Speakers


General Manager
MBTA

Effective January 1, 2019, Steve Poftak joined the MBTA as General Manager. General Manager Poftak, who previously served as the Vice Chair of the Fiscal and Management Control Board and as a Director of the MassDOT Board since 2015, comes to the T from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. Previously, Poftak was Research Director and Director of the Center for Better Government at the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research. Prior to that, he worked at the Commonwealth's Executive Office for Administration and Finance, where he managed the $1.3 billion capital budget, prepared the state's quarterly cash flow reporting, and monitored non-tax revenue receipts. Other experience includes service on the Commonwealth's Finance Advisory Board and Zero-Based Budget Commission. Poftak holds an MBA from the Olin School at Babson College and a BA in Political Science from Middlebury College. He is a Boston resident and has children who attend the Boston Public Schools.​​

Executive Director
MBTA Commuter Rail

Rob brings over thirteen years of experience in the pubic and private sectors to TPRG in a number of senior management and legal positions.

Most recently, Rob was the Deputy General Manager and Chief of Staff for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the nation’s fifth largest public transportation authority, overseeing the Operations, Design and Construction, Transit Police, General Counsel’s Office, Real Estate, Planning and Development, Systemwide Accessibility, Public Affairs, Communications and Systemwide Modernization (Automatic Fare Collection) departments.

Before joining the MBTA, he was Chief of Staff for the Executive Office of Transportation (now MassDOT), which oversees the Massachusetts Highway Department, Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission and the Registry of Motor Vehicles, with direct oversight of the Legal, Legislative Affairs and Communications Departments.

Besides extensive management experience, Rob was General Counsel for the Executive Office of Transportation, managing all legal issues for the Executive Office, including overseeing litigation and regulatory issues, conducting real property transactions, reviewing legislation, and representing the Executive Office in dealings with private parties and state agencies.

Before entering public service, Rob worked at Choate, Hall and Stewart as an attorney in the land use and litigation departments. Rob graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University School of Law and from the University of Virginia.

Chief Technical Officer
MBTA Commuter Rail
Chief Technology Officer
InSite Wireless Group

Mr. Mullin has more than 30 years of experience designing, deploying, and operating wireless networks and network infrastructure. Currently responsible for technical research, development, and analytics at InSite Wireless Group, a wireless infrastructure company headquarted in Alexandria, VA, he oversees strategic initiatives in towers, DAS, and small cells. He has designed and deployed specialized coverage solutions for the Boston MBTA, Los Angeles Metro, and Atlanta MARTA subways; Las Vegas Convention Center, Minnesota Twins Target Field, and Wynn/Encore Resorts in Las Vegas and Boston, among other high profile venues throughout the US. Previously Mr. Mullin worked with Arch Wireless, Harris Corporation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He holds a BSCE from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, an MBA from Boston University, is a Registered Professional Engineer and member of IEEE and WIA Innovation Technology Council.

Deputy Chief
New York City Transit

Alla V. Reddy is a Deputy Chief of Data, Research & Development at MTA New York City Transit (NYCT). With 40 years' experience in transit management, operations research, and planning, he oversees the NYCT's efforts in quantitative research to solve management problems and improve system productivity/efficiency. Using "big data" analytics and optimization techniques, he provides real-time visualization tools, dashboards (internal and public), policy recommendations to senior management, external stakeholders and policymakers. Statistics kept by his department includes Key Performance Indicators (KPI), service planning/schedule making data, and Federally mandatory reporting. Also serves as an internal consultant to other MTA departments including Audit, Office of Management and Budget, Law, and Office of Civil Rights, Customer Communications. He has extensive professional experience in systems development lifecycle, operations research, project leadership, statistical and quantitative analysis, performance audit, industrial engineering, process improvement and technology evaluation. He holds a Master’s degree in Operations Research from NYU Polytechnic University in Brooklyn.

Executive Director
Texas Central

HOLLY REED brings her love for Texas and for taking on big ideas to her role as Managing Director, External Affairs, for Texas Central. As a native Texan, she is passionate about bringing the train to her home state and sharing its benefits – transforming how people think about travel, putting people to work and saving lives.

Working on the Texas high-speed train is a perfect fit for Holly, as it builds on her career of working on other transformative projects involving critical infrastructure. During Holly’s 25-year career at AT&T, she helped facilitate network deployments of high-speed internet, mobility networks, and communication infrastructure. Her background there includes leadership roles in Customer Service, Strategic Planning, IT, Sales, Marketing and Communications.

At Texas Central, Holly leads the team supporting the external initiatives of the multi-billion dollar project driving awareness of the positive impacts on jobs and economic development, growing support and coordinating with State, Local and Federal stakeholders. Her responsibilities include public policy, outreach, government relations and branding, media and communications activities. B

ecause tackling big projects is close to her heart, you might find Holly hiking or traveling in some remote corner of the globe. In her spare time, she can also be found running at White Rock Lake, playing golf or other sports with friends and family or attending anything involving her beloved Texas Aggies.

CEO
Maryland Transit Administration
CEO
ELERTS

Ed English is CEO at ELERTS, where he oversees the strategic direction of ELERTS’ Situational Awareness platform to make “See Something, Say Something” more actionable. Realizing people wanted to report safety & crime issues to authorities but didn't like calling 911, ELERTS created a simple app to let them do so. Dozens of transit agencies use ELERTS system to help keep over 2 billion riders safe annually. Ed's previous tech company protected computers from spyware, this time he's protecting people from all sorts of dangers. Ed is a huge Batman fan and he programmed Frogger for the Atari in the 1980s.

Ed has a Computer Science degree from Boston College

Vice Chairman
WMATA
Director of Technology - Paratransit
MBTA
Senior Director - Compliance
Amtrak
Advisor
ASLRAA

Professional Experience:

August 1, 2012 – present Ogborn Consulting Group, LLC ("OCG") - Managing Member. OCG provides consulting services to the transportation industry

September 1, 2013 – present American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association – Senior Advisor

November 1, 2016 – present Short Line Safety Institute – Senior Advisor

Prior Professional Experience:

1991 – July 31, 2012 Executive Vice President and Managing Director of OmniTRAX, Inc. ("OmniTRAX"). OmniTRAX is one of North America's largest private transportation and railroad management companies

Professional Organizations and Memberships:

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (1994 – present) – Chairman (2010 – 2013) and various officer positions

Rail-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (2010 – 2016) – (Chairman (2016) – Advises the STB, Department of Transportation, and Congress on transportation policies, legislation, and regulations

Rail Industry Working Group (1994 – present – Committee made up of large and small railroad representatives to foster understanding and resolve problems within the industry

Colorado Transit and Rail Advisory Council and predecessors and Freight Advisory Council (1998 – present)

Colorado Freight Advisory Council (1998 to present – Vice Chairman)

Education:

B.A. University of South Dakota

J.D. University of South Dakota

Deputy Administrator & Chief of Planning, Programming, and Engineering Officer
Maryland Transit Administration

Holly Arnold has an extensive background in implementing innovative transportation projects, with both public and private sector experience in the transit industry. She is currently the Deputy Administrator and Chief Planning, Programming, and Engineering Officer for the Maryland Transit Administration. In this role, Ms. Arnold oversees a team of over 200 in the Planning, Capital Programming, Engineering, Construction Management, Real Estate, and Local Transit Support departments for the 13th largest transit system in America, with six modes – local bus, metro subway, light rail, paratransit, commuter bus, and commuter rail – including an annual operating budget of $850 million and a 6-year capital budget of over $3.3 billion.

Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA)
Chairman

Mike Hines is the Market Manager for Industrial Sensing with OFS, in Avon, CT, USA. His responsibilities include market, product and business development in Industrial Sensing for applications in upstream, mid-stream and downstream oil and gas markets, including downhole, pipeline, and reservoir monitoring. Mike is also actively involved with technologies to help bring value to the rail and perimeter security markets through distributed fiber optic sensing. With a background in marketing and economics, he is a twenty-five year veteran of the fiber optics industry, focusing on speciality optical fiber and associated technologies. Mike holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and a Master of Business Administration.

Director
New Jersey Operation LifeSaver
Senior Cyber Security Analyst
RTD Denver

Currently working for RTD as Sr Cybersecurity Analyst - now passing 10 years in multiple positions there. Before moving to Colorado, I was the IT Manager of USF Federal Credit Union. Prior to that, I was the Director of IT at welding consumables manufacturing plant. Served in the US Navy as an Electronics Technician. I do private consulting for cybersecurity engineering and security testing. Love to play chess, read, travel, and tinker with things – anything. Certifications: Yes.

Board of Directors
Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA)
Vice President, Safety, Risk Management, and Accessible Services Management
Capital Metro
Electronic Fare Operations Manager - Smart Media Technology and Mobile Ticketing
RTD

Tonya Anderson joined the Regional Transportation District in 2013 as its Product Manager of Electronic Fare Operations. Tonya is accomplished in the electronic fare collection industry and brings to RTD a wealth of experience and knowledge in key electronic fare collection technology. She has held project management, program management and communications officer positions with the United States Air Force, for which she played a leading role in maintaining and operating mission-critical command and control systems. Tonya holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Colorado-Boulder, as well as a certificate of completion in Product Management from General Assembly. In Tonya’s current role at RTD, she leads a cross-functional team from every department to maintain and operate two electronic fare collection systems: a card-based, contactless smart card system and a mobile ticketing system. Under her direction, RTD this year became the first transit agency in the world to offer real-time trip planning and ticket purchasing for the agency’s buses and trains within the Uber ride-hailing app, through a strategic partnership with mobile ticketing company Masabi. Since the launch of in-app ticketing in Uber’s app in June, over 44,000 tickets were sold through the end of December 2019.

Founder & CEO
Connixt
Director Technology Infrastructure
MARTA

John Cochran is a seasoned, results-driven, and multifaceted IT professional offering over 30 years of extensive experience in overseeing managerial/supervisory operations and enhancing corporate productivity along with a rich-mix of transferable skills gained from diverse capacities. John is a motivational leader at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) who directly manages the CCTV Administrators, Server Administrators, Network Engineers, Telecommunication Technicians, Service Desk Analyst, Desktop Support Technicians, and Network Operations Center Technicians.

Senior Planner
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA)

Shirley Qian is a Senior Planner at Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, the managing agency of the Capitol Corridor intercity passenger rail service in Northern California. Her background is in environmental sustainability and urban planning, but her work expands into passenger rail technology as well. Shirley grew up in Houston, TX, went to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and is now working and living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2019, she was selected by Progressive Railroading magazine as a Rising Star of the North American railroad industry, a program that recognizes up-and-coming leaders under the age of 40 in the rail industry.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager
Institute for Transportation Research and Education

Sarah Searcy is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Sarah leads or assists with the development and management of proposals, projects, and activities related to bicycle and pedestrian transportation. In addition to project management, she has expertise in coordinating large-scale primary data collection efforts, sampling and survey design, statistical testing, and geospatial analysis and visualization techniques. Sarah is currently leading a study of pedestrian trespassing on railroad right-of-ways in North Carolina that applies thermal video camera systems to collect pedestrian trespassing event data for use in modeling and analysis.

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Director - Safety, Security and Training
Paducah & Louisville Railway
Head of Planning
Crossrail 2 (UK)
Green Line Extension (GLX) Program Manager
MBTA

In 2006 John was recruited by the Commonwealth of ?Massachusetts ti oversee the $2.3 billion Green Line extension to the communities of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford, Massachusetts. John is a former Vice President at ARCADIS and Program Manager at Parsons Group International Unlimited. He was the deputy program manager on a $7.6 billion rail project in Dubai and oversaw a $203 million, 42-month construction project for the Chicago Transit Authority from 2002 to 2007. John's experience overseeing large, complicated transportation projects made him an ideal candidate to provide oversight of real estate acquisition, stakeholder management, procurement, design and construction for 4.5 miles of new Green Line track, structure, signal, power delivery and communications. The program foresees the construction of 7 new rail stations, road and traffic improvements, the construction of a new 55,000 square foot Vehicle Maintenance Facility, and the procurement of 24 new Green Line rail cars. John oversaw a $203 million, 42-month construction project for the Chicago Transit Authority. He served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and his MBA at DePaul University in 2005. 

Project Manager & CBTC System Engineer
SNCF (France)

Project manager, senior system engineer, expert in CBTC, signalling and ATS system. Worked over 20 years in signalling systems (ATC/ATS/ Interlocking systems). 15 years experience by Matra and Siemens as system and design engineer on ATC projects (SACEM and CBTC in Paris, Hong Kong, ...). CBTC operation and maintenance expert (reference trainer on Paris RATP Line 1 GOA4 Project). He joined SNCF in 2012 as Signalling engineer and CBTC project manager. Currently, he is in charge of installation, configuration and validation activities on EOLE NEXTEO Project in Paris.

Head – Information Mgmt & Technology
Light Rail Manila
Editor in Chief
Railway Gazette

Chris is Editor-in-Chief of the Railway Gazette Group of specialist business publications for the railway industry. Having joined the magazine as Editorial Assistant in April 1982, he held a variety of posts before being appointed Editor in April 2006. Over the past 28 years, Chris has travelled extensively, visiting and reporting on railway developments in more than 40 countries.

Vice President Business Development
Trapeze Group

Paul Comfort is host of the world's #1 public transportation CEO podcast, Transit Unplugged and author of the just released, best selling book “The Future of Public Transportation” with 40 top CEOs, Futurists and Associations.

Mr. Comfort is a longtime industry veteran and the former CEO of one of America's top transit systems, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) in Baltimore. He served as an elected County Commissioner and County Administrator for two Maryland counties and is a recipient of the transportation industry's highest individual honor - The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Presidents Award.

Former Deputy Director - Strategic Initiatives
New York City Transit

Bob Newhouser retired in April 2019 after a 40-year career in public transportation planning and analysis. He has worked in individual roles and managing large staff teams of up to 40 people in the areas of budgeting, transit ridership forecasting, performance metrics and operations analysis at Charles River Associates, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (13 years) and at NYC Transit (25 years), retiring as Deputy Director, Operations Support—Strategic Initiatives.

Founder
Rail Innovation Group

Liam Henderson built on his transport planning career in 2016 to found The Rail Innovation Group to develop an ecosystem of start-up tech companies in rail. He has built relationships across the rail and tech sectors to promote the role small digital suppliers have in solving challenges faced by rail and mobility providers. In under four years, the organisation has secured endorsement and consultation from public sector bodies keen to support the community. In 2019 Liam launched the Recognised Innovation Scheme to highlight leaders in cultural change within industry, and suppliers driving through creative solutions. He also developed the Start-Up Rail programme - an initiative to discover and promote new start-up talent from around the UK's tech communities, beyond traditional rail supply hubs.

Founder
Forcing Function
Attorney
Shulman Rogers

With over 30 years of wireless experience, Alan Tilles is viewed as one of the “go-to” attorneys in the industry regarding spectrum utilization. From radio manufacturers, to frequency coordinators, radio engineers, public safety agencies, railroads and utilities, he is frequently called upon to create innovative answers to complex technological problems.

Alan’s work in wireless goes well beyond simply reviewing contracts and writing FCC comments. Using his extensive background owning and running radio stations, Alan has been at the forefront of conceiving and proposing rules at the FCC to address problems faced by the wireless industry. Major projects include: authoring rules for land mobile radio narrowbanding; representing hundreds of public safety entities in 800 MHz rebanding; working with the Telecommunications Industry Association on its Smart Building Initiative, authoring rules defining interference; writing and evaluating Requests for Proposal to implement public safety radio systems; and helping railroads acquire spectrum for Positive Train Control. He is a co-founder of the Government Wireless Technology & Communications Association.

Considering this background, both technically and legally, data privacy work was a natural outgrowth of Alan’s expertise. As a member of the Shulman Rogers Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Practice, he helps companies implement data privacy policies, provides important assistance when breaches occur, and partners with the Firm’s litigation and government contracting teams on cyber litigation issues. Alan’s service on the Board of Trustees of Capitol Technology University further aids his insight into the world of data privacy.

As one of the most sought-after public speakers in the country, Alan can be seen at seminars and webinars nationwide on a regular basis, including the International Wireless Communications Expo and the Global Transport Forum. His writing can be seen on websites such as Urgent Communications, and he is a regular contributor on Federal News Radio.

Sales Director
Easymile

Joseph Holmes is the Director of Sales for North and South America. Joseph is responsible for driving sales activity and increasing the number deployments across the Americas. Joseph has worked within transportation since 2005 in numerous customer facing and business development roles. Joseph worked for FirstGroup PLC prior to joining EasyMile and experienced working across both bus and rail contracts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Joseph currently lives in Denver, CO where EasyMile's North American HQ is located.

Manager, Enterprise Systems Development
Trimet

Cornel Bleoaja has more than 25 years of Information Technology experience related to Health Care, Energy and Transportation. He helps organizations set directions and advance through market disruption by partnering with key thought leaders and influencers to realize practical strategy, expand technology, improve process, increase engagement, and slash costs. In 2019 Cornel joined TriMet in Portland, Oregon, where he is leading the Enterprise Systems Development; he is building a strong innovative development team along with strategies, architectures, roadmaps and business cases. He is leveraging technology to improve urban mobility and increase ridership, and is providing data tools to help manage operations and planning of fast & frequent transit services respond to evolving transportation challenges.

COTA
Special Advisor

Brandon Thomas is a Partner at Grayline Group, and Managing Partner of Blockview Partners, where he leads the Publications, Capital, and Consulting practices focused on the emerging cryptocurrency asset class. Brandon has been involved in the cryptocurrency space since 2014 when he first engaged on behalf of a foreign investment fund as Head of US operations. Since then, he has written and spoken extensively providing his insights and perspective on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Prior to his work with the investment fund, Brandon worked in both startup and corporate environments as he discovered his passion for working among disruptions. Brandon co-wrote the initial data strategy that revolutionized campaign politics by creating a record for every US voter (aka a “voter file”) which has been used by every Democratic presidential campaign since. He was employee #1 at one of the first software-as-a-services (SaaS) startups in the HR space. He also founded a social media development firm that later garnered 35 million users in partnership with The Washington Post and Facebook. From the rise of data in politics to the emergence of SaaS to the ubiquitous nature of social media, Brandon has worked to build numerous businesses to understand and exploit opportunities spurred by ever-increasing technological change. Brandon’s latest focus is on the emerging cryptocurrency asset class, where he leverages his vast network of government policy, business, security, and academic contacts to understand the people and trends that underlie this rapid and global emergence. Brandon began his career working at The White House and advising national political campaigns on communications strategy. He even got to fly on Air Force One a couple of times! He then went on to develop new businesses for RadioShack and The Washington Post Company, among others. He founded his first startup in 2007 which focused on the use of social media in politics and subsequently sold it to The Washington Post Company (now Graham Holdings) in 2009. Brandon received his BA from The George Washington University and his MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Director of Innovation & Digital Communications at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
WMATA
Division Chief
MBTA

Marc Romain, is the Division Chief of the Operation Control Center (OCC) for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Marc joined the MBTA in 2004 as a Bus Operator. After seven years of successful service, Marc transitioned into MBTA Operations and quickly adapted to his new role as a bus dispatcher at the OCC. With a passion for developing new skill sets, Marc learned to drive transit vehicles and earned a reputation as a solution-driven, effective troubleshooter of system-wide problems. He was promoted to the position of OCC Supervisor for the transit rail system where he continued to excel. His comprehensive institutional knowledge led to his further promotion to Deputy Division Chief of OCC before assuming his current role as Division Chief of the MBTA’s Operations Control Center. Marc’s service to the Authority has been exemplary.