Coach operator grads hit the road

Back row left to right: Cassandra Henderson, John Parham, Dennis Elton, Mark Newton. Front row left to right: Julie Diaz, Regina Tootle and Kenya Finnell.

Omnitrans newest student coach operators were all smiles as they celebrated their graduation today.

Three of the graduates have a transit background and came to Omnitrans from other transit agencies. Kenya Finnell formerly drove both buses and trains for LA Metro. Mark Newton was previously a coach operator for Orange County Transportation Authority, and Regina Tootle had been a coach operator for Foothill Transit.

The other four graduates were newbies to the transit industry. Dennis Elton worked in jumper rentals. Julie Diaz has worked numerous customer service positions for a variety of companies including Wells Fargo. Cassandra Henderson is a mom of two who considers this her first real job. John Parham worked for 30 years as a postal worker.

Fleet Safety & Training Instructor Charles Molloy checks in with dispatch for driving assignments for our new coach operators.

“This was a really energetic class and all of them were a pleasure to have as students,” says Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Charles Molloy. “They worked well together, cared a lot about other and always had each other’s backs. They are a great addition to our fleet.”

Welcome aboard graduates! We’re excited to have you here and wish you best of luck on your first routes.

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Kenya Finnell

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Julie Diaz

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Regina Tootle

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator John Parham

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Cassandra Henderson

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Mark Newton

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Dennis Elton

 

What riders are saying about Omnitrans

“After buying a car, I realized that I would be saving roughly 60 dollars a month if I continued to take the bus to and from work. That means I’m saving 720 dollars a year. Oh yeah. I’ve come to enjoy my daily commute. Thanks Omnitrans!” – Ruben S.

“I love sbX because you have free wifi and we can charge our phones. That’s the coolest part. Keep the good job going.” – Moises F.

“I use Omnitrans for doctor appointments or just going to the movies. It is cheaper than running my car. You have always been there for me. I’ve used the bus service for over 25 years. Nice to relax and let Omni do the driving.” – Michelle E.

“It’s fast and there’s more room on the sbX bus. Especially when I go food shopping. I can find room for my basket and backpack that I fill with food once a month. I love the power outlets to charge cell phones. It makes riding the bus a lot less stressful.”  – Ronnie R.

“Friendly drivers, awesome experience, cheap way to get around when you don’t have a car. People are friendly. On the bus you make new friends with bus drivers and other people.  I love Omnitrans.” – Alicia S.

“I like Omnitrans because it gets me where I need to go, and I get a nap in on the way. It’s a blessing when you have no car.” –  Gorgoni J.

“Makes getting to work a snap and saves a ton on gas and insurance. Why have a car that you barely use when you can catch the bus, especially that awesome new SBX.” – Christian G.

“The Sbx is a great way to travel. It can literally be faster than driving a car due to the dedicated lanes. Not only am I saving some time, but I get to meet great people on the bus and reduce my eco footprint.” – Kimberly G.

“I love Omnitrans because I can go to CSUSB without the hassle of paying for parking, paying for gas, or looking for a parking space every time I have class. And the stop is right outside my house!!  I love it!!” – Cindy P.

 

Leadership program encourages employee innovation

Six of our employees graduated from the Omnitrans Leadership Action Program (LAP) this month. During the 6-month program, each participant worked on a project of their choosing with the potential to improve a process or generate significant savings for Omnitrans. The participants thoroughly research their projects and present their findings to the executive leadership team for possible implementation. This year, the combined projects have the potential to save the agency more than $2 million per year!

Ross Hrinko: Benefits of Preventative Health & Wellness Programs
Encouraging participation in the agency’s Wellness Program, soliciting employee feedback and enhancing communication on preventative health are a few areas Ross targets as potential areas of refinement.  The introduction of “Company Nurse” services could assist employees with health issues, by making referrals or suggesting alternative treatment. This would cut back on costly and unnecessary doctor visits, while still providing valuable information and support to the patient.

Louise Acosta – Liquid Natural Gas Delivery vs. Pipeline Natural Gas
For her project, Louise investigated the pros and cons of switching from liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel delivery to pipeline natural gas. Omnitrans currently pays for the delivery of LNG fuel from a third party vendor. Natural pipeline gas would cost substantially less than LNG, but initially would require new equipment to compress the gas for our buses.

Joseph Tibita – Reorganizing Mobile Offices for Cost Reduction
Joseph’s goal was to redesign the equipment placement and storage  in our 15 Field Supervisor mobile offices for practical use and savings. By improving the positioning and layout of user interfaces and streamlining the wiring of data and power cables with a docking station, his plan eliminates the problem of lost time due to displaced equipment and slow system access, and prevents safety hazards.

Christina Diaz – Coach Simulator Acquisition & Training
Christina’s proposal to acquire a coach simulator for operator training was recently actualized. By partnering with Cal State San Bernardino in exchange for data generated by the simulator, Omnitrans was able to obtain the $70,000 simulator for free. Coaches are needed for many types of training, but pulling a coach from revenue service costs the agency approximately $90 per hour. As an added benefit, the simulator can safely mimic challenging and hazardous scenarios not easily duplicated on the road. This allows coach operators to improve their reaction times, behavioral driving, judgmental and perceptual skills. The simulator has also been successfully implemented by the Omnitrans workforce development program to introduce the public to regional coach operator careers.

Caroljo Mitcham –  CNG Conversion & Off-site Fueling of Access Fleet
Caroljo focused on the savings generated by transitioning our current Access paratransit fleet from unleaded gasoline to CNG fuel. By obtaining CNG fuel from an offsite service station, current regulatory compliance fees and tank maintenance would be eliminated and costs would be reduced.

 

Carolann Williams – Rostering Versus Cafeteria Run Bid Process
With the current cafeteria style run  bid, coach operators select and bid on the routes, shifts and days off they want. It is a lengthy process and, depending on how these are combined, can result in split days off for the coach operator. 
With rostering, off days are built into the work assignment, which  reduces the number of days the bid process takes, gives coach operators more varied work assignments to choose from, and minimizes the number of split days off.

Get a $5 food truck coupon from sbX!

Exclusive offer only for sbX riders this Thursday:

Get a $5.00 coupon towards lunch at your favorite food truck during the Third Thursday Food Fest on February 19th!

  • Coupons will be given ONLY to sbX riders disembarking at the sbX Civic Center Station between 11:00- 1:30 on Thursday, February 19th.
  • One coupon allowed per person. A limited quantity of coupons is available.
  • The coupon is redeemable only for that day during the Third Thursdays Food Fest.

Enjoy food truck deliciousness from vendors like:

  • MochaLotive Express – coffee, sandwiches, nachos and more
  • Street Foods Co. – tacos, burritos, salads and more
  • Crepes Bonaparte – gourmet crepes
  • Bacon Mania – all things bacon
  • The Grilled Cheese Truck – sandwiches, mac & cheese
  • Piaggio on Wheels – Argentine cuisine
  • The Greasy Weiner – dogs & brats
  • My Delight Truck – cupcakes

Third Thursdays Food Fest
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.   San Bernardino City Hall
Court Street Square (next to the sbX Civic Center Station)
Check out the SB third Thursdays Food Fest on Facebook!

Thanks for riding sbX. We’ll see you Thursday!

Funny Valentines: Deb & Terry Molloy

Debbie and Terry Molloy first met 19 years ago when they were both working for Omnitrans as coach operators. You might say it was love at first sight.

“I was driving the route 14 my first day when Terry relieved me in front of the yard,” Debbie recalls. “Because I was brand new, I was all nervous and didn’t pay any attention to him. I just wanted off that bus! The second day when he climbed aboard, he asked ‘Are you doing this every day at this time?’ I remember thinking oh my goodness what a voice! Then I looked up and saw his face and that was it. He was so nice and very good-looking. The following week, we kept running into each other at lunch time. There were about five of us that used to meet for lunch every day. Then, before we knew it, it dwindled down to just the two of us.”

Terry nods. “We just clicked, you know?”

Debbie smiles. “Anyway, we went out to lunch together for about a year, and we found out we had a lot of things in common. We got to know each other pretty well. He was just a very gentle, soft-spoken person. I saw that he was kind-hearted and very giving. I liked that.”

“It started off as a good friendship for us,” agreed Terry. “As I got to know her, I could see she was real—there was nothing fake about her. And I noticed that she was a very good parent to her kids. That sort of clued me in as to who she was.”  He shrugs. “She also laughed at my jokes.”

“Some of them I laughed at because I thought I’d BETTER laugh.” points out Debbie.

“Uh huh. She chased me for months,” Terry teases. “Finally I just said okay. I’m yours.”

“I did pursue him,” Debbie confesses. “It took him a long time to ask me out on a date, so I finally invited him to come over to my place for dinner.”

Terry laughs. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach right?” He leans back in his chair and adds more seriously. “Nah. She was fun. She enjoyed the same things that I did. We were best friends, got to know each other, and it just blossomed from there.

Debbie arches a brow at her husband. “But I didn’t know quite everything. I didn’t realize that he had had a fiance until I was moving in with him and cleaning out the cupboards.”

Terry knows what’s coming. He looks sheepishly at his wife, who has a mischievous sparkle in her eye. They both start to laugh.

“Terry kept the old engagement ring in his sock drawer, and I found it when I was putting laundry away. Anyway, about a week later he says ‘So what are you doing for lunch tomorrow?’”

“I just looked at him and pointed out that we usually go out for lunch together. He said ‘No, I think we’ll go look for a ring for you.’ And I said oh really? The next thing I know, he’s bringing me over the ex’s ring to try on and asking if I like it.”

Terry groans, “I had no idea she knew about it.”

Deb continues gleefully. “I put on the ring, looked and it on my hand and told him no, actually I don’t like it. We ended up taking that ring back to Zales, and I got to pick out a ring that I wanted. But he never asked me to marry him. He just said ‘What are you doing for lunch tomorrow?’”

“And you never said yes,” Terry grins.

“So here we are,” says Debbie. “We were so close and so connected. And all three of my kids love him. They just adore him.

“It was the same with my two kids,” adds Terry. “They just blended and are all close. It worked out well. But it was tough sometimes when they were younger because we wanted to be fair and treat them all the same.”

Debbie nods. “Like on Saturdays I would say okay before you watch cartoons go in the bedroom and make your beds. They’d all look at me like really? You’re not my mom. Stuff like that. And Terry would say don’t worry, Deb, they’ll all be grown up before you know it. And it happened just like that.” She snaps her fingers.

Her husband leans back in his chair. “It was like overnight they were all gone. Now with the new grandbaby, we can do it all over again.

Debbie’s face lights up at the thought of the new addition to their family. “Madison is beautiful. I really like that we get to help raise her together as grandparents. Did you know we’ll be married 18 years in October? And we’re comfortable together. We love to travel now that the kids are gone. A lot of nights we just stay in, snuggle and watch TV.”

“ Communication is really the key. And we never take work home,” says Terry seriously. “If we have anything to say about work, we talk about it here or in the car before we get home. We keep it separate.”

Today, Debbie is an sbX coach operator, and Terry is a Fleet Safety and Training Instructor.

“We like working at Omnitrans,” Deb says frankly. “I don’t think I would want to be in an office with him. But because he’s here and I’m on the road, we do fine. When we do our ATCR classes I look forward to having him as an instructor. I get to see the way everyone reacts to him. People really like him as a trainer. He keeps it fun. It makes me proud to be in there when he’s doing his job.”

“You have to be that way,” Terry explains. “Some people go in there, and they’re straight by the book. That’s just not who I am. You have to bring a little bit of something in with it. You get to know each other better that way.”

I ask what their plans are for Valentine’s Day.

“We’re going to San Diego to get our taxes done,” Terry says promptly

The two look at each other and burst out laughing.

“Our tax man called us and said he had one open appointment but that we wouldn’t want it because it was on Valentine’s Day,” Debbie explains. “Terry said no we want it.”

“We’ll get there early and spend the day and maybe go out for dinner or something afterwards,” he adds.

Debbie smiles. “We’re looking forward to it.”

 – Juno Kughler Carlson
   juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

Buses running, offices closed Feb. 16th

Omnitrans buses will be operating on their normal schedules on Presidents Day, Monday, February 16th.

Our administrative offices will be closed for the holiday, but will re-open on Tuesday, February 17th. 

 

Employee of the Quarter: Lourdes Sandoval

When things are running smoothly, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are people behind the scenes making that happen. Our Employee of the Quarter, HR Clerk Lourdes Sandoval (Mimi to her friends), is one of those people.  

“Mimi has gone far above and beyond the requirements of her job duties to assist the workforce development team,” says Committee chair Dr. Samuel Gibbs. “She has been on point to deal with vendors, to track expenses and to coordinate with classes as needed. We are doing some of these activities for the first time, yet she approaches each one with a positive, pleasant, can-do attitude. I am deeply appreciative of everything she has done for us and am happy to see her recognized in this way.”

Employee Relations Manager Ray Maldonado agrees. “In her position, Mimi has to handle both internal and external customer service issues. She genuinely cares about people and it shows. She’s also great with research and problem-solving. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she’ll go on the Internet and teach herself. She’s a very quick learner, always looks for cross-training opportunities, and enjoys taking on new challenges. She’s my go-to person whenever I need help.“

Employee Relations Manager Ray Maldonado, Lourdes Sandoval, and Director of HR and Safety & Regulatory Compliance Marjorie Ewing

Before she came to Omnitrans, Mimi was the HR person for Armstrong Garden Centers, a retail garden center headquartered in Glendora. She did everything from handling HR issues to training new hires.

“I did a little of everything,” Mimi explains. “I even had to help with drug screening. I used to have to cut people’s hair to send to the lab for drug testing. So I guess you could even say I was a bit of a beautician or hairstylist. Coming to Omnitrans was very different—it’s much more structured.”

“A lot of my job here in HR centers on customer service. Our employees are our customers, and we want to keep them happy. Sometimes the public comes in asking about what positions are open. And there is always tons of filing to be done. Everything is documented. Personnel folders can be two or three inches thick—especially for the long-timers who have been here for 20 or 30 years!”

Mimi herself has been with Omnitrans now for 8 years. She says the biggest change she’s seen is in the way open job positions are posted. When she first started, people used to have to call a hotline to get information on jobs. Now almost everything is done through the website. Mimi likes that the agency still sends out actual letters when people are invited to test or to come in for an interview. She feels it gives more of a personal touch.

Mimi is always looking for opportunities to learn new things and build her skill set. When our administrative secretary retired, she stepped up to fill in for her until a replacement was hired.

“That was probably the biggest challenge I faced this year, and I learned a lot,” says Mimi. “Of course I had the best of the best up there training me. Vicki [our assistant to the GM/CEO] is an amazing woman. She does it all, she’s seen it all, and she’s got a lot of history here. You can ask her for something that was discussed in a Board meeting years ago, and she’ll know exactly where it is and be able to pull the file.”

Mimi would like to continue in the HR field and go back to school for a Business degree. “Up until now my focus has all been on being a mom and working. Now that my kids are grown, I’m actually looking forward to finding out who I am. There’s a whole world out there I never got to experience. I’m excited about that. There is so much to explore.”

She grins. “I know a lot of car stuff and can talk about carburetors and engines. Right now I really want a Challenger because I want to go fast. My first car when I was 16 —I was very spoiled—was a red Camaro. Unfortunately it died.

I made the mistake of letting someone else drive my car—stupidest mistake in my life.  He decided to see how close he could drive to the side of the road without going over the edge. We ended up sliding down a hundred foot drop to the bottom of a canyon in San Dimas.

We barely managed to get out and climb our way back to the road before it caught fire. We just sort of had to stand there and watch it burn. I remember crying because I had so many cassettes in that car. All my music was gone! I came home and my parents asked me where the car was. And in a very small voice I told them it was in the bottom of the canyon. The very next day we had to go to the tow yard and my dad grabbed the key. I told him, “Ummm. Yeah. You’re not going to need that key.” The whole thing had burnt to a crisp.” She laughs ruefully. “Music and fast cars. I’m like a dude!”

She jokes that the daredevil gene must run in her family. Her son Dominic was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was a year old, and later had to rely on a wheelchair to get around. One day she got a call from his middle school, saying that Dominic had been in an accident. They explained he had cranked up the power on his chair on the playground, took a curve too fast and ended up tumbling down a hill. Mimi smiles, remembering. “After that, he was forbidden to take the wheelchair any faster than 5.”

Mimi had been with Omnitrans less than a year when Dominic died shortly before his 16th birthday.

“I had incredible support from everyone. I had only worked here a few months before he got sick, yet they told me to go take care of my son. I was surprised because I never experienced anything like that in the private sector. Paying for sick days? That would never happen.” She shakes her head.

“It was hard. I never expected Dominic to leave so soon. I couldn’t believe how many donations came in. People pulled together and basically paid for my son’s service. It was all done behind the scenes. I didn’t know that anyone knew. It meant a lot to me.”

“That’s really what I love best about working here I think. It’s the people. They have a lot of heart. Once you’re here, you’re family.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org