Leadership isn’t limited to your job title or position. Leadership is an activity, a verb. If others are looking to you for answers, you are a leader regardless of your title or official position. This last year has presented unusual tribulations. How can your leadership team be better equipped to face today’s challenges? Leadership is mobilizing people to do tough work. Leveraging influence to encourage people to do things they may not do alone. Leadership is about dignity, the inherent worth of every person. Leadership in transit is more than transporting people; it’s understanding the dignity of riders, and those who work in your agency. We want the future transit leaders to support their employees and assist riders in arriving to their dreams and not just their destination.


The CTAA Emerging Leaders Academy is designed for transportation system employees who have shown promise as a future leader.

  • Did you come up through the transit system, start as a driver, bus cleaner, mechanic and now you find yourself managing people?
  • Are you coming to transit as your 2nd career?
  • Do you work for a state DOT and need more understanding of the daily demands of transit systems?
  • Are you curious about what could be next in your career journey?
  • Do you want to learn how to develop people?
  • Time for professional development?
  • Do you find yourself wanting to move up but desire more skills?
  • Do you believe in the work of transit, and see how impactful it is to communities and individuals?

If you answered yes to any of the above question, you should not hesitate to join this year’s class of CTAA’s Emerging Leaders Academy. Those considering participation in the Academy must be committed to pursuing leadership roles within the community transportation field and being of service to their system and the field as a whole. They will also commit to participating in all activities of the Academy, which can be found here.


  • Access to 9-month long mentorship
  • Capstone Project designed by you to meet the needs of your transit agency or community.
  • Meet other leaders across the country
  • Best practices across different agencies
  • Learn your personal strengths and improve your weaknesses through working style and Emotional Intelligence Assessments
  • Leadership Study Group: monthly group one hour meeting with the instructors and class to further develop your leadership skills.


  • Virtual Kick Off: September 2021
  • First In Person Training: November 2021, Richmond, Va., EXPO
  • Distance Learning and Project Work: Throughout the 9-month long course
  • Optional D.C. Policy Day: Spring 2022
  • Second In-person Training: May 9-12, 2022 in Louisville, Ky.


Yes, the CTAA Emerging Leaders Academy is a significant time commitment, but prospective students please know that the program is absolutely respectful of your current and ongoing responsibilities at your current transit agency. Being mindful of this, we space out our Leadership Study groups throughout the 9 months and allow ELA students ample time to work on their capstone projects and interact with their mentors as time allows. To date, none of our ELA graduates has been unable to strike a workable balance between work responsibilities and classwork.


In response to requests from current and pass ELA students, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be adding an optional Washington, D.C., Transit Advocacy/Policy Field Trip (tentatively scheduled for Spring 2022) available exclusively to ELA 2020-2021 students. Students choosing to participate will walk the halls of Capitol Hill alongside CTAA Board Members and staff as well as visit with leadership at the Federal Transit Administration, discussing transit policy, funding, regulation and more. CTAA staff will make all of the Hill and Administration meeting reservations for ELA students. Please note that students choosing to take advantage of this option will have to pay for their travel, room and board individually and these costs are not part of the ELA tuition.


For questions on the Emerging Leaders Academy contact Loreal Lance at lance@ctaa.org or 202.415.9666.

NOTE: A minimum of 16 participants are required for the Academy to take place.


The tuition for the ELA will be $3,000 per participant to be invoiced on July 1, 2021. This cost includes all the instruction, distance learning, and registration for EXPOs 2021 and 2022. All travel, meal, lodging, and incidental expenses will be the responsibility of the participant or the participant’s employer.


The curriculum for the 2021/2022 CTAA Emerging Leaders Academy will consist of in-person training, webinars, leadership study groups, and a participant-selected project. Participants will be also be paired with mentors to allow for on-going discussion and dialog during the process. Participants will be expected to complete all assignments and participate in discussion groups with fellow participants and mentors.

01  Personal Assessment
Each participant will receive an assessment before the first session of the Academy. This assessment will measure the participant’s leadership style and strengths. Results from the assessment will allow the ELA instructors to tailor course content to meet the needs of the participants.
  • An Introduction to Community Transportation
  • Exploration of the concept of leadership and different leadership styles
  • Lessons from leadership expert
03  Distance Learning
  • Creating and imparting a vision
  • Engaging in strategic thinking
  • Building strong, cohesive teams
  • Understanding values and ethics
  • Communicating effectively and with purpose
  • Building accountability into the agency’s work
  • Leadership philosophies
  • Understanding the current state of community transportation
  • Identifying and preparing for trends in mobility
04  Leadership Project

Each participant in the ELA will complete a leadership project, which will allow the participant to demonstrate leadership skills, assess and address issues in the field, and contribute to their system. The project process will consist of these phases:

  • Identifying the issue and garnering agency acceptance of the project
  • Developing a plan to define and study the issue
  • Engaging agency staff and people outside the organization to develop possible approaches or solutions
  • Selecting a course of action and presenting the project to the governing body of the organization
  • Developing a presentation for the 2021 Community Transportation EXPO

the future of transit

class of 2020-21

Meet the class of 2021

The Emerging Leaders Academy is a year-long academy to develop true leaders in the transit field. From 2020 to 2021, upcoming transit leaders from across the country gained increased understanding of their leadership skills, learned industry trends and became knowledgeable about what it takes to be a leader.

Throughout the year, the participants worked with each other, their mentors and CTAA leaders to develop a project that would demonstrate leadership skills, and assess and address issues in the field that would contribute to their system. Their projects vary in topics, ranging from the accommodation of service animals on-board a transit vehicle to the implementation of a volunteer transportation program.

EXPO 2021 gave this class of ELA participants an opportunity to share their final projects and reports with their fellow participants, as well as EXPO attendees through a poster session.

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The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.