Category Archives: Employee Profile

sbX Coach Operator Steven Newton

Omnitrans sbX coach operator Steven Newton

For coach operator Steven Newton, 2014 has been an eventful year: a Valentine’s Day wedding, a new baby—and a new job as an sbX coach operator!

“I’d always wanted to drive the Artic [articulated coach], but I didn’t want to make the 30 mile commute to San Bernardino,” Steven confessed.  “It was my wife who finally made me decide to apply to be an sbX driver.  With our new baby, she needed me home on the weekends.”

omnitrans sbx coach operator steven newtonSo Steven put in for the position. He had been with Omnitrans for 7 years, and for the last two had been working relief shifts 7 days week on the west side. He felt he had a pretty good record but knew there was also a lot of strong competition for those jobs.  When he found out he made the cut, he was excited.

“I like these vehicles a lot better. The turning point radius is really no different from a 40-footer.  They run smooth and command a different respect on the road.  Passengers are pleasant, although with sbX  I don’t have as much interaction with them since they enter from the rear doors.  I just really need to focus on driving. The hardest part of the job is watching for motorists. It’s a very different experience.”

Because all the sbX drivers came in at the ground floor at the same time and shared the same training and experiences, Steven says they’ve become like family. They understand the challenges of the job and support each other and help out wherever they can.

Omnitrans sbX Coach Operator Steven Newton“Most of us see this as the stepping stone to the revitalization of San Bernardino County,” said Steven. “It starts with the City of San Bernardino and will grow as sbX spreads to more areas. I like the long term plan. They want to bridge the Inland Empire to Los Angeles.  To me, that’s the best move you could make because so many people commute from here to LA and vice versa. The train can only do so much. We’ve got the buses that bridge, but that’s a 3-4 hour bus ride as opposed to an express service that could take you right to downtown LA. There could even be something on the 210 that could get you to Pasadena. These are the ideas the company is trying to bring forth. It’s creating more jobs, more opportunity, and more room for promotion.”

Steven says overall passenger reaction to sbX has been positive.

Omnitrans sbX coach operator Steven Newton

“People respect us. A lot feel we are trying to make things better, especially up at the college.  I had some kids get on the bus recently who asked if I could hold off for a moment because they were doing a school project about the sbX and wanted some pictures. I was like, wow. Go ahead. It made me feel good to know that I was a part of their education. We are helping the community. It’s not just about making money. We’re making a difference. That’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re public servants. We’re supposed to help people who might be less fortunate than others who do have the means, you know. That’s what it’s all about. It may not be perfect. It may not put you in the parking lot, but we’re going to get you where you need to go.”

Steven’s baby boy Ian is now 5-months-old, and he loves being able to devote his weekends to his family.

“It’s a long commute during the week,” he admits. “But I’m so used to it now it just comes and goes. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. Life is blessing me right now and I have a lot to be grateful for.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans sbX coach operator graduates

Omnitrans sbX coach operator graduates

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Two directors take on expanded roles

Omnitrans Directors Wendy Williams and Marge Ewing

Omnitrans Directors Wendy Williams and Marge Ewing

To increase efficiency and reduce administrative expenses, Omnitrans is eliminating some management positions and consolidating some departments. Marketing and Planning will merge under the leadership of Director Wendy Williams, while Director Marjorie Ewing will steer the combined Human Resources and Safety and Regulatory Compliance departments.

This is not the first time Ewing has headed a cross-functional department. Prior to joining Omnitrans 15 years ago, she was the Manager of HR and Safety & Security for Alumax, an aluminum manufacturing company with more than 500 employees. “It’s a natural marriage of functions,” she explains. “HR works closely with safety because of workman’s comp claims and OSHA regulations. All injuries, both non-industrial and workman’s comp, have safety implications. And most security issues involve some form of employee relations, requiring investigation, discipline and prevention.”

Williams, who has 33 years of professional experience in marketing and communications, has been with Omnitrans since 1991.  She believes that merging two departments so strongly tied to the customer experience simply makes good sense. “The marketing and planning functions have worked closely together through the years, so combining the departments is a good fit. We are focused on moving the agency forward with the ultimate goal of increasing ridership by providing transit options that meet the mobility needs of the San Bernardino Valley.”

Both directors look forward to the new challenges they will be facing in the coming year.

“Our department has several critical items coming up,” said Ewing. “With the recent passage of Federal laws like MAP 21, new safety requirements are being considered nationwide which will require certification of all Safety & Security staff. As charter members of the Transit Mutual Assistance Compact (TransMac), we will also be working with transit agencies throughout southern California to establish formal agreements on how we will provide mutual assistance to each other in the event of an emergency. Other projects include process safety management, the installation of a PA system both at our facilities and at our sbX stations and establishing fare evasion protocols and training for field supervisors.”

Williams’ department will focus on five key areas for fiscal year 2015. “Our goals are to increase ridership, complete the San Bernardino Transit Center, advance the West Valley Connector Project, increase pass sales and revenue and enhance customer satisfaction,” said Williams. “It’s an ambitious list, and I feel lucky to have a seasoned team and four skilled managers who are committed to making it happen.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Omnitrans employees donate to Locks of Love

Coach Operator Marianne Rose, Dispatcher Al Mooney, and Coach Operator Linda Buckley

A few Omnitrans employees are sporting a new look at the office. Dispatcher Al Mooney and Coach Operators Marianne Rose and Linda Buckley recently took advantage of a Super Cuts special that offered free haircuts to clients who were willing to donate their hair to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. The prostheses provided help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

This is the fourth time dispatcher Al Mooney has donated his signature ponytail to the charity. He also shaved his beard off to match his new look. “I do this about every 5 years. It’s a great cause and I’m happy to help make a difference.” He chuckles. “Besides, it’s always fun when I walk into the office afterwards and no one recognizes me.”

This is Linda Buckley’s first time making a donation. “It was something I’ve thought about for a while because I know a lot of people with cancer who have gone through treatments. When this opportunity came up, I knew it was a way I could help someone who really needed it.”

For cancer survivor Marianne Rose, the act holds special meaning. “My mom died of cancer. During her treatment, she received one of those wigs, and it meant so much to her. It helped her to look like old herself again, and it touched all of us to see her so happy.”

In 2009 Marianne herself was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  She went through 5 weeks of external radiation treatments followed by 42 hours of internal radiation and 5 months of chemotherapy.

“Now I am 5 years cancer free,” she smiles. “It’s a little funny, you know. When you have cancer you get extremely superstitious. You feel that as long as you don’t change anything, as long as you keep growing your hair, everything is okay. For 4 ½ years I never had a haircut. Now I’m finally realizing that I’m going to be around for a while. This is my way of celebrating and giving back what I can.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Don Frazier

omnitrans employee of the quarter don fraizier

Interim Director of Operations Diane Caldera, Employee of the Quarter Don Frazier, Board Chair Alan Wapner, and Director of HR Marjorie Ewing

On May 9th, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier was named Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for his dedication and invaluable contributions to success of the agency. His emphasis is always on the rider experience and on ensuring that our coach operators have the tools they need to be safe and successful. His knowledge, experience, professionalism, humor, friendly demeanor and willingness to always go the extra mile makes him an outstanding ambassador for Omnitrans and has earned the respect of his peers.

Don’s career in the transit industry has spanned more than 39 years and includes 24 years with LA Metro. His biggest challenge and one his proudest accomplishments has been his role in the launch of our new sbX BRT line.

Don frazier driving sbx

Don assisted with launch preparations for our sbX service by testing vehicle features and identifying potential problems along the corridor. He also served as the driver for our sbX safety video and VIP tours.

Don was responsible for training his team, as well as our field supervisors, maintenance crews and other key agency staff, on the operation of the articulated coaches. He personally developed an in-depth, hands-on training program for our sbX coach operators to ensure they had the skills necessary to safely and efficiently run the route. He also tested vehicle features and helped identify potential problems along the corridor. So much was new for us: longer coaches, rear fare validators, interior bike racks, rear-facing wheelchair securement, bus only lanes, center stations, level docking and traffic signal prioritizations. Thanks to Don’s program and his excellent 5-person training team, our operators were well prepared for launch of service.

Don and the training team frequently do free wheelchair strap installations for Omnitrans riders to ensure they can be safely and easily secured on the buses.

“It was a huge amount of work,” admits Don. “And it was definitely a team effort. I had to ask a lot of my training staff. Many times they had to give up a day off or come in at 3 or 4 in the morning just so we could cover everything that had to be done. Often we had multiple training sessions going on at once: student coach operator training, sbX coach operator training, route training classes, and coach operator instructor classes. It was a grind, but we got through it. They are an amazing group of people and none of this could have been done without their help.”

Omitrans fleet safety and training team

The training team: Charles Molloy, Verretta Johnson, Kimberly Perkins Don Frazier, Dhristina Diaz and Stephen McClure

One thing immediately evident to anyone who works with any of the training staff is their supportiveness and dedication to their students. That mentoring process means a lot to Don.

“Students tend to come in with that deer in the headlights look, feeling nervous and unsure of themselves,” Don smiles. “I always tell them, give us one year. You’ll see everything and experience everything and see if this is really for you. Recently a student from my very first training class here reminded me of that. She’s been here 12 years now. She told that she owes a lot of what she has to what she learned from me. That can’t help but make you feel good. You’re making a difference in other people’s lives, seeing them become happier and more confident.”

Trainer Christina Diaz congratulates Don after the award presentation.

Don believes a good work ethic and a positive attitude are critical for student coach operators.

“The toughest part of the job for me is when I have to tell a student they’re not cutting it. I want to help people be successful. If you are lacking in driving skills but are willing to learn and have a great attitude, I’ll even come in on the weekend and work with you to help you get this job. But if you don’t have the right mindset or the proper attitude coming in the door, then you simply won’t be a good fit. Not everyone is cut out to be a coach operator. It’s a tough job. You have to have good people skills and good driving skills. It’s a great job, but it’s also hard.”

Don is looking forward to adding a new resource to the training arsenal very soon. Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans will be getting an on-premises coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes. It’s something he has lobbied for over many years, and he is excited to see it about to become a reality.

Don and his wife Audrey enjoy a moment together on board sbX. The couple has been married for 42 years and have one son and one daughter. They regularly share their home with foreign exchange students and are looking forward to meeting two new students who will be joining them soon from Japan.

“This is the next wave of technology,” says Don. “It will bump our training up to a whole new level and save the agency a lot of money. Right now it costs $90 an hour to run a bus. Putting a student on a coach simulator doesn’t cost the agency anything. It’s an excellent defensive driving tool and will allow us to test the reaction times of student coach operators. The system can also be hooked up so that other students can observe the driver in the simulator as part of the learning experience. Normally this technology costs between $130,000 to $200,000, but we are getting it for $20,000—all of which is covered by a federal grant. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”

Don and Audrey Frazier on the sbX Green Line

Million Mile Coach Operators honored for safety

Omnitrans coach operators have an excellent safety record

Omnitrans Coach Operators Derman Redman and Cecil Stevens were honored for their milestone achievement of 100 million safe driving miles.

This month, the Omnitrans Million Mile Club welcomed two new 1 million mile drivers and two 2 million mile drivers into its ranks. These dedicated coach operators have achieved the prestigious 1 million mile mark by logging 25,000 driving hours without a preventable accident. It’s the equivalent of driving to the moon and back–twice!

Omnitrans CEO Graham Scott, Operators Director Diane Caldera, Board Chair Alan Wapner, Million Mile Coach Operator Derman Redman

The coach operators were honored in a special awards ceremony at the Omnitrans Board of directors meeting on March 5th. Each received a certificate of recognition and a check for $5oo.

One Million Miler Derman Redman is proud of his 14 years driving for Omnitrans and his record of excellent customer service.  He drives Routes 1 and 2.

Omnitrans CEO Scott Graham, Operations Director Diane Caldera, Board Chair Alan Wapner and Million Mile Coach Operator Cecil Stevens

“I love driving,” he says frankly. “And I like being able to work with such diverse people. I really enjoy seeing all the different nationalities and customs. It’s such a mixing pot on the bus—always full of surprises.”

While people are his greatest joy, they can also present some of the greatest challenges. But Derman believes that friendliness and courteousness goes a long way towards dispelling potential problems.

Million Mile Coach Operator Derman Redman with Operations Manager John Steffon

“It’s hard to be rude to someone who just smiled at you and wished you a great day,” laughs Redman. “I also apologize a lot. If I know a customer has had a bad day or a bad experience, I tell them I’m sorry and do my best to turn things around for them. It’s the quickest way to diffuse a situation. It lets people know you care.”

Million Mile coach operator Cecil Stevens with Operations Manager John Steffon

Million Mile coach operator Cecil Stevens with Operations Manager John Steffon

Route 8 operator Cecil Stevens agrees.  In addition to being a One Million Miler, he recently earned two other titles. He is now a Coach Operator Instructor and a member of our new sbX driving fleet.

A group of Million Mile Club members pose with sbX

A group of Million Mile Club members pose with sbX

“I like being on the road, and I care about people. I try to treat them like I would like to be treated. I always tell my passengers good morning, good night, have a great day. If they seem upset, I ask if they’re alright. I also pay special attention to first time riders and make sure I know where they’re going to so I can help them out. Then when I see them again, I ask how the trip went for them.”  Cecil chuckles. “People are always surprised that I remember them. It’s important to me that they have a good experience on my bus.”

Omnitrans bus drivers honored for safety record

Omnitrans bus drivers honored for safety record

Our Two Million Mile drivers, Krafton Stoll and Andrea Thompson, were unable to attend the awards ceremony. These long-time veterans have a long track record of safety, dedication and caring and are an inspiration to all of us.

Congratulations to all our Million Mile award winners. You make us proud!

Omnitrans Million Mile safe drivers and their trainers

The Omnitrans training team with our One Million Mile award winners: (left to right) Cecil Stevens, Steven McClure, Kimberly Perkins, Don Frazier, Verretta Johnson, Terry Molloy, Derman Redman, and Christina Diaz

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Female Air Force Major named Director of Operations

Diane Caldera has been appointed the new Director of Operations at Omnitrans after serving eight months as “interim.” It’s a challenge she’s excited to take on.

As Director, she will oversee more than 400 employees responsible for delivering public bus service to the San Bernardino Valley. Her department also manages transportation contracts which provide demand response services: OmniLink, a general public dial-a-ride; and, Access, for persons with disabilities.

When Diane joined the agency in 2005 as a coach operator, she quickly moved through the ranks.  Within six months she took a position in Human Resources, then returned to Operations to work as a Field Supervisor. Finally she was promoted to Assistant Transportation Manager where she spent 7 years managing and mentoring others.

“I like to take the time to talk with people and get to know them as individuals—especially our coach operators. This way I can recognize straight away when something’s bothering them and ask them about it. Their mindset plays such critical role in making sure they are mentally prepared and ready for the road that I want to help if I can.”

“Sometimes I offer advice or encourage them to get their education because they have so much potential and can move up. I want to see people succeed and always encourage them as much as possible. I like knowing that people can come to me, seek my opinion or ask for help—even outside my department. I  like having a positive impact on their lives.”

Diane didn’t have the luxury of a mentor in her own career but she figured things out on her own. Much of her learning was done the hard way, through on the job training. For the past 30 years, she has served in the Air Force and is currently a Major. Going from 17 years in enlisted service to becoming a commissioned officer in December 1999 was a huge goal for her, and now she looks forward to going before the Lieutenant Colonel Board for selection later this year.

“In the military I came up the ranks, especially in the flying career as loadmaster, in an area that was predominately male. I was one of the pioneers, one of the first women to get into that career field.  The decisions I made had a crucial impact. The error of margin for maintaining the planes center of balance was 3/10 of a percent. It was that critical. The plane could crash if it wasn’t balanced. It was very precise, very accurate and there was a lot of training involved. Just that position alone was a yearlong training.”

The skills Diane honed in the military proved invaluable in her transit career.

“The Air Force taught me a lot about time management. You learn to forecast and make decisions under pressure. And traveling to different cultures teaches you how important it is to walk in someone else’s shoes so you can better understand their perspective. It’s a good lesson that can also be applied to the workplace.”

Female Air Force Major Diane Caldera is new Director of Operations for Omnitrans

Diane also put herself through school and earned her Bachelors in Business Administration and her Masters in Human Resources. She pursued different degrees because she wanted to be well-rounded. Her business degree gave her a firm foundation in operations and finance, while HR taught her best practices in firing, hiring and labor negotiations. The combination of these skills has helped her to move up in the agency and has provided a solid groundwork for her new role as Director.

“I love the challenge,” admits Diane frankly. “As a director, you have a higher level view. Instead of being at 10,000 feet, you’re now at 25,000. You’re more involved. It’s about overseeing, streamlining, making things happen, keeping things rolling and ensuring everything is done safely. Instead of providing input, you are now the decision-maker.”

“It’s good to be in that position, but it also makes you cautious. You want to make sure you make the right decision. So you go in with an open mind, hearing all points of view and getting input from all levels before making any determination. And once you make the decision, you stand by it. You can’t be wishy-washy because it will affect how you are viewed as a leader. That was something I saw in the military through different commanders. If you couldn’t make the decision, you shouldn’t be there.”

With the launch of the new sbX rapid transit service only 9 weeks away, much of Diane’s attention is on making sure the line runs smoothly.

“sbX is a bit of a challenge because it’s new and unknown,” she explains. “Our focus is on being prepared, anticipating any issues that might arise and staying flexible so that we can adapt as needed. Right now it’s all about testing, running those coaches up and down, working with traffic lights and station platforms. We’re working on sbX coach operator training next month, so I’m excited for that.”

“Our training team is very good. They had to train themselves on sbX because they have to be the experts. Next they will be training the Field Supervisors, because they must be able to do everything as well. We have to train from the top down. Every possible thing you can think of, we have to be able to do before we can train the operators.”

“That’s why I made sure that I was able to be trained as well. I have to be able to do whatever they’re doing out there. If I can’t do it, I can’t speak to it. And I have to speak to it. I was excited to drive one of the first sbX coaches that came in. I think it’s even smoother than the 40-footer—you don’t feel the bumps in the road quite as much. You’d think there would be a drag, but there’s not. It just glides and follows. Although it’s kind of trippy when you’re making a turn and you see the back end of your coach in the mirror!”

You can read more about Diane and some of the interesting stories from her military career here.

- Juno Kughler Carlson
   juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Graham Named CEO/GM at Omnitrans

Former Marine, Scott Graham named Omnitrans CEO

Scott Graham, Omnitrans CEO/General Manager

(San Bernardino, CA) The Omnitrans Board of Directors appointed Scott Graham as CEO/General Manager effective February 5, 2014, eliminating “interim” designation from his title after eight months on the job.

Graham was appointed Interim CEO/General Manager in June 2013 following the resignation of then CEO/General Manager Milo Victoria. He joined Omnitrans in 2006 as Director of Operations, overseeing a department of over 400 employees responsible for delivering fixed route bus service to the San Bernardino Valley. He previously worked at the Orange County Transportation Authority for 12 years.

As Interim, Graham implemented cost saving measures including organizational changes, reduction of healthcare expenses and cost containment of professional services. He also focused on the deployment of the new “sbX” bus rapid transit service line.  “We are excited to be launching this new flagship service in late April, on time and under budget,” said Graham.

Prior to embarking on a career in public transportation, Graham spent 26 years in the US Marine Corps, serving in progressively responsible positions in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the United States.  He earned a Master of Transportation Management from San Jose State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from East Carolina University.

Omnitrans currently employs about 640 people directly and has 220 contracted employees. Annual ridership tops 16 million on 32 bus routes and paratransit services combined. The agency fleet includes 177 transit coaches and 105 vans and minibuses for demand response.

- Wendy Williams, Director of Marketing
   wendy.williams@omnitrans.org