Getting passengers who face challenges and obstacles every day to trust you is no easy task. Elizabeth White has learned that her gateway to building a trusting relationship with clients is to initiate a sincere connection with a genuine smile. “There is always a common bond that you have with another human being,” she says. “You have to find that link and use that to relate to somebody.”
The Omnitrans Board of Directors recently presented the Employee of the Quarter award to Elizabeth, who has “has excelled as primary Travel Training bus presenter, promoting special transportation programs and the entire Omnitrans family of services to senior citizens and people living with disabilities in a way that is easily understood and generates interest.”
This quarter, Elizabeth has been an exemplary employee, receiving numerous commendations for her success in connecting with diverse groups of people. She conveys the passion she has for empowering her Travel Training clients to ride the bus and reclaim independence in their daily lives. This has resulted in increased ridership and pass sales revenue for Omnitrans, and a fruitful manifestation of our agency’s mission to connect our community.
Elizabeth has been with Omnitrans for a year and three months as a member of the newly established Special Transportation Services (STS) department. Previously, she was employed by Vtrans, a defunct agency that operated special transit programs in the region.
Her experience spans far beyond this, however, with years of professional and personal understanding of her client base. “I’ve worked with people living with disabilities for over 20 years,” she reveals. “When I was in high school, I was part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), where I was involved with the Special Olympics. I have grown up around cousins who are disabled, so it’s always been a passion of mine to help people with disabilities.”
Working with a cause that is near and dear to her heart, it is no surprise that Elizabeth has achieved positive results in her job. In her daily work, Elizabeth is able to channel her genuine desire to help people unlock their potential as lead presenter of the Travel Training bus, a program started by the Marketing department in 2012 to introduce new riders to public transit in a controlled but realistic environment.
After the group presentations on the Travel Training bus, individual trainings take place with potential new riders. “We have a waiting list of people interested in one-on-one training. I go out and do an assessment with them during which I make sure they can physically get to and from the bus stop. I also make sure that they are emotionally able to ride the bus; because it can be stressful for someone with disabilities to be inside the bus and feel as if they’re trapped.”
“I do the routing for them, I teach them how to read the bus book, how to use the Omnitrans app to do their own trip planning in the future, how to buy our passes, how to use the passes on the bus, and, once training has progressed far enough, I make sure they can ride on their own. If they can, then that’s great and we’re finished.”
STS clients are people who have lost or never had the freedom to self-sufficiently transport themselves. The mission for our Travel Trainers is always to empower the individual to get out and regain the power to ride public transit to school, work, or other destinations.
“I always tell people that STS’ goal is to keep people as independent as possible for as long as possible. We don’t want people to have to depend on someone else, so if they can ride the bus and get where they need to go, they regain the independence that they may have lost after an accident, when they lost their car, or whatever their situation may be.”
Although the ability to ride the bus may seem insignificant to some, it is infinitely noteworthy to others. Travel Trainers like Elizabeth are positively impacting lives every day. To their clients, learning to ride the bus or regaining that ability gives them a sense of autonomy and accomplishment, which to Elizabeth, is the most rewarding part of her job.
“[Passengers] feel so appreciative that they’ve figured out how to ride the bus because we helped them. To know that I changed someone’s life, even if just a small aspect of their lives – transportation – that is something that can open up an entire world of possibilities for someone who is disabled or a senior.”
Of late, Elizabeth has been instrumental in working with a four-complex senior housing development in Fontana. After presenting to 70 residents, they learned that Route 82 provided a one-seat ride between any of the four complexes and the Social Security Administration office in Fontana, a popular destination for them.
As a result of these presentations, seniors that participated in travel trainings have begun riding the bus and managers have invested in monthly bus passes for residents. Her work in the field has generated a new source of pass sales revenue, increased bus ridership, and an expanded network of opportunities to partner with other organizations to promote Omnitrans.
“The work Elizabeth does for the STS Team and Omnitrans is valued,” says Director of Special Transportation Service Doug Stanley. “As evidenced by the numerous commendations I receive from those she gives group bus demonstration presentations to, she is not just well thought of by the seniors and persons with disabilities we serve, but they are also appreciative of her attitude, demeanor and ability to connect. The key is to know your audience – and she does.”
People who are not familiar with Omnitrans’ fixed route system do not realize how simple it can be to ride the bus to reach common destinations in our service area. It is our duty to disseminate that information and to make people aware. Then, they realize how easy it has been all along to reach their destinations via Omnitrans.
“That’s what our presentations do,” explains Elizabeth. “My goal is always to inform people and change negative perceptions that people may have about riding the bus. We want them to know that we care that their riding experience is pleasurable and that it’s a success for everyone when they ride the bus.”