Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. 

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Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. 

Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. is an award-winning transportation expert and leading advocate for how autonomous vehicles (AV) and other advances can be used to improve the quality of life for travelers throughout the nation. His proven track record as a change-agent and visionary who embraces state-of-the-art technology and innovations has made him a highly sought after advisor, consultant, and executive coach.

Ford began his stellar career at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York, the oldest and largest in the country, before he went on to become CEO of two of the 10 largest transportation authorities in the US - the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in California, and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) in Georgia.

Those positions gave Ford the distinction of ushering in industry firsts – the first 100% transit smart card and multimillion dollar transit-oriented development at MARTA, and the first real-time smart parking app and oversight of a regional authority spearheading a multibillion development in San Francisco, to name a few. That expertise and forward-thinking was the compass that helped guide Ford when he was named CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). Since joining the JTA in 2012, Ford has been lauded for leading the total transformation of the mid-sized Authority from a local company focused on buses, roads, and bridges, into a best-in-class, regional organization that is held in high-regard locally, nationally, and even globally.

One of Ford administration’s crowning achievements is developing an autonomous vehicle program centered on the JTA’s Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C). The cutting-edge innovation was in the world spotlight during the COVID pandemic when the JTA partnered with autonomous vehicle providers to transport COVID-19 tests for Florida’s esteemed Mayo Clinic.

Always sought after for his industry expertise, Ford serves as 2022 Chair of the prestigious Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that promotes innovations, technology, and research in transportation. He also is a former chair of the influential American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Ford has participated in study missions to Australia, Canada, China, England, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Sweden to provide consultation and advice about transportation policy, management, and sustainable infrastructure development. His global perspective has enhanced his value to corporate boards and commissions that often seek his input.

He has built a legacy on launching innovations in transportation. For example:
• Ford led the JTA’s design and construction of the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC), at LaVilla, a multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art regional transportation hub that is enhancing mobility and stimulating economic development in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.
• His administration helped secure more than $240 million for road and corridor projects for JTAMobilityWorks, an initiative funded by voters in 2014 through the extension of Jacksonville’s Local Option Gas Tax (LOGT). In 2021, the City voted to double the tax for another 30 years to generate $500 million for JTA infrastructure initiatives.
• The JTA recently completed the buildout of the 58-mile First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit system, the largest in the Southeastern United States. • The JTA’s rapid COVID-19 response to promote public health and safety received worldwide recognition. Through Ford’s emphasis on community partnerships, the JTA collaborated with a local health provider to launch Wellness on Wheels, an initiative that required the JTA to retrofit two buses to serve as mobile vaccination units for seniors, individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and people with no health insurance. Wellness on Wheels administered more than 12,000 vaccines.

His multimodal expertise ranges from fixed-route buses to bus rapid transit; from cable cars and trolleys to elevated people-movers; and from light rail and heavy rail to commuter passenger ferries and autonomous vehicles. His experience also extends to bridges, roadways, corridors and street infrastructure; taxi, parking and traffic management; bicycling, walkability, street safety, first/last mile ride options, public-private partnerships and transit-oriented development.

Ford has collaborated with airport authorities including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the most traveled in the world, and Delta Air Lines, to provide public transit access to millions of travelers on a daily basis. He also improved accessibility to the airport by launching C-TRAN transit for airport employees, which stimulated local economic development. His administration has also partnered with Jacksonville International Airport, and the JAXPort Authority on transportation initiatives and logistics.

The JTA has received a record number of industry recognition awards during Ford’s tenure, even during the pandemic. In 2021, industry peers honored the JTA with the APTA awards for Innovation and Marketing. It also received Innovation awards from the prestigious ITS World Congress, and the Florida Public Transportation Association. In 2016, the JTA received the coveted “Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award” from APTA, as well as the “Transportation System of the Year” award from the FPTA.

Ford has also been honored by peers, stakeholders and the media. In recognition of his wisdom and outstanding leadership, Ford received the Honorable Ray LaHood Award from the Women’s Transportation Seminar of Northeast Florida in 2022. He was named the “2020 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager” by APTA. In 2019, he was inducted as a “Thought Leader” by the Eno Center for Transportation. In 2016, Ford was named a “White House Champion of Change in Transportation” by the US Department of Transportation for embracing innovations and improving the quality of all modes of transit.

He is a two-time winner of the “Thomas G. Neusom Founders Award” from the national Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) for the outstanding contributions he
has made to the industry. He also received the honor of being named the “Ultimate CEO” by the Jacksonville Business Journal and was recently inducted into the First Coast Business Hall of Fame in Northeast Florida.

Ford is actively involved in the communities in which he serves. He is currently on the Executive Advisory Board of Jacksonville University’s Davis College of Business, on the boards of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, UF Health Jacksonville, and Goodwill Industries of Northeast Florida, which he chairs.

Ford has an MBA from Jacksonville University’s Davis School of Business. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science in organizational leadership from Mercer University, and is a certified Master Executive Coach. He is a graduate of the Executive Development Consortium Program at Emory University and has completed executive training at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Ford is married to Jannet Walker-Ford, Senior Vice President for Rail and Transit at WSP, and chair of WTS International. They are recognized as two of the most influential people in modern transportation.