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COMTO and SEPTA came together to honor three SEPTA employees for HHM.
COMTO and SEPTA came together to honor three SEPTA employees for HHM. Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Día News

COMTO honors three Hispanic SEPTA workers for their work in the region

Ralph Peña, Emilio Tapia, and Carlos Vásquez were honorees of COMTO’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

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On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), the leading national advocate for employment diversity, inclusion and contracting opportunities in the transportation industry, together with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), honored three Hispanic SEPTA workers who help keep the region moving with their daily efforts. 

Chris Valentin, Chief Officer of Bus Operations for SEPTA, kicked off the festivities by speaking about the three individuals and their tireless efforts in public transportation. 

“These three individuals were recognized by their directors of transportation as being leaders in the district. They're recognized by their peers, recognized by their community, and thanks to them for what they do every day,” Valentin said. 

Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Dia News

Ralph Peña, Emilio Tapia, and Carlos Vásquez were awarded for their hard work at Mixto in the Gayborhood. Among those in attendance, and speaking were Valentin, General Manager/CEO of SEPTA, Leslie Richards, and Rail Systems Department Manager at AECOM, Daniel Villanueva. 

Before the awards were given out, Villanueva also spoke about the constant presence in the daily lives of riders and what that means. 

“When our people take the bus day in and day out, they get to know our drivers on a first name basis. They see them in a supermarket or they see them at church. It is more than just a method of transportation. It's a way of living,” he said. 

When it was Richards’ time to talk, she continued with the theme of the importance of SEPTA employees to not just riders, put the whole system.

“They are such a vital part of our system here, especially our frontline bus operators who meet our customers face-to-face throughout their day,” she said. 

Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Dia News

Richards also commented in response to a question about her thoughts on the ‘La Guagua 47’ short film completed in collaboration with AL DÍA News, Ritmo Lab and a number of other community partners, which premiered at the Kimmel Center last month on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

It is a locally well-known bus route that runs through many of the different Latino communities and neighborhoods from South to North Philly. 

“It was so nice to see so many members of the SEPTA community, our employees, but also the SEPTA community, our riders and all the neighborhoods along the route. It was really wonderful to see how SEPTA has helped a community of people connect to each other throughout route 47. I loved it. I had a smile on my face from beginning to end,” Richards said. 

Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Dia News

Rail Systems Department Manager at AECOM, Daniel Villanueva, also spoke to AL DÍA News about the important role that COMTO and SEPTA play in the community considering SEPTA is the U.S.’s sixth-largest public transit system with train, subway, trolley and bus lines that help over 1.3 million customers every day commute to and from work, and those that explore the city. 

“COMTO is an organization that is here to promote minorities in transportation. We recognize that bus transportation is essential for the Hispanic community. Major transportation systems are very important for most of the city. But it's essential for us. It’s our lifeline,” Villanueva said. 

Villanueva also spoke to the bigger purpose that public transportation holds in many people’s lives, including his. 

“I am a product of public transportation. I am here today because of public transportation. If it wasn't for that, I would not be here,” he said.

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