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A 'Holistic' Approach To Improving Communities

Frances Jones' work as SEPTA's Assistant General Manager of Government affairs is exciting and challenging - and much more.

"This is the culmination of my professional experience," Jones said. "It's rewarding for me, because it allows me to be able to impact change in a stubstantial and tangible way."

It takes no more than a glance down Market Street in West Philadelphia to see some of Jones' accomplishments at work. With SEPTA's reconstruction of the Market-Frankford Line completed along this corridor, residents and businesses are beginning to see the fruits of what was an historic - and long - process.

It's also one that, without Jones' expertise and leadership, would have been much more difficult for SEPTA to navigate.

Shortly into her SEPTA career, Jones was thrust into the middle of the project - not only one of the biggest challenges of her career, but also one of SEPTA's most ambitious undertakings to date.

The long-needed work would transform the El into a modern jewel serving the community. However, getting to that point was anything but easy. Construction would be disruptive to residents and businesses, and more than a few were skeptical that it would all be worth it in the end.

"The biggest challenge was gaining the trust and respect of the community," Jones said. "We had to be in there from the beginning - meeting with people, answering questions and trying to address their concerns."

Jones' experience working with government officials and members of the community was crucial to the project's success. As construction crews essentially tore down and rebuilt the century-old line long considered the backbone of the city's transit system, Jones and her staff fielded floods of calls from concerned residents and were counted on to answer questions that came in from city officials. In between, they attended countless community meetings, and walked the neighborhoods to get feedback.

This was all part of Jones "holistic" vision - looking at a project from the view of those whose lives are directly impacted by SEPTA's work. This requires examining issues vital to all communities, such as economic development, jobs and quality of life.

Jones also identified education as a critical factor in all assessments - and one particularly close to her. Jones' career was launched with the help of a good education, including a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Cheney University.

"In order to impact the quality of life in a community, you have to go into a project with a holistic approach," she said. "When assessing a project, you have to try to find solutions to the issues important to those affected."

That approach helped the community and SEPTA come together to get through the project - with both now excited about a future that will see West Philadelphia neighborhoods and businesses served by a state-of-the-art transit line.

"I'm very pleased about how everything worked out," Jones said. "It is a major improvement to the community."

Jones continues working on a multitude of projects for SEPTA that will help improve communities throughout the region - a mission she started even before joining the transit authority in 1995.

As Director of the Neighborhood Service Districts Program for the Center City District, Jones worked with business associations to develop and implement special programs and services. She played an instrumental role in developing "Make It a Night," a highly successful program aimed at bringing business to Center City retailers and entertainment venues. She also served as Vice President of the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation, and prior to that, was Deputy Director of Commerce for the City of Philadelphia. Her career was launched with the help of a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Cheney University.

Even beyond her professional work, Jones has always been - and remains - deeply invested in the Philadelphia community, lending her expertise to a number of groups and non-profit organizations.

Among them is the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, where Jones serves as the Chair of External Affairs, and has established a successful Public Relations and Marketing Ministry.

Frances Jones, Assistant General Manager of Government Affairs

Jones at the "Elebration," marking the end of the reconstruction of the Market-Frankford Line in West Philadelphia. SEPTA and the community celebrated the close of the historic project together at a September 2009 party.