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COMTO National and JTA Webinar: Reimagining the Future with Autonomous Vehicles

November 18 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

The Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) is a comprehensive program to modernize and expand the Skyway and introduce autonomous vehicles into the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) transportation system. The program has received international recognition, most recently the Local Government Award for the Americas at the 2021 ITS World Congress in Hamburg, Germany.

This webinar will provide an overview of the U2C program, its innovative and ground-breaking technology, how it is creating opportunities in workforce development and building community partnerships. Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., Chief Executive Officer, JTA; Tanya Adams, Chair, COMTO National Board of Directors / Vice President, Inclusion & Diversity, WSP USA; Christopher L. Macklin, Council of Presidents Representative, COMTO National Board of Directors / Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Diversity Compliance Officer, JTA will provide opening remarks. David Cawton, II, Director of Communications, JTA will moderate the discussion and Bernard Schmidt, Vice President of Automation and Innovation, JTA, will lead the presentation.


Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.
Chief Executive Officer, JTA

Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. is Chief Executive Officer of the JTA and past Chair of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). His distinguished career spans nearly four decades, including tenures as CEO of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

Ford is a champion of multimodal transportation, walkable neighborhoods, public-private partnerships and transit-oriented development; and is known for industry-leading insights and thought leadership on international transportation issues from trade and study missions around the world.

Ford was awarded the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Outstanding Public Transportation Manager for 2020 and has received numerous awards for his transformational programs and initiatives, including the White House Champion of Change. He was named “Ultimate CEO” by the Jacksonville Business Journal, inducted into the First Coast Business Hall of Fame and was honored with the 2019 “Thought Leader” Award by The Eno Center for Transportation. Under Ford’s leadership, the JTA was recognized as the winner of the 2016 APTA Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.

In the eight years, he has been in Jacksonville, Ford was chairman of the City of Jacksonville’s 2015 “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes” campaign and the 2016 recipient of the Jacksonville Urban League’s Clanzel T. Brown Sr. Award. He was also recognized by the Jacksonville Council of the Blind at its 2016 annual White Cane Ball.

Ford serves on the boards of several nonprofits, including the Chair of the Board of Directors for Goodwill Industries. He is a past member of the United Way Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees for Daniel Kids.

Ford serves as Vice-Chair for the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Executive Committee. His role at TRB includes serving as chair of the International Activities Subcommittee. Ford also represents the JTA on the JAX Chamber Board of Directors and is a member of the Jacksonville University Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship Board of Advisors. He is the past chair and a current member of TEAMFL’s Board of Directors.

Under Ford’s leadership, JTA employees have embraced community causes including the Clara White Mission to feed the homeless and Sulzbacher Village. Through the JTA Cares initiative, JTA employees have also established “Career Closets” for men and women that provide professional attire so they can seek new employment. The Authority has also started an internship program to prepare college students for careers in transportation.

Ford holds an Executive MBA from the Davis School of Business at Jacksonville University and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in organizational leadership from Mercer University. 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. He is a graduate of Leadership Florida (2015) and Leadership Jacksonville (2014).


Tanya Adams
Chair, COMTO National Board of Directors
Vice President, Inclusion & Diversity, WSP USA

Tanya works with WSP USA’s business lines, regions, and functional groups to create a work environment that produces three key outcomes: a culture of trust that provides safe spaces for sensitive conversations; increased workforce diversity and advancement of WSP diversity talent; and greater support for WSP colleagues who are leaders in underrepresented communities. In addition, in her role as Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity, Tanya advocates for minority business involvement in both the engineering and business communities and on WSP USA’s contracts. Prior to joining the firm, she served in leadership roles with the Illinois Department of Transportation for 19 years.

Tanya is actively involved in diversity initiatives with community organizations—serving alongside many minority business partners—and she develops and directs both internal and external programs to meet business diversity needs. Tanya’s personal objective is to see the diverse faces of America equally reflected at all levels of the transportation industry. She has devoted her career to serving as an advocate and a resource to minority individuals and businesses.

Since 2007, Tanya has been involved in the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), having served as a member of the Board, Corporate Advisory Council, Joint Leadership Team, Women Who Move the Nation Committee, and the Program Planning Committee. In 2016, she was named COMTO’s Corporate Executive of the Year, in 2018 she received COMTO’s President’s Award for Excellence and currently serves as 1st Vice-Chair, recognizing her leadership efforts and outreach to minority and disadvantaged business firms locally and nationwide.

In 2015, she became the first African American woman to be elected to the board of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Illinois. She also served as the Chair of ACEC’s Students Engaged in Engineering Committee for 10 years, currently serving as Vice Board Chair, Tanya is actively engaging and fostering an interest in the transportation industry among students.

In addition, Tanya is a member of WTS and was named 2018 Woman of the Year; she also actively participates in the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA).


Christopher L. Macklin
Council of Presidents Representative, COMTO National Board of Directors
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Diversity Compliance Officer, JTA

Christopher L. Macklin is the DBE Diversity Compliance Officer at the JTA. One of Macklin’s top priorities is to ensure that JTA workforce and the partners who work on the projects are as diverse as the community we serve. However, one of Macklin’s favorite and most honored tasks is leading the Jacksonville COMTO Chapter with the support of the JTA Executive Leadership Team!

Macklin is the current President serving his second consecutive term for the COMTO Jacksonville Chapter. Macklin’s focus is to continue impacting the community by fundraising, forging relationships throughout the transportation industry and engaging our youth to see the many opportunities in transportation.

His career includes experience in financial planning, leadership, working with minority-owned businesses and DBE programs, implementing workforce development programs, public speaking on both local and national levels and paratransit service. Macklin demonstrates exemplary leadership within COMTO, whose involvement has made a significant impact in the local chapter and solid leadership on the national level.

Macklin has been a part of and involved with the COMTO Family for five years and in that time, aided in the advancement of his local chapter, hosted training and scholarship events, and expanded the membership recruiting efforts. Prior to serving as the President of the Jacksonville chapter, Macklin served as the Second Vice President and in 2017 was honored with the COMTO National Emerging Leader Award for positively impacting the community and influencing others. The Emerging Leader Award is given to an individual who has been involved in the transportation industry for fewer than 5 years.

Not only has Macklin grown professionally in the transportation industry in a short period, but he has also emerged as a confident and reliable leader who has ascended to the role of President of the COMTO Jacksonville Chapter.

On July 26, 2021, Macklin was elected by the Council of Presidents and Council of President Representatives to serve as one of three COMTO National Council of Representatives.


David Cawton, II
Director of Communications, JTA

Cawton, a Jacksonville native, was previously a reporter at the Jacksonville Daily Record, where he covered business, government and development. He also served as a TV anchor and reporter in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.


Bernard Schmidt
Vice President of Automation and Innovation, JTA

Bernard Schmidt was named Vice President of Automation for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in January of 2019. In this role, he is responsible for providing strategic and technical leadership to the JTA’s Automation & Innovation Division. He is responsible for engaging key stakeholders and elected officials in forging cross-functional working relationships across both public and private sector organizations.

Through the launch of the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) initiative and other innovative projects, the JTA aims to better interconnect people and places around downtown Jacksonville through the use of Autonomous Vehicles (AV) and other technologies. By Leveraging both public and private sector funding and under Bernard’s leadership the JTA and the City of Jacksonville has fully committed to being one of the first cities in the U.S. to implement such highly visible and complex projects.
Prior to the JTA, Bernard held multiple executive and senior leadership roles both domestically and internationally across various organizations. His most recent role was with Amazon® as General Manager in Jacksonville, FL where he led the deployment and operation of a 955K Sq. Ft Amazon Robotics fulfillment center with over 3000 employees and $3.5 Billion dollars of annual sales revenue.

Prior to that, Bernard spent 10+ years at United Technologies Corp. where he served as General Manager of UTAS Customer Service Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul business based in Dubai, UAE. Bernard also previously served as the Operations Director at TEC (Turkish Engine Center) a Pratt & Whitney joint venture with Turkish Airlines in Istanbul, Turkey. He provided operational leadership to develop and execute overhaul plans, cost reduction strategies and initiatives to meet the quality, cost, testing and delivery requirements for CFM56 and V2500 aircraft engines. Prior to these roles, Bernard was a Global Materials Manager of Pratt & Whitney Engine Centers in Connecticut, Georgia and international sites. He also served as Asst. Business Unit Manager and Operations Supervisor.
Prior to his tenure with UTC, Bernard held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility across multiple organizations including General Dynamics Electric Boat and Dominion Nuclear Energy Company.
He has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rochester and a Master’s in Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a graduate of the Darden Business School Executive Education program and MIT Sloan School of Management Artificial Intelligence Certificate Program (CSAIL). He is also a certified Six Sigma Master Black belt, ACE Associate, and Quality Auditor.

Bernard is a recipient of the 2020 Technology Leader of the year award for Northeast Florida by the Jacksonville Business Journal; he is a member of NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), the LEAD360 Senior Leadership Organization and serves on the Board of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of North Florida and Teach For America Regional Advisory Board. Bernard is passionate about coaching, mentoring and developing leaders in achieving a global and growth mindset. He is married with 4 children, speaks 5 languages and is a recreational drone pilot.


November 18
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Event Categories:


COMTO National
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