Profile of Nathaniel "Nat" Ford, CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority
Former CEO of MARTA in Atlanta and SFMTA in San Francisco
Interview location: his office in Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s (JTA) headquarters, where he is Chief Executive Officer.
In one word, Nat would describe himself as a Visionary.
Leading the Way
Unlike many people who work in transit and say they fell into the industry by accident, Nathaniel “Nat” Ford, who is 57, likes to say transit runs in his DNA. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Ford grew up taking buses and subways. Beginning in third grade, he rode a city bus to school. His father worked as an executive for New York City Transit (now a part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA). It's no wonder why he became a leader in the world of transportation.
“On a daily basis, you can see the thousands and thousands of people that you’re responsible for helping get to and from their destinations...”
— Nathaniel "Nat" Ford
Today, Ford is CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority and is operating one of the largest bus rapid transit networks in the nation. They’ve recently converted diesel buses to compressed natural gas. A new regional transportation center is under construction. Ford’s efforts to transform Jacksonville have paid off, and JTA has gotten regional and national recognition. In 2014, the Jacksonville Business Journal named the JTA the year’s Big Turnaround Organization. Then in 2016, APTA gave the JTA its Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.
“Some find value in the income they make. Some are satisfied with the work they do on a daily basis and just want to make sure somebody acknowledges that they’re doing a good job,” he says. “Leadership is not being ‘the boss’ and issuing edicts; it’s really helping people create a vision and an understanding that what they do is so important, either to themselves personally or to the people that they cherish.”
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