CATA dedicates new building to John C. Spychalski

Date: May 31, 2018

Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) General Manager Louwana Oliva and staff have dedicated their new Administration & Maintenance Building to John C. Spychalski, a Ferguson Township resident who has devoted his professional career to the advancement of public transportation.

CATA announced the recognition at an open house and formal dedication ceremony for the facility on Wednesday, May 23.

Spychalski helped to build the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) from the ground up — beginning with its reorganization as a joint municipal authority in 1981. Under his leadership, CATA has become a premier small transit system, and State College, Pa., is renowned as one of the most transit-intensive small urban areas in the nation. CATA was named APTA Outstanding Transit System in North America in 2001. 

He served on the CATA Board of Directors for eight consecutive terms — spanning more than three decades — having begun his service as Ferguson Township’s appointed representative in 1980.  Spychalski’s fellow board members annually elected him chairman beginning in 2001. During his tenure, CATA has grown in size, sophistication and reputation.

Under Spychalski’s leadership, the authority’s many accomplishments include: 

  • the 1994 designation as the regional ride-share agency, which led to CATA becoming the first transit system in the state to operate a carpool matching program that has evolved into its CATACOMMUTE program;
  • conversion of the fleet to natural gas beginning in 1996, culminating in 2005 with becoming one of the first transit systems on the east coast to have an active fleet powered entirely by CNG; 
  • also in 1996, the implementation of a GPS-based “smart bus” program, which has evolved to include real-time bus arrival information, iPhone and Android apps, audible and visual stop annunciators and automated passenger counters; 
  • in 1999, taking over the operation of all transit service on the Penn State University campus; 
  • the implementation of a bikes-on-buses program in 2000, when CATA became the first transit agency in the state to install bike racks; 
  • initiation in 2010 of a fleet replacement program that has reduced the average age of the fleet by half,
  • and beginning in 2011, securing federal and state discretionary capital funding for a $32 million facility expansion.

In 2015, the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors recognized and congratulated Spychalski as that year’s recipient of the prestigious American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award. It is the highest honor awarded to a transit board member in North America—presented annually to the board member judged to have made the greatest contribution to his local transit system and the industry in general.

Spychalski is Professor Emeritus of Supply Chain Management in the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University. 

A plaque on the new building reads: “CATA, the community of State College, Penn State and the industry will continue to reap the benefits of John C. Spychalski’s life-long dedication to public transportation far into the future.”