It can be argued that no one has had as much impact on the development and improvement of public transit throughout the state of Florida as Ed Coven. Ed was instrumental in cultivating an ongoing and ingrained position of state support for local and regional transit agencies through six governors and under nine Department Secretaries. As well as being transit’s primary voice inside FDOT, Ed represented the department on multiple AASHTO and APTA national committees, which each gave FDOT “national agency of the year” awards for its support of transit.
After graduating with a Master’s degree from Florida State University, Ed began his career as a transit planner for the Broward County Office of Planning and the Metropolitan Planning Organization. He helped Broward County Transit (BCT) achieve unprecedented ridership increases as the author of the first Transit Development Plan for BCT as well as the Transit Element of the Broward County Comprehensive Plan. While with Broward County, he also worked closely with FDOT in the development and initiation of Tri-Rail commuter rail stations in Broward County.
Ed decided to return to Tallahassee in 1990 when he joined the FDOT Office of Policy Planning as Modal Specialist and drafted transit and other modal elements of the 1990 Florida Transportation Plan. In 1991 FDOT’s Public Transit Office hired Ed as its Grant Manager and soon promoted him to Grants Programs Administrator in 1993. His skills were readily apparent to an agency that was ready to become far more multimodal. FDOT Secretary Ben Watts (also a member of FPTA’s Hall of Fame) appointed Ed as the Department’s State Transit Manager in 1996, a position he would serve with distinction until his retirement in 2019.
His accomplishments as the State Transit Manager are almost too many to mention, but too important to leave out. He led or provided vital assistance to virtually every aspect of transit’s growing presence in the third most populous state in the nation. The many accomplishments fall into three primary categories: (1) Research and professional development (2) Policy and planning and (3) Enhancement and expansion of transit funding and programs throughout the state.
Research and Professional Development
- Funded multiple functional as well as research-oriented transit programs within the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), utilizing it as an extension of FDOT and transit agency staff in some cases, and thereby helping it to grow to be the premier transit focused university program in the nation
- Initiated continuous sponsoring of two annual Fellowships at the FSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning for top graduate students focusing on transit planning
- Coordinated with FPTA officers to sponsor the annual FPTA Transit Leadership training program
- Provided financial sponsorship every year for the FPTA Annual Conference, Professional Development Workshop, and Bus and Paratransit Roadeos attended by many hundreds of transit personnel each year
- Represented FDOT at every FPTA Annual Conference since 1991, and nearly every FPTA Board Meeting since his appointment in 1996 while also supporting the attendance of record numbers of FDOT managers at FPTA conferences and workshops.
Policy and Planning
- Chaired FDOT’s Planning and Modal Development Managers group for over 20 years, ensuring positive focus on statewide transit issues and opportunities within FDOT
- Actively served on the development team for each Florida Transportation Plan since 1991, ensuring the inclusion of transit supportive policies in the State’s official transportation policy document
- Represented FDOT and transit interests on the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged for 23 years
- Maintained positive relations between the Transit Office and all functional areas of FDOT, including leadership in both Central Office and Districts, to allow for continued increasing levels of support for transit in Florida
- Funded several projects developing guidelines and specifications for transit supportive roadway infrastructure and design, and for Transit Oriented Development, including the analyses of property value increases and revenue capture from TOD at SunRail commuter rail stations
- Helped promote flex funding of state and federal dollars for transit capital projects, operations (through the State’s Public Transit Block Grant, Service Development, and other programs), and planning and project development activities at both local agencies and within the Department
- Represented transit on the FDOT Team which received an Urban Partnership award from USDOT to create the I-95 Express managed lanes program in South Florida that included funding for transit buses to be operated by Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, and which continues to be funded through toll collections on vehicles utilizing the express lanes in Miami-Dade County
Enhancement and expansion of transit funding and programs throughout the state
- Coordinated with FPTA and applied for and received a discretionary Innovative Finance Grant from FTA, creating the Florida Transit Finance Corporation which has helped to reduce the cost of buses for transit agencies throughout the state while reducing the amount of time normally required in the procurement processes
- Supported staff’s development and management of Florida’s Transit Research, Inspection, Procurement Services (TRIPS) program, helping transit agencies to acquire thousands of safer, better designed and constructed paratransit and transit vehicles, with simplified procurement processes and lowered costs
- Provided discretionary state match for transit agency projects and programs to the limits of state law, including ½ of the nonfederal share of most FTA grants awarded in the state
- Created the Florida New Starts Transit Program, which provides state matching dollars to assist in the competitive qualification and development of rail transit and BRT projects across Florida
- Allocated state funding for innovative transit technology programs and projects across the state, including automated vehicle pilots, transit modeling tools, transit planning, marketing, operations, commuter assistance, and other statewide networks for transit and local agency personnel
- Worked with FDOT District staff each year to fund innovative local transit service development and corridor projects, such as the 3-year grant to eliminate fares and increase service on Tampa’s TECO Streetcar Line, resulting in a 300% increase in ridership in the first 6 months of operation
- Represented Florida transit projects to the Federal Transit Administration, helping in the award of several Full Funding and Small Starts Grant Agreements for Florida transit projects
It is hard to imagine a more productive and effective proponent for public transportation within FDOT, but one of Ed’s most rewarding accomplishments was supporting the efforts of an incredibly talented and long serving team of professionals dedicated to helping advance and improve public transportation in the State of Florida. We are fortunate that they have been inspired to follow Ed’s legacy of service to the advancement of public transportation.