New Mexico ranks 5th largest in size among the 50 states. There are many transportation providers, large and small, public and private, located throughout the more than 121,000 square mile area.
How do they stay connected, receive training, and remain relevant in the eyes of decision makers like State Legislators? The New Mexico Transit Association (NMTA) plays a big role, acting as a communication hub for transit providers and working closely with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) Transit and Rail Division.
Projects, Trainings, and Policy
“NMTA hosts quarterly training sessions and the annual Transit Road-eo, Conference, and Expo,” says Melissa Drake, NMTA’s Administrative Director. “The NMTA Legislative and Communications Subcommittee provides strategic planning to work with lawmakers, state officials, and the public at-large to accomplish positive and progressive policy initiatives that benefit all transit providers and the citizens who utilize public transit.”
Drake, who is NMTA’s only paid employee, also disperses timely and relevant communications via email and newsletters, among other things. “I do everything from answering phones, bookkeeping and the annual audit, coordinating NMTA Board Meetings, organize training sessions, and communicate/assist transit agencies in New Mexico with any needs they may have,” she says.
According to Drake, the biggest project the organization is currently working on is trying to secure a state funding source for public transportation in the state. “We do not have a standing state budget for public transportation in New Mexico,” she says. “We are trying to improve the image of public transportation in the state to show that there is a need for a funding source in the state budget.”
A Shift to Virtual Engagement
As with every organization, NMTA saw a shift in operations during the COVID-19 health pandemic. “One of the most challenging things I face is providing high quality training opportunities for transit agencies using a virtual platform. The challenge is finding topics that are needed by our agencies, finding a presenter who can present virtually and be engaging to keep the attention of attendees,” says Drake.
Drake, who has been in her role for 11 ½ years, keeps extremely busy and loves her job – especially the in-person events.
“I’m most passionate about the annual NMTA Bus Road-eo, Conference and Expo,” she says. “This event is so meaningful to me because it connects all aspects of transit together. The Conference and Expo is kicked-off with the Bus Road-eo. This is when we highlight our bus operators and celebrate them for all that they do for transit in their communities and our state.”
During the Road-eo, bus operators from across the state gather together for a friendly competition where they run different obstacles and showcase their driving skills, as well as perform actions like wheelchair securement.
Due to COVID-19, the Road-eo, Conference and Expo has not been held since 2019. Although there is not a date set for the next in-person conference, Drake says she is looking forward to the next time everyone is able to meet again in person.
More on Membership
NMTA is a membership-based organization. NMTA offers different categories of membership depending on organization type, size, and funding source. Members have access to all communications, get free training, and get a reduced registration rate for the annual conference.
According to Drake, the bulk of their current membership is rural transportation providers. In addition to transit organizations/districts, NMTA offers membership levels for educational institutions, non-profits, small business, and vendors that have something to do with the transportation industry, among others.
To learn more about NMTA, visit nm-ta.com. To be added to the NMTA email list, contact Melissa Drake at email@example.com.
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