Clay, Baker, Nassau, and St. Johns counties. To learn more, visit www.jtafla.com.