When it comes to its annual meetings, TMA Bucks always hosts a lavish affair, complete with a special guest speaker from the transportation industry, buffet breakfast or lunch and scenic setting.
Naturally, if someone told executive director Steve Noll at 2019’s meeting, which took place at The Warrington, that he’d be addressing board and community members from his home office this year, he would’ve thought they were crazy.
But that was the reality on Friday, June 12, when the transportation management association held its 21st annual, yet first-ever virtual, meeting, at 11:30 a.m. via Zoom.
“It’s been a very bizarre year. I think that’s the best way I can describe it,” Noll said. “I had many questions and concerns and things that we’ve worked through, and it’s been very much a team effort.”
Noll thanked the staff of TMA Bucks as well as its board of directors for continuing the nonprofit’s mission of leading and advocating for transportation management services and solutions that impact Bucks County.
“Our aim has always been to be the go-to source for transportation information and resources in Bucks County, and we are delivering. Traffic at tmabucks.com has been up nearly 25 percent compared with last year. Our social media impressions are up 20 percent,” Noll said. “Over the last 21 years, we’ve trenched through hurricanes, blizzards, floods, the Great Recession, transit strikes and funding crises. So, there’s no way a pandemic is going to stop us and I’m very pleased to say that it hasn’t. We’ve weathered the storm this year well, we’ve continued our growth before and during this unexpected change, and we will continue to grow.”
COVID-19 negatively impacted TMA Bucks in some ways, including the postponement of billboard advertisements for SEPTA and alternative transportation; cancelation of the annual Bucks County High School Seatbelt Safety Challenge and golf outing fundraiser; and inability to renew memberships since March.
But it hasn’t been all bad.
“We will still be giving, from the TMA Bucks Foundation, a scholarship to a deserving student this year. We’re in a position that we can still fulfill our mission despite losing our big fundraiser for a year,” he said.
The organization is also working on a variety of projects, including the securing of grant funding for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, one of which will be placed in Middletown Township; the establishment of a community bike-sharing program; and revisiting the feasibility of locating a passenger rail station in Morrisville.
Another positive outcome, according to Noll, is the likely growth of telecommuting, which would decrease traffic congestion and improve air quality.
“The pandemic is convincing employers that teleworking works and has many benefits. These employers are seeing that employees are equally or even more productive when they’re working remotely, as opposed to working in an office. Many are already thinking about what’s next when the world returns to normal,” he said.
Several weeks ago, TMA Bucks made its “Telecommuting Guide” available for download. The guide shares tips on successfully working from home – something the organization has been promoting and practicing since before the pandemic. Noll proudly explained how, when TMA Bucks’ Trevose office temporarily closed in March, nobody really noticed.
“You’d think a statement like that would be seen as a bad thing, but in our case, it’s great. Nobody noticed that the TMA office closed because the TMA itself has remained very much in business,” he said. “We’ve been at the service of our members throughout the pandemic and before. It was a seamless transition, and that’s why nobody noticed. The TMA office is closed, but the TMA is very much in business, perhaps more so than we usually are.”
Phil Wursta, president of TMA Bucks’ board of directors, shared Noll’s sentiment.
“We’re uniquely qualified to operate within this type of environment. We’re always focused on being able to work remotely and getting things done without being in the office. This is in our wheelhouse,” he said. “We’re also reinforcing our role as a one-stop-shop for transportation issues and answers in Bucks County. As commuters start to return to work, they have reached out to us online.”
Moving forward, Noll will partake in the Bucks County Consortium Association for Municipal Management, and TMA Bucks will manage Bucks County’s Community Traffic Safety Program Grant.
“This is a countywide safety program for traffic safety, pedestrian safety, anti-DUI programs,” said Noll.
The meeting concluded with a pre-recorded video address from SEPTA general manager Leslie Richards, who thanked TMA Bucks for donating 200 masks to SEPTA employees who work on routes and lines throughout Bucks County.
“It was a tremendous act of kindness that will go a long way in keeping our frontline workers safe,” she said.
Visit tmabucks.com for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org