GAMD 2018: Engaging future leaders of transportation, today.

On March 21st, the Kansas City Chapter of Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) honored the legacy of Garrett A. Morgan and his contributions to the transportation industry by exposing some students from the Topeka, Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri school districts to the work of transportation planners, engineers, architects and others. The Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day Program was developed under the Clinton administration by Rodney E. Slater, the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. COMTO KC hosts the Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day each year to encourage young people to pursue transportation-related careers and help grow and sustain a workforce to meet the technical demands of the 21st century.

Much of the seasoned transportation workforce is retiring. The demand for both traditional and new skills is expanding. The nation’s need for technologically literate transportation workers continues to grow. We have an obligation to ensure that today’s students are aware of the tremendous opportunities in the field of transportation and that they are prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. Members of the COMTO Kansas City chapter developed a variety of activities for students experience during the shadow day:

RIDE KC Bus Simulator:



As part of the Shadow Day, 10 students visited the RIDE KC offices to learn about how bus drivers are trained to drive the region’s various bus routes. They also learn KCATA has one of only nine national bus garage’s that house their entire fleets of buses, para-transit, and other vehicles. Many staff shared stories about how they may have started off as bus drivers, secretaries, or in maintenance but through hard-work and perseverance they have now positioned themselves into higher ranking roles in the transit agency.

Riding with RIDE KC:

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COMTO KC was lucky enough to be driven throughout the city by our own RIDE KC Bus!

Riding the KC Streetcar and Tour:


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The second leg of the field trip led the group to the Kansas City Streetcar Authority Maintenance Facility where Streetcar staff gave them a tour of the facility and they were able to view maintenance staff inspect the streetcars. The students and COMTO members rode the KC Streetcar to the facility which was a great experience. The students learned why a streetcar may be valuable to a central business district and how a Transportation Development District (TDD) is formed. Also, Tom Gerend (Executive Director of KC Streetcar Authority) gave a detailed analysis of the potential extensions that are in the works.

Presentation from WSP:

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WSP staff gave the students a presentation on the various projects they are currently working on including the KC Streetcar Riverfront Extension. The students learned the differences between transit planning, civil engineering, traffic signalization, and more. WSP staff expressed the importance of client satisfaction and how cool it is to design a building or structure that will stand the test of time.

Tour of Charles B. Wheeler Air Traffic Control Tower:


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Students really enjoyed the view inside the Air Traffic Control Tower. They asked many questions such as, “How much would it cost to park my own airplane here?” Airport staff informed the students on what it takes to become an Air Traffic Controller and why it may be a viable career. Students were surprised to learn that many celebrities and sporting teams frequent this airport such as Former President Obama, Drake, and Kansas City Chiefs players.

Lunch, a tour, and a panel discussion at Burns and McDonnell:



COMTO members and students were treated to lunch and a tour of the Burns and McDonnell offices by our host Emily Rhoden. Over 4 transportation professionals filled our Engineering Panel (thanks again) ranging from a Project Manager (Lamin Bumi Nyang) to the DBE/ADA/Title 6 Program Manager for MCI (Akayla Jones, Esq), an Intermediate Traffic Studies Specialist (Krystal Jolly), and also the President of DuBois Consultants, Inc. (Ajamu Webster, PE) . COMTO KC Chapter President, Whitney Morgan, welcomed everyone for the summit and explained the purpose of the Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day. Each professional told their story of why they pursued a career in the transportation sector, what their day-to-day work life consists of, and why it is such a viable career to consider. They also were very candid about how their journey as a person of color, woman, or both, has affected their career. The students asked many questions and were very engaged while the panel shared their stories.

The transportation industry can provide great career opportunities for young people, and the demand for both traditional and new skills is expanding. As many experienced members of the transportation workforce approach retirement, the need for skilled, technical workers will grow. Transportation-related industries offer career opportunities for young people in planning, engineering, and other related fields. COMTO KC would like to truly thank all the help we received from WSP, Burns and McDonnell, MoDOT, KDOT, KCMO, Taliaferro and Browne, MARC, KCATA, Charles B. Wheeler Airport, DuBois Consultants, Inc., KC Streetcar Authority, and a special shout out to COMTO KC Scholarship/Youth Engagement Committee Co-Chairs AJ Byrd and Doria Watson for coordinating the entire event!

This event was also featured in the Mid-America Regional Council’s Transportation Matters Blog. 

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