MeVa Transit’s Mendez to Join Latinos In Transit Executive Leadership Academy

MeVa Transit’s Niorka “Nio” Mendez. (Courtesy photograph.)

MeVa Transit’s Niorka “Nio” Mendez was recently accepted into the Latinos In Transit Executive Leadership Academy, one of a select 35-member cohort of transit leaders from across the country.

Latinos In Transit was founded in 2016 to provide advancement and leadership development opportunities to Latinos in the transportation industry. Now in its second year, the Executive Leadership Academy is a five-month intensive program, exploring the art of leadership, organizational management, and building relationships with various stakeholders. Throughout the program, Mendez, communications director of MeVa Transit, will also learn about industry-specific practices related to procurement, compliance, finance and labor relations.

“I am thrilled about the opportunity to participate in the Latinos In Transit Leadership Academy, to learn from experienced transit professionals and connect with other Latino transit managers from across the country. I am confident that this program will not only help me grow as a professional, but also as an individual,” said Mendez. “I hope to be a role model to future leaders, especially Latino women in the industry and in my community.”

Mendez began her career in transit as a bus driver starting in 2014, when MeVa Transit was known as the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, or MVRTA. The agency said she quickly became a favorite of passengers and coworkers, “bringing an infectious smile to her work.” In 2017, she was promoted to the administration, bringing her behind-the-wheel experience and connection to ridership to the management side of the agency.

When Administrator Noah Berger assumed control of the agency in 2021, he tapped Mendez to establish and lead a new office of communications, engaging with local businesses, organizations, elected officials and riders. The goal was to increasing visibility and be more present in and responsive to the communities the transit authority serves.

“Latinos In Transit is such a tremendous organization that is focused on building the next generation of transit leaders,” Berger said. “Nio’s thirst for learning, entrepreneurial spirit, collaborative style and creative thinking make her a perfect candidate for this program. I have no doubt that through her active participation in the Making of an Executive program of the Academy, Nio will thrive, as well as be an asset to the other participants in the program.”

Mendez also leads key initiatives that have reimagined transit operations in the Merrimack Valley, such as MeVa’s fare-free program, procurement of a new operating contractor, making bus routes more direct and efficient, implementation of bus stops and rebranding the agency as MeVa with brightly colored buses inspired by the look of housing in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Zona Colonial Santo Domingo in her native Dominican Republic. Through January of this year, MeVa ridership is up 184.4% over the same time last year and is now, at 98.4%, almost completely caught up to pre-COVID ridership. Officials say the record stands well above the performance of most other transit authorities in the country.

As the largest city in MeVa’s service district, Lawrence, is 83% Latino, and Latinos represent a significant proportion of the authority’s ridership. The agency is ideally suited to benefit from industry collaborations, best practices and mentorship through Latinos In Transit.

“The LIT Leadership Academy was developed with a goal to prepare the next generation of transportation leaders to lead in an ever-evolving industry. We feel that the more prepared our class members are to meet challenges, the more successful they will be as leaders,” said Alva Carrasco, President of the Board of Directors, Latinos In Transit. “Niorka is an exceptional young lady with a bright future ahead of her.”

MeVa Transit is the regional transit authority for northern Essex County, providing regional bus and van service to 16 cities and towns in the Merrimack River Valley.

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