Coach operator Cecil Stevens: “People matter”

Omnitrans coach operator Cecil StevensIf you ask Omnitrans coach operator Cecil Stevens what matters most to him in his work, he will immediately have an answer for you.

“Customer service is one of the most important parts of the job,” he explains. “A lot of times when you go someplace, people will treat you like you don’t matter or like they’re too busy to help you out. I don’t like that. People matter.”

Formerly one of our Route 8 coach operators, Cecil is now an sbX driver and coach operator instructor. He emphasizes the importance of keeping a good attitude on the job and taking care of your body. He works out 4-5 times a week in the Omnitrans gym.

“It’s easy to get out of shape when you’re driving,” he says. “You’re sitting constantly. It’s important to get out and walk and exercise every day. It helps out a lot. If I don’t do it, I feel the difference right away.”

Working out is not just about fitness for Cecil. He believes it’s also a great way to clear your head and prepare for a day on the road.

“I try to make sure all my passengers have a good bus ride. I always tell them good morning, good night or have a great day. If they seem upset, I ask if they’re alright. I also pay special attention to first time riders and try to find out where they are going so I can help them out. Then, when I see them on the bus again later, I always ask them how their trip went last time,” he chuckles. “They’re always surprised that I remember them. I want everyone to have a good experience.”

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter: sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

Omnitrans sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant is a man of many talents: artist, writer, musician, coach operator, coach operator instructor and relief dispatcher. But with our BRT launch last April, he claimed a new title for himself as the “Maestro” of sbX.

One look at the sbX dispatch monitor, and it’s easy to understand the musical reference. A symphony of 60-foot coaches moves in sequence along the route, carefully guided by the dispatcher to ensure proper rhythm and flow. If the vehicles start to bunch in one area or a gap begins to separate them, the dispatcher must coordinate their movements to bring them back into balance.

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant

Robert Avant with Director of Operations Diane Caldera

“sbX is based on frequency rather than on time points, and there are many factors that come into play to affect the system,” points out Robert. “Traffic patterns and passenger load can change the timing of a vehicle. A coach operator who is transporting two wheelchair passengers, for example, will need extra time for loading and unloading. Traffic backed up at an intersection or unexpected detours can also cause delays. Every day is something different, but that keeps it interesting.”

Robert’s skills were put to the test during the initial launch of the sbX BRT service, when the system faced several unexpected challenges. The Traffic Signal Prioritization (TSP) system did not work as expected, delaying many articulated coaches along the corridor. In addition, not all Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were functioning correctly. This caused coaches not to appear, or appear inaccurately, on the dispatcher’s corridor map monitor.

Omnitrans sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

This made Robert’s job as sbX dispatcher incredibly difficult. He maintained clear communication with coach operators, field supervisors, management and other departments to keep them apprised of the issues. He worked as best he could with dispatch’s GPS tracking system and radio to locate and track each coach along the corridor. When he identified a delay or coach bunching, he quickly coordinated with Operators to put them back on time to meet the riding public’s expectations.

Robert also helped create a monitoring system within a detailed sbX Dispatch Daily roster form to track and maintain service reliability and to ensure that shift exchanges and meal breaks occurred as expected. Once the system was up and running, Robert quickly and effectively cross-trained other dispatchers on these sbX dispatching procedures, broadening the department’s flexibility and reliability in coverage and increasing efficiency when dealing with unplanned absences, illnesses or emergencies.

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant

A few members of our wonderful dispatch team: Ed Cooney, Mark Bueche, Robert Avant and Ronnie Davis

“Before this system was put into place, we were trying to track information on seven different forms,” explains Robert. “There was no centralized resource for information. Now everything is recorded in one place so we can quickly see what needs to happen and what availability is at any given time.”

“Robert played an important role in jump starting the sbX system when it went live in April,” says Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera. “His contributions and problem-solving abilities helped ensure that the sbX service we provide is the sbX service that was advertised. We are so proud to honor him as Employee of the Quarter.”

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant

Although he loves the variety and demands of dispatch, Robert also enjoys the personal connections he makes as a coach operator instructor. “I like helping people build their confidence and develop their skills. I try to create an atmosphere of trust where they feel comfortable learning. My policy is what happens on the bus during training stays on the bus. I’m not going to yell at anyone or later tell a supervisor that they asked a stupid question. There are no stupid questions.”

Creativity and spirituality are a huge part of Robert’s life. In his private time, he sketches portraits and paints still-life scenes. He’s also working on a self-help book, “Becoming The Best You.”

“I believe any challenge can be overcome,” says Robert. “It just takes dedication, discipline and the desire to succeed.”

Omnitrans sbX dispatcher Robert Avant

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Have a great Omnitrans story to share? Email Juno Carlson at juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Access commute a lifesaver for family

Fontana resident Russell Allen Harris III relies on the Access bus to transport him to and from Rialto Adult Daycare during the week.

Access rider Russell Harris poses with one of his beaded gecko keychains.

Fontana resident Russell Allen Harris III relies on Access ADA bus service to transport him to and from Rialto Adult Daycare during the week.  His parents, Libby and Monroe Thompson, say that the service is a lifesaver for their family.

“It saves us from having to find a way to get him there and back every day,” says Monroe frankly. “The wheelchair makes it hard for us to do it alone. Even though he can walk, he sometimes has seizures and needs that chair to help him when he’s out. Access comes right to our door and it’s cheap. It’s very important to us.”

Access ADA rider Russell in the Omnitrans lobby

Monroe and Russell in the Omnitrans lobby

Thanks to the Access bus, Russell can enjoy the structured activities and outings offered by his daycare, such as shopping or going out to eat. Twice a week he goes bowling with his league, the Alley Cats. His favorite hobby is beading colorful gecko key chains which he wears proudly on his belt.

Russell likes his weekday commute and knows all his drivers by name. Their friendly curb-to-curb service ensures he gets to his destination safely, and it gives his family peace of mind to know their son is in good hands.

You can learn more about Access ADA service on our website at http://www.omnitrans.org/services/access/

For information about upcoming Access zone changes and new fares visit http://www.omnitrans.org/blog/2014/07/29/guide-september-service-changes/

OmniLink service ends in Chino Hills and Yucaipa

OmniGo bus serviceFormer OmniLink riders are switching to OmniGo

Omnitrans will cease operations of its OmniLink demand response transportation in Chino Hills and Yucaipa after August 29.  Ridership on the general public dial-a-ride service has declined in recent years as customers have shifted to OmniGo community shuttle routes launched in 2010. 

OmniLink provides on-demand, point-to-point transportation through advance reservation on weekdays only, while OmniGo operates on regular routes seven days a week.  Omnitrans also provides regular “big bus” service to Chino Hills and Yucaipa as well as Access demand response service to transport qualified persons with disabilities.

Before Omnitrans launched OmniGo routes in 2010, over 45,000 trips were tallied on OmniLink annually.  By fiscal year 2013-14, fewer than 18,000 OmniLink trips were booked, a decline of 61 percent.  In contrast, OmniGo ridership is up 45 percent since 2011.  In the past year, OmniGo routes in Yucaipa provided 72,055 trips and in Chino Hills, 51,912.

“Of all OmniLink trips taken in the past year, about 80 percent them start and end within a short walk of an OmniGo route,” explained Omnitrans spokesperson Wendy Williams, “and with the subsidized cost of a passenger trip on OmniLink more than triple that of OmniGo, it was time to make the change.”

OmniGo Route 365 expands service in September 2014

This map of the OmniGo route 365 expanded coverage area takes effect August 25th.

OmniGo route 365 in Chino Hills will expand its coverage area to include trips to the Butterfield Ranch area effective August 25th.   “We had several students in that area using OmniLink to get to Chino Hills High School and Townsend Junior High, so we added morning and afternoon OmniGo trips to provide that connection,” said Service Planning Manager Jeremiah Bryant.

Benefits to using OmniGo compared to OmniLink include lower fares, weekend service and no need to make a reservation.  Omnitrans will notify current OmniLink customers through on board flyers and a mailing which includes a free one-day pass for OmniGo.

The Omnitrans Board of Directors approved elimination of OmniLink service in May, following public hearings held in March, as part of a package of service changes and a fare increase which take effect September 2.

More information on OmniGo service is available at: http://www.omnitrans.org/services/omnigo/

Complete information on Omnitrans September service and fare changes is available at: http://www.omnitrans.org/blog/2014/07/29/guide-september-service-changes/

Guide to September service changes

Omnitrans September 2014 bus book

Click here for a preview of the new bus book

Why are fares increasing?

This is Omnitrans’ first fare increase in five years. Just as with any other company, service or even home, the cost of our operations increases over time. Since Omnitrans is required by FTA to receive at least 20% of our operating costs from customer fares, our fares must balance with our costs.

View the new fare table.

Are fares increasing because of sbX?
No. The new fare structure was long-planned, and approved prior to the start of sbX service. 

Why is OmniLink service being eliminated?
Unfortunately, ridership on OmniLink was low, and the cost to operate the on-demand service was high. The good news is that 80% of Omnitrans customers who used OmniLink service are covered by OmniGo Hometown Shuttle service in their communities.

Scroll below to view info on specific routes and destinations.
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September service changes by route:

ROUTES 3 & 4

  • What’s Different:  Routes 3 & 4 service frequency is improved to 15 min. after 8 a.m.
  • Why:  To add convenience and reliability on a popular route.

Route 5 – (view map AND SCHEDULE)

  • What’s Different:  Route 5 service frequency is improved to 30 min. The route also has been realigned to travel on Waterman Ave., between Gilbert and Barton Rd. The route no longer serves 4th St. or Goodwill.
  • Why:  To improve travel time, and provide coverage of a portion of Waterman Ave. previously served by Route 9.

Route 7 – (VIEW MAP)

  • What’s Different:  The end of the line has been moved to 5th and “F” Sts.
  • Why:  To respond to customer safety concerns at the previous end of line location (G St.).

Route 8 –  (VIEW MAP & SCHEDULE)

  • What’s Different:  Route 8 now is two routes – Short 8 and Long 8. Short 8 travels from downtown SB to the Redlands Mall; Long 8 travels from downtown SB to Crafton Hills College. Note:  the route no longer travels to the Yucaipa TC.
  • Why:  To improve frequency to downtown SB, and serve Mentone. Service eliminated along Yucaipa Blvd. now is served by Route 19.

Route 9

  • What’s Different:  Route 9 has been eliminated.
  • Why:  To improve service in SB and Yucaipa with increased frequency on Routes 5 and 19. Travel between SB and Yucaipa also will be faster, transferring from sbX to Route 19.

Route 14 – (VIEW MAP)

  • What’s Different:  The Route 14 Almeria tripper has moved from Almeria to Live Oak.
  • Why:  To accommodate the new location of the ISS workshop served by the tripper.

Route 19 – (VIEW MAP AND SCHEDULE)

  • What’s Different:  Route 19 service is extended to the Yucaipa TC. The route also has been realigned between the VA Hospital and the Yucaipa TC, along the path of the old Route 9.
  • Why:  To improve frequency on Barton Rd. and improve connection to sbX. Duplication of Route 8 service also is eliminated.

Route 20

  • What’s Different:  Frequency on Route 20 is reduced to 60 min. every day. The route will travel on Juniper and Merrill to and from the Fontana TC; service on Sierra is eliminated.
  • Why:  Due to low ridership.

Route 22 – (VIEW MAP AND SCHEDULE)

  • What’s Different:  Route 22 will travel on Valley Blvd. to and from the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center; the San Bernardino Ave. and Wild Rose “loop” has been eliminated.
  • Why:  To simplify travel. Service eliminated on San Bernardino Ave. now is covered by Route 19.

Route 61 – (VIEW MAP)

  • What’s Different:  Route 61 schedule has been adjusted to eliminate the need for transfer at Ontario Mills Mall.
  • Why:  For customer convenience, and to avoid missed connections.

Route 215

  • What’s Different:  Route 215 service frequency has been improved to 30 min. for the majority of Saturday and Sunday.
  • Why:  To add convenience on a popular route.

Route 365 – (VIEW MAP AND SCHEDULE)

  • What’s Different:  A tripper has been added to Route 365 between Butterfield Ranch and Chino Hills High School.
  • Why:  To provide convenient service to students.

OmniLink

  • What’s Different:  OmniLink service has been eliminated.
  • Why:  Due to a combination of high operating cost and low ridership. Please note that 80% of OmniLink customers are covered by OmniGo service.

Access - (VIEW MAP)

  • What’s Different:  Access zone boundaries have changed.
  • Why:  Based on fixed route changes, boundaries changed to comply with ADA regulations.

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Common destination questions

How do I make connections to downtown SB without Route 5?(Route 5 no longer serves the 4th St. TC). If you’re going downtown, try a quick transfer from Route 5 to Routes 1, 3, 4, or 8. If you’re close to Cal State or Hospitality Ln., try taking sbX downtown – service is faster and more frequent! Route 5 also now provides direct service on Waterman to important locations such as Inland Regional Center, Lighthouse for the Blind, Hospitality Ln., and several trade schools.

How do I get bus service to/from Barton Ave.?
(Route 9 has been eliminated). Route 19 now serves Barton Ave. from Redlands to Colton every 30 min.

How do I get bus service on Yucaipa Blvd.?
(Route 8 has moved, and Route 9 has been eliminated). Route 19 provides service every 30 min. on the Blvd., and you now can travel all the way to Fontana without a transfer! If you’re going to downtown SB, try taking Route 19 and transferring to sbX. Your trip will be faster than it was on Route 8 or 9!

How do I get bus service from Colton Ave.?
(Direct service on Colton was eliminated due to low ridership). The entire distance of Colton Ave. is within walking distance of Route 8 or Route 15, from Orange, Lugonia, Redlands or State Sts.

How do I get bus service from Mt. View Ave.?
(Route 19 has been realigned). Although direct service no longer is available on Mt. View Ave., you can take a short walk to either Redlands Ave. or Barton Rd. and catch either Route 8 or 19, which both now come by every 30 min.

How can I get to/from Fontana High School with the new Route 20 schedule?
(Route 20 frequency has been reduced to 60 min.). You still can take Route 20 to school; the service frequency has been reduced, but the schedule has been adjusted so that students still can make it to class before 0 or 1st period, and there will be a bus coming by not too long after school is out.

How can I get service to/from Goodwill Industries, the CID Center for Individual Development, or the Andersen School?
(Route 5 has been realigned). While Route 5 no longer stops in front of these locations, you still can catch Route 5 on Waterman Ave. via a short walk. At Palm and 3rd, you also can catch the newly-improved Route 8, with service every 30 min. to downtown SB.

How can I get to/from the Meadowbrook Park Tower and Apts. at 2nd and Sierra Way?
(Route 5 has been realigned; Route 9 has been eliminated). You still can catch Route 5 about a block from your location; Route 8, with increased 30 min. frequency, also is available at 3rd and Sierra Way. You also can catch sbX service at E and Rialto Ave. Additionally, when the new San Bernardino Transit Center opens at E and Rialto Ave. in about a year, downtown routes will meet there and service will be back on Rialto Ave.

How can I get to/from the Rock Church in San Bernardino?
(Route 9 has been eliminated). Omnitrans has improved service to the Rock Church, with improved service frequency every day! Route 5 will serve the church every 30 min. during the week – twice as frequent as Route 9 – so coming from Redlands or Yucaipa you can take Route 19 and transfer to Route 5 at Barton Rd. and Waterman Ave.

How can I get to/from the San Bernardino County Assistance office in Colton?
(Route 22 has been realigned). A short walk from the Assistance office will get you to Route 19, which you can catch on San Bernardino.

 How can I get to/from Walmart in Redlands?
(Route 19 has been realigned). Walmart now is served by Route 8, every 30 min.

Police crack down on motorists in sbX bus lanes

San Bernardino Polics Department cracks down on motorists in bus lanes

San Bernardino Polics Department tweet warns motorists that entering Bus Only lanes is dangerous and costly.

The San Bernardino Police Department is cracking down on motorists who cross the sbX Bus Only lanes. In a recent tweet, the SBPD warned drivers that the infraction is both dangerous and costly. The minimum fine for entering a Bus Only lane is $341!

New candlesticks, yellow posts with reflectors like the ones shown here, are  being installed as an additional safety measure at various high traffic locations in San Bernardino. The candlesticks will serve as an added visibility feature to prohibit drivers from crossing into Bus Only lanes, which are also marked by double yellow lines.

sbX Bus Only lane candlestick markers

sbX Bus Only lane candlestick markers

Remember, when driving along the corridor, you can still access all your favorite businesses by obeying traffic signs and safely making turns where indicated.

Never risk your life or the lives of others by entering a dedicated bus lane.

New coach simulator offers intriguing possibilities

Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans is in the process of acquiring a state-of-the-art coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes.

Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans is in the process of acquiring a state-of-the-art coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes.

The Omnitrans Fleet Safety & Training team is in the process of acquiring an impressive new tool to add to their arsenal. Thanks to a federal grant, they plan to be training new coach operators on the premises soon, using a state-of-the-art coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes.

“This is the next wave of technology,” says Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier. “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 would get it for $20,000—which we are working to cover with a federal grant. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”

Omnitrans Fleet Safety & training instructor Christina Diaz demonstrates the old coach simulator

Omnitrans Fleet Safety & training instructor Christina Diaz demonstrates classroom tools currently used in training

The simulator is currently being programmed by our partners at Cal State San Bernardino, who will use the data collected by the simulator to develop future transit training technologies and traffic studies. They will also adapt the simulator to replicate an actual Omnitrans coach. It will be set up with everything the bus would have: wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal, wheel, emergency brake, etc. It will also have the feel of a regular coach, providing the same feel of the road, and tug of the wheel when making turns.

A student sitting in the coach simulator will be surrounded by three screens, one in the front and one on either side. The images on the screen show all the details that the coach operator would see in each window in real-life, complete with rear view mirrors that capture what is going on alongside and towards the back of the vehicle.

Cal State San Bernardino will use data collected by the simulator to develop future transit training technologies and traffic studies.

Cal State San Bernardino will use data collected by the simulator to develop future transit training technologies and traffic studies.

“In addition to mimicking our regular routes, the simulator will also be programmed with emergency situations that will help us prepare student coach operators before they ever get on the road,” explains trainer Christina Diaz. “Scenarios will include things like sudden stops, getting cut off in traffic, unexpected pedestrians, bicyclists, right and left turns and pulling into a passenger zone.”

The idea is to get students comfortable with the coach and routes and prepare them for difficulties they may encounter while they are  in a safe environment. It builds their confidence and helps them to develop good habits and quick reflexes. Because the rest of the class can observe each student in action in the simulator, it becomes a valuable group teaching tool as well, creating the opportunity for questions and discussion.

omnitrans new coach simulator

“We’re very excited by the possibilities the new simulator opens up for us,” says Christina. “Normally when we train on live vehicles, we have to pull a coach from service to practice with. And even though the students are all on board and take turns driving, it’s hard for the entire class to really see what’s going on in the front driver’s seat at any given time. The new simulator saves money, reduces service down times, gives students more ‘on the road’ experience and enhances the overall quality of our training.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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