Tag Archives: Omnitrans awards

Employee of the Quarter Ed Cooney

Our dispatchers play a vital role at Omnitrans – they make sure our bus system delivers service by guiding coaches and operators through obstacles from detours to mechanical problems to customer service issues – every day!

Dispatcher Ed Cooney’s strong work ethic and problem-solving skills made him stand out among his peers during the October-December 2017, making him the Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter!

Ed describes the award as a surprising honor that he did not see coming. After 25 years working with Omnitrans, he views this place as his second home, where he is simply happy to be of service to his community through our dedicated drivers.

“I like the people and we’re family here, although sometimes dysfunctional, like any other family,” he laughs. “That’s one of the major motivators. I’ve been put in a position where I can help people, and that makes all the difference.”

After almost six years driving for Metro in Los Angeles, Ed’s adventurous side took over and he decided to go to Brazil where he worked for a year. After moving back home to the States and settling in Montclair, he spotted an Omnitrans bus and chatted with the driver about his job. He was persuaded, and decided to give Omnitrans a try. He switched directions and headed east, this time, on I-10 to apply for a job as a coach operator.

“This entire lot was all dirt,” reminisces Ed as we overlook the East Valley bus yard in San Bernardino. “There was a single bungalow that housed human resources, finance, the CEO. Everyone was in that one trailer. I remember the mechanics had dug a trench, and they would drive the bus over the trench to work on bus maintenance.”

Ed Cooney and a new dispatcher in training go over the Trapeze Ops software used for record-keeping.

As Omnitrans progressed, so did Ed’s career. After five years of driving our buses, he was promoted to a dispatching role in which he has served ever since. Last year, when his supervisor retired, Ed selflessly rose above and beyond his required work duties to take on tasks of the vacant supervisor role. While doing research, Ed discovered software configuration errors, and took the initiative to tackle them himself.

With only four days of informal training, Ed took on the task of solving this problem, working 12-hour days and weekends alongside his peers, I.T., and the software vendor. As a result of Ed’s initiative and manual improvements to the process, the agency was prevented from overspending $10,000.

“I still go in everyday and double check for errors,” he explains. “In this job, I’m not obligated to do this. I could’ve asked management to hire someone that could fix this, but I felt a responsibility to the operators so that things were operating as they should.”

This month, the Omnitrans Board of Directors recognized Ed as our Employee of the Quarter for his diligence in ensuring that the necessary improvements were made and tested prior to live implementation of the software.

“Ed is a recognized leader in the dispatch office and is greatly respected by his peers for his loyalty, ability, and willingness to help others in times of need,” says Director of Operations Diane Caldera. “His recognition as Employee of the Quarter is greatly deserved.”

Employee of the Quarter Ed Cooney (center) is congratulated by (from the left) Board of Directors Chair Ron Dailey and CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham.

“When I found out, I thought to myself, ‘Is there another Ed Cooney who works here?’ he recounts. “I think because I grew up in an environment where we didn’t get praise or appreciation, so when you do, it makes you feel a little awkward at first. But I appreciate Diane Caldera for nominating me and individually recognizing every dispatcher’s work. The morale has really been raised since she’s taken over.”

Travel and family time also are huge parts of Ed’s life. He recently visited Hawaii, and often flies to Brazil, which is where his wife hails from. He is a proud father to his two daughters, graduates of University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Santa Barbara.

“I don’t have an R.V. because of tuition bills,” he jokes. “But I was so happy to win this award after 25 years of working here. I knew my loyalty to Omnitrans, which could be best described as canine in nature, would someday lead to this recognition!”

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Ralph Ligon

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Ralph Ligon. Photo by Juno Kughler Carlson“When you come up with an idea, even if you’re not sure it’s a good one, you should bring it up,” says Omnitrans Maintenance Mechanic Ralph Ligon. “You never know what can happen. Other people might think it’s great. Even it’s just a piece of an idea, someone else could come along with another part that could actually make the whole thing work.”

That’s exactly the reason Omnitrans chose Ralph to be its Employee of the Quarter. This innovative mechanic came up with the idea to remove viable CNG tanks from decommissioned Thomas coaches and install them into current New Flyer buses whose tanks were ready to expire. This extended the life of the current coaches for seven more years, and saved the agency approximately $588,000. His suggestion also allowed Omnitrans to maintain consistent service for customers.

“It’s just about paying attention to detail,” Ralph explains. “The length, width and general dimensions of the tanks in the Thomases and New Flyers seemed similar enough to work. My supervisor Craig Chance took the idea to the manufacturer and fine-tuned the details so we could proceed. As it turned out, it worked.”

Ralph came up with the idea to remove viable CNG tanks from decommissioned Thomas coaches and install them into current New Flyer buses whose tanks were ready to expire. This extended the life of the current coaches for seven more years and saved the agency approximately $588,000. Photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Ralph conceived the idea to remove viable CNG tanks from decommissioned Thomas coaches and install them into current New Flyer buses whose tanks were ready to expire. This extended the life of the New Flyers for 7 more years and saved the agency $588,000.

Ralph has always had a knack for knowing how things work, whether it’s repairing vehicles or doing air conditioning and plumbing. In his off time, he likes working on and riding motorcycles and fixing things up around the house.

“I’ve always been like that. I have the ability to sit there, look at something, figure out how it works and repair it. Something just clicks, you know? I used to take apart my dad’s drills and things to see how they worked. He wasn’t too happy about that,” he laughs. “My dad used to dabble with things too, but I took it one step further. I could pretty much tear down the whole car engine and rebuild it—no problem. He’s pretty proud of me.”

Omnitrans mechanic Ralph Ligon. Photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Ralph’s interest in maintenance started back during vocational training in high school. In career placement tests, his scored highest in technical skills. After graduation, he decided to join the Air Force because he felt it was the most technical of the military branches. For four years, he worked as a special purpose mechanic and served during Desert Storm for 6 ½ months.

“When I used to work on machines in the desert, it was a totally different environment. I was stationed on the Saudi Arabia Air Force base, and for a while I worked out in the desert in a place called Al-Kharj. The base was 20 miles from the road in the middle of the desert, and it was 120 degrees in the shade. A lot of times we had a three mile long line of vehicles waiting for parts to come in from the states, so we had to rob parts from one piece of equipment to fix another. You learned how to switch things around and prioritize.”

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Board Chair Sam Spagnolo, Employee of the Quarter Ralph Ligon, and Director of Maintenance Jack Dooley

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Board Chair Sam Spagnolo, Employee of the Quarter Ralph Ligon, and Director of Maintenance Jack Dooley

When he came out of the military, Ralph struggled for a while to find work. The first man who gave him a chance was Joe Manista at Valley Equipment in Hemet. Ralph was excited by the opportunity. Every day was interesting, and he was able to work on machines he never even knew existed. A year later business began to slow down, and the company was forced to let him go.

Later, Ralph went on to work for Complete Coach Works in Riverside. Although he enjoyed the job and excelled at his work, he eventually topped out at the company. Ralph’s supervisor knew that their client, Omnitrans, was hiring and encouraged him to apply for the job.  The young mechanic tested for the position and was quickly hired.

Ralph was one of the mechanics who worked on the restoration of vintage bus and Omnitrans mascot Old Blue. Photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Ralph was one of the mechanics who worked on the restoration of vintage bus and Omnitrans mascot Old Blue

“That was back in late 2000. There were three of us hired. It was me, Art Yanez, and Robert Martinez.  The maintenance manager back then, Mr. Larry Richards, told me that we three were the first mechanics the agency had hired off the street in over 20 years. Everybody in those positions had stayed until the day they retired.”

Ralph smiles. “I plan on doing the same. I’m getting too old to be bouncing around. It’s now 14 years later, and the three of us are still here.  I’m glad it worked out. You have a place here as long as you want it really. It’s all up to you. There’s really a great group of people who work here. They try to get you all the things that you need.”

Omnitrans mechanic Ralph Ligon and Director of Maintenance Jack Dooley. Photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Omnitrans mechanic Ralph Ligon and Director of Maintenance Jack Dooley

“I like that each day is different. Of course there are always some things that you expect to do, but no two days are the same. And it’s not all about a paycheck. It’s about liking what you do and knowing that your work helps people. When I was coming up, I used to ride the bus to school. If it didn’t make it there, then I’d be late. It’s the same with our patrons. They depend on our buses to get to hospitals, work, and school. If it doesn’t come, the riders suffer. So I go the extra mile to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to make sure these buses roll out.

“The most challenging part is keeping that consistency day to day—keeping that mind frame and knowing who you’re doing it for. Sometimes it’s really hot out there, and it gets pretty unbearable. There’s no air conditioning in the shop, so we’re catching all of it—especially the humidity. And when you open up one of these buses, you add another 30 or 50 degrees to that. You just have to push through.”

Ralph says he was surprised to be told that he was selected as Employee of the Quarter.

Ralph Ligon and girlfriend Niko Housley. Photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Ralph Ligon and girlfriend Niko Housley

“I never even remotely thought about anything like that. I’m just doing what I can to basically keep these things on the road. If you’re parking 15 buses, you’re losing routes. You’re losing ridership. And the people who drive them—what are they going to do?  Situations come up, and you need to find a solution. I had an idea, and if I hadn’t said anything then it may not have happened.

“It’s a good feeling to be appreciated. With everything going on in this world, I’m just blessed to be here, talking and breathing. There are a lot of people that aren’t. I appreciate everything that comes to me, and I take everything one day at a time.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Omnitrans Wins AdWheel Grand Prize Award

Omnitrans Wins AdWheel Grand Prize Award

Omnitrans earns 4 APTA Adwheel AwardsOmnitrans was proud to be honored this week with multiple AdWheel Awards from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). These prestigious annual awards acknowledge the creative excellence of member public transportation systems and business members in advertising, communications, and marketing.

Omnitrans earned the both the First Place and Grand Prize Award in the Television Advertisement category for its sbX Launch commercial. Targeted at both English and Spanish speakers, the commercial was a key element in a successful campaign to increase awareness and use of our new sbX BRT line during service launch.  It effectively used imagery and animation to show the features and benefits of the new line with a focus on key destinations that viewers would recognize in their community. This helped generate a 54% increase in ridership along the service corridor during the first week of service.

Our OmniGo bus shelter posters were recognized with a First Place Award in the Billboard/Outdoor Advertising category. These posters were a key element in our 2013 “back-to-school” advertising campaign that boosted ridership by 43.9% over the prior year during the promotion period and helped generate a sustained 16% ridership gain year-to-date on the neighborhood shuttle service. The ads effectively used images and text to reach the student market segment and promote OmniGo service as a convenient transit option for school trips.

Finally, our Omnitrans mobile app received First Place Award honors in the Mobile App category. Created September 2013, the app features NexTrip real time bus arrival information, rider alerts, bus book, social media, events and more. Through the app, we have been able to introduce digital free ride coupons for the first time, send push notifications for critical news, and offer special promotions to users. Currently the app has more than 20,400 subscribers.