Sales Supervisor solves lost wallet mystery, returning $314 to Omni rider

Herman Reed and Diane Bojorquez

Herman Reed and Diane Bojorquez

We love a happy ending—especially when we have a hand in making it happen!

On September 4, 2015, Omnitrans Coach Operator Jesse Lakes found a man’s wallet at the Fontana Metrolink station with $314 in cash inside. Concerned for the owner, the conscientious driver tagged it and turned it into our Lost and Found department.

A card in the wallet identified the owner as Fontana resident Herman Reed. Sales Supervisor Diane Bojorquez made several attempts to reach Herman with no luck. His phone was disconnected, and a letter sent to his address was returned as undeliverable. She even approached me for help in tracking him down on social media. We managed to find his Facebook profile and messaged him, but still there was no response.

Normally Omnitrans only holds lost items for 10 days but, because of the amount of money involved, Diane decided to hang onto it. For five months, the wallet sat in the lost and found safe.

“I don’t know what it was about this wallet,” Diane said later. “I had to keep trying. It was a lot of money for anyone to lose, and I just wasn’t ready to give up.”

On Thursday, Diane was closing out old lost and found items, and once again came across the brown leather wallet.

“Remember this?” she asked me sadly. “It’s Herman Reed’s wallet with the $314. We never got a response back from him.”

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“Maybe there’s something we missed the first time?” I suggested.

Flipping through the wallet, I pulled out a health insurance card. “I wonder if we contacted his healthcare provider if they would be willing to pass a message on to him?”

She grinned, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt.”

After a quick conversation with a helpful health care representative, Diane received a call back from a very surprised Herman Reed, who immediately made arrangements to come by the office.

When we met in in the lobby later that morning, Herman couldn’t stop smiling. He ran over and gave Diane a huge hug thanking her over and over again for not giving up on him. The two laughed like old friends.

“We try to do everything we can to get lost items back to the owners,” she told him. “But this was a challenge.”

“I’d given up on ever getting it back,” he told her. “That was my rent money in the wallet. And here’s another strange thing. After I lost my wallet, I switched to a cheaper phone plan and had my old cell phone turned off.

“Just a few days ago, the phone suddenly came on again for some reason. I have no idea why. I wasn’t paying for it.”

“That was the number they called you on?” asked Diane.

“Yes!” Herman said. “I couldn’t believe it! It was such a blessing. In fact, I had been going to take it in to the store earlier this week to make sure they deactivated again, but something made me decide to wait until the weekend. Somebody must have been watching over me.”

He laughed and gave us both another hug. “You two are my favorites! I love Omnitrans! You don’t know what this means to me.”

Watching Herman walk out the door with a big smile on his face made our day.

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen

Omnitrans photo of Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen by photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen

Omnitrans Database Administrator Alex Chen is at his most comfortable behind a computer, writing code or troubleshooting databases.

“I’m a programmer,” he shrugs with a big smile. “I love my job. It’s just what I do best.”

Maybe that’s why he was so surprised to learn he had been selected as Employee of the Quarter.

There were a lot of reasons he was a good candidate.

Alex developed the Transit Screen system for the San Bernardino Transit Center, implementing Nextrip and E-sign for the project.

Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen

Omnitrans IT Director Jacob Harms, CEO P. Scott Graham, Employee of the Quarter Alex Chen & Board Chair Sam Spagnolo

He was also project lead for the massive update of the agency’s Procurement SAP system. His responsibilities included building the program, testing for quality assurance, and, finally, implementation.

“This was a huge project,” he explains. “And it affected purchases for every department. Because it involved such extensive upgrades, much of the work had to be done at night or on holidays when no one was on the network. I even spent Thanksgiving and Christmas here to make sure everything was functioning correctly. I don’t mind it. It comes with the job in IT, and I enjoy what I do.”

Luckily his wife understands the demands of his work.  The couple has two houses, one in San Gabriel and one in San Bernardino. During the week he stays here in the city to be close to the office, and on weekends he drives the 50 mile commute home.

“We Facetime a lot on our iPads,” he chuckles. “In some ways it’s great because we don’t argue or get on each other’s nerves. We get to do whatever we like during the week and enjoy our time together on the weekend. It works out well. I feel very free to do whatever I need to do for the job.”

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Alex’s knowledge and expertise has made him an invaluable resource, not only for IT, but for other departments as well.

“Alex is a wizard at taking our data requests from various internal data systems and combining them into usable reports so we can make business decisions,” says Service Planning Manager Jeremiah Bryant. “It’s been extremely helpful on a number of projects.”

Troubleshooting the NexTrip bus arrival system information has been the toughest problem Alex has had to face over the past quarter.

“Our complex IT system incorporates multiple outside programs, as well as those we custom develop in-house,” says Omnitrans IT Director Jacob Harms. “This means that we’re pulling data from multiple sources for NexTrip, which can cause glitches. If TransitMaster were as reliable as Alex’s interface programs, we wouldn’t have issues with missing or incorrect NexTrip predictions.

“The real value that Alex brings to Omnitrans is his ability to quickly take a customer (Omnitrans or public) need and utilize existing resources to develop his own custom solution.  A great example of this was the sbX pulse system.

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“When the sbX route was first implemented, Omnitrans wanted to use a free running system with set intervals for scheduling rather than a set schedule.

“Although this was requested months prior to the new services launch, our vendor was unable to provide a solution in time.  In just a matter of weeks, Alex was able to create his own custom solution, involving an in-house built program pulling location data from our TransitMaster databases and relaying that to a network of cell phones that we installed on the buses.  Now the solution itself was rather simple. But without Alex and his ability to quickly create and implement custom programs, this would not have been possible.”

Alex’s dependability, innovative problem-solving, ability to successfully create highly customized solutions, and willingness to go above and beyond to assist others make him an invaluable part of the Omnitrans team. We are proud to honor him as our Employee of the Quarter.

Employee of the Year Mae Sung

Mae head shotIt’s unusual for an employee to be adept in each of the varied roles and processes in her department. That’s what makes Omnitrans Employee of the Year Mae Sung such an asset to the agency.

As Accounting Manager, Mae Sung is responsible for the direct supervision of payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash receipts, and general accounting personnel.  This is no easy task, as it requires her to be highly knowledgeable in each area in order to resolve problems as they occur.

When scheduled and unscheduled absences arise, Mae is able to seamlessly step in to cover that position as well as perform her own duties. She is a friend and mentor to members of her team, always making herself available to assist them as needed. She believes that every task, no matter how small, is important in ensuring the success of her department, and she honors each person as an indispensable part of that process. Thanks to the diligence of the finance team, Omnitrans passed its 2015 financial audit entirely without error!

Mae desk

However, the area of responsibility where Mae truly excels is cash management. Omnitrans collects revenues from numerous sources in cash, checks, and wire transfers on a daily basis.  Additionally there are weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly disbursements to employees and vendors by checks, direct deposits, and wire transfers.  Mae ensures the checking account balance is sufficient to cover all of the agency’s obligations when they are due.

Finally, Mae has been key in the compilation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which has earned the agency  awards for excellence in financial reporting seven years in a row.

Omnitrans is proud to commend Mae as Employee of the Year. We thank her for her extraordinary commitment to the advancement of our agency.

Mae Sung Proof II - 2.1.2016

 

 

Job Corps honors Omnitrans as Employer of the Year

20160210b_employer_award-jobcorpOmnitrans is honored to be awarded Employer of the Year 2015 by the Inland Empire Job Corps program in San Bernardino.

The transit agency has hosted several interns from the program, which offers no-cost education and career technical training to people ages 16 to 24.  The certifications and experience students gain through Job Corps helps them improve the quality of their lives and teaches them skills they need in order to find meaningful jobs.

Over the past year, Omnitrans has placed interns in Human Resources, Facility Maintenance and Equipment Maintenance.

Group of students

“We’re so pleased to have the opportunity to work with these young people and help mentor them in their fields of interest,” says Human Resources Director Marjorie Ewing.  “We have had wonderful experiences with our interns. They come in with a positive and professional attitude and quickly adapt to the demands of the job. I highly recommend Job Corps to any business considering an internship program.”

Employer of the Year Certificates

Certificates honoring Omnitrans as Employer of the Year for 2015

Facilities Supervisor John Gensel managed several interns last year. He says he can tell immediately which students have mastered the Job Corps program and are seriously pursuing their careers.

Job Corps tile setting students

Job Corps tile setting students

“We had one stand-out intern who was really good at electrical work,” says Gensel. “Dakota was very quick and had a great work ethic. Whenever he finished a job, he always found something more to do, like cleaning the shop or organizing the cabinets.  He was an excellent worker, and I would have hired him in a second if we had had a current job opening.”

Employer of the Year 2015 group shot

Omnitrans HR Specialist Denise Gibson, Facilities Supervisor John Gensel & Facilities Manager Mark Montgomery provided Job Corps interns with hands on work experience.

Business and Community Liaison Claudia Lopez is proud of her Center’s reputation. She explains that community partners like Omnitrans are an invaluable resource for the program.

Culinary Arts student

Job Corps culinary arts student

“Most of the students we serve come from low income families, and many have never graduated high school. They come to us because they want an opportunity to change their lives, continue their education, and establish a meaningful career. Partners like Omnitrans help us to prepare these young people for the workplace, by providing them with real life experience that allows them to practice the skills they have acquired.”

Click the video below for a close-up look at the Job Corps campus & activities.

The Job Corps program’s unique environment has provided its graduates a solid foundation for success. In addition to career training, a majority of students live on campus and are provided a living allowance twice a month and three free meals a day. They also have access to a Wellness Center that provides basic medical, dental and mental health services at no additional cost.

Fields of vocational career training include: Carpentry, Culinary Arts, Electrical, Office Administration, Medical Administrative Assistant, Certified Nursing Assistant, Landscaping, Painting, Plumbing, and Tile Setting.

Job Corps electrical students

Job Corps electrical students

Students also receive academic training, including basic reading and math and the opportunity to obtain their High School Diploma or their High School equivalency previously known as GED. Courses in independent living, employability, and social skills are also offered in order to help students transition into the workplace. The Center also provides assistance with job placement and continuing education.

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Sales Supervisor Diane Bojorquez

Omnitrans Pass Sales Supervisor Diane Bojorquez graduated the Job Corps program in 1973. This year she celebrates 38 years in the transit industry and her 12th anniversary with Omnitrans.

“I graduated high school when I was 17-years-old, but couldn’t afford college,” she explains. “Job Corps was a great option to get more education for free.

“It was probably the best thing I ever did. I started off learning office administration and, later, focused specifically on transportation. Soon I was promoted to call center manager and later became sales supervisor. It’s grown into a career.

“I would definitely recommend Job Corps to anyone looking for financial stability, job opportunities, or help getting into college. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. For me, the experience was life changing.”

Job Corps carpenter students

Job Corps carpenter students

The success of Job Corps impacts more than just the individual. It is also changing our culture.

“Job Corps is not only helping local youth,” says Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham. “It is also creating a professional job force that will help grow and revitalize our community. We are excited to be part of that process, and are honored to be awarded Employer of the Year.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Job Corps medical administrative assistant student

Job Corps medical administrative assistant student

Interested in applying to the Inland Empire Job Corps program? Contact Leeann Jimenez, admissions Counselor, at 909-887-7128 or Jimenez.leeann@jobcorps.org

If you are a business wishing to partner with Job Corps, please contact Claudia Lopez, Business and Community Liaison at 909-887-7154 or lopez.claudia@jobcorps.org

 

Riders say Route 290 is their commute of choice


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I had the chance to try out the Route 290 Freeway Express this week and interview a few of the regular passengers. All of them share a common thread. They love the quickness and convenience of the Freeway Express and hope that it will expand its service hours.

Jose works in Pomona at Metro PCS where he installs cell phones and helps tailor affordable plans for people who have limited resources. The cost of car repairs and gas is too high for him right now. Taking his own vehicle would cost him around $30 every couple of days. Since Omnitrans introduced its Route 290 Freeway Express last September, he’s been a regular passenger.

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“The 290 makes a big difference in cost, and it cuts the ride in half,” he explains. “I used to have to take three buses to get to work.  I was spending four hours out of every day on the bus. That’s a lot of time.”

“As soon as I heard about the Route 290, I was ready to hop right on it!” Jose laughs. “Forget about spending all that boring time on the long route! I’m going to take the short route!”

Now to get to his job, he takes Route 290 from San Bernardino to Pomona, then Foothill Transit Route 187 to Gary and Foothill. He couldn’t be happier.

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“All of us regulars have been talking about how we wish it would run all day. Sometimes I’ll see people waiting at the bus stop in the afternoon around 12:00 or 1:00. They haven’t read the bus book, so they don’t realize it just runs early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Once you tell them, you get some upset people and others who are like ‘Oh okay, I didn’t know. I was one of those people back when it first started. But I caught on real quick,” Jose laughs.

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San Bernardino resident Beatrice just started riding the 290 around 3 weeks ago when she started a new job an office assistant at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. It’s a work experience position and extremely important to her.

“I was taking Route 1, which got me there around 7:40. But I start work at 8:00, and I like to be early. Then someone told me about the 290 and how it got there faster—a whole 50 minutes faster than Route 1!” She laughs. “Yeah, that’s why I started taking it. It’s one straight shot. The 290’s not available when I get off work in the afternoon, so I do have to take the 1 home then.  It would be great if the 290 ran all day.”

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Montclair resident Andrew is taking the 290 to San Bernardino so he can visit friends in Colton. He’s a father of 5, and Omnitrans has been the family’s primary mode of transportation for the past five years.

“I’m working right now towards getting a car. I used to study welding at Summit College in San Bernardino and am looking for work. I’d actually like to find a job with a shipyard. The pay is really good and so are the hours.”

Andrew is a big fan of the Freeway Express.

“If the 290 would run all day, it would be nice. I don’t really like catching the 66 because it’s a long ride. If the 290 expanded its hours, it would be more crowded. It’s a lot more convenient—easier and faster.”

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Passenger Mike  is also regular Route 290 commuter. He shared some of his thoughts about the service in a recent email to us.

“The 290 drivers that I’ve ridden with since the service started have been impressively professional drivers; I feel safer with them driving than if I were to drive.  It’s easy to forget that I’m on the freeway because of the smoothness of the travel.

I also appreciate very much how early the 290 starts its eastward trips.  They are earlier than the Metrolink that I used to use—much earlier after some schedule changes that Metrolink made.

The Wi-Fi is not essential, but I like having it; I’ve used it with an interactive language-learning website that requires a live connection.  It’s so much more comfortable to read or to use the Internet while commuting than to drive.

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If asked, I can only think of two things that I believe could make the 290 better:

  • Schedule the first eastbound bus to arrive a few minutes earlier in San Bernardino.  Its scheduling was improved last month to arrive at exactly the same time as my next bus—the 8—is scheduled to leave.  Lately, I’ve been just barely able to catch the earlier 8, and it shortens my commute by 40 minutes.  I am grateful for that; with the original 290 schedule, the 8 was driving away from the terminal each morning as the 290 arrived.
  • Give the drivers freeway blockage information and map-routing devices.  The drivers have impressed me with their ability to take local roads to get around closed freeway sections, but it would help them if they had an early warning of closures, etc.”

Omnitrans appreciates all of the customer feedback we are receiving on the Route 290 Freeway Express, and will keep your suggestions in mind when planning the next service change!

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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sbX switches to on-demand station stops

sbX station platform at Cal State San Bernardino

Due to construction and to keep routes running on time, Omnitrans sbX vehicles will no longer automatically stop at every station. Coach operators will now pull into a station only if signaled to do so by a passenger or if there are people waiting to board.

Just as on any other Omnitrans fixed route, sbX passengers need to signal the driver in advance via the yellow strip on the side of the bus, or a button like the one below, when they want to disembark at an upcoming stop.  We are confident that this adjustment will allow us to better serve our customers.

sbX stop request button

Please note that sbX continues to run on a 10 minute schedule during peak hours, and every 15 minutes throughout the day.

Additionally, we currently are experiencing some technical issues with NexTrip arrival prediction times for sbX. Ominitrans’ Operations and IT Departments and our vendors have been diligently working behind the scenes to resolve the problem and hope to have a solution soon. We appreciate your patience while we work on making the necessary corrections.

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Why do you ride Rt. 290 Freeway Express?

Passengers board Route 290 Freeway Express

Are you a Route 290 Freeway Express rider? We’d love to talk to you about your commuting experience!

One of our Omnitrans team members will be doing  a ride-along Thursday, February 4th to interview some of our regular passengers for a blog article. We look forward to hearing your stories.

The ride-along will start at 7:02 a.m. from the San Bernardino Transit Center and will make the return trip at 8:36 from the Montclair Transit Center. See you then!

Juno Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org