Tag Archives: omnitrans bus drivers

5-year-old chooses Omnitrans for class project

Omnitrans kindergarten class project

When Mrs. Morales at Corona Elementary School assigned a transportation project to her pre-K class, 5-year-old Teresa knew immediately what she would pick. While other children worked on models of  planes, trains, ambulances and cars, she created a diorama featuring her beloved Omnitrans bus.

“I love Omnitrans because it takes me and my mom everywhere we want to go,” Teresa grins, peeking from behind her project. “And I get to see my favorite bus drivers, Landru and Alicia!”

Teresa and her mom Matty

Teresa and her mom Matty

Her mom Matty smiles, “Landru has known me since I was pregnant with her. I’ve been taking the bus for the past 15 years since I was a student at Chaffey. My mom was actually the one who taught all of us kids how to use the bus. We were more afraid to take the bus than her–and she had no English then!  She used to take us everywhere. We were always worried we’d get lost, but she’d tell us, ‘No you won’t. Don’t be afraid.’ Now the drivers are like family to us.”

TeresaProject

Matty remembers how she used to work late nights at a Burger King in a bad section of town. “Every night after my shift, I would have to run to the stop so I wouldn’t miss the bus home. It was not a great area for a woman to be alone, so I used to tuck my hair under a baseball cap and put on a big coat to try to disguise myself as a man.”

The coach operator who drove the route was concerned about the young woman, especially since his was the last bus of the night.

“I don’t want you to be stranded out here alone,” he told her. “It’s too dangerous. If I get to the stop and don’t see you right away, I’ll wait. ”

Matty smiles, “He was very kind, and made me feel safe. We’ve always had nice drivers who looked after us.”

diorama

Teresa nods her head and bounces in her seat excitedly, “Landru and Alicia are my friends. They always say hi to me, and I tell them about school. They helped me with my project.”  She points to two photos she has glued to the the sky on her diorama. “My mom took my picture with them on the bus.”

Teresa shows me all the other tiny details she’s included in her project, like a bus bench, a route 63 sign and a flower garden. “I love it so much,” she says proudly. “I like school  and always get 4’s and ‘great jobs’ on my projects. That’s the most you can get. Do you know that when I grow up I want to go to college? I want to learn new things.”

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“Tell her what you want to be when you grow up,” her mother prompts her.

“A veteranarian!” Teresa grins. “I love all kinds of animals and want to take care of them.”

“Are you going to take the bus to work when you’re a vet?” I asked.

“I think so,” she says, considering. “Then I can tell Landru and Alicia about the animals I’m helping!”

TeresaAndFriends- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Student takes bus to brighter future

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Omnitrans rider Maria Aguilera has overcome many challenges in her life. As a little child in Mexico, an injury from an accidental fall resulted in hospital stays and the use of a leg brace until she was 12.

When her family moved to the United States in 1994, Maria faced another obstacle: learning to speak a new language.

“English has been the most difficult for me,” she explains. “When we came to the U.S. to live, I was a teenager. I had to go to a special school to learn the language. The teacher put labels on everything–the chairs, the table, the teacher’s desk, the tape recorder, the bathroom, the door–so that we would learn their names. Basically the way they would teach us is by singing and playing games. This way it is not so stressful. It took about a year and a half for me to be able to communicate. But in my final three years of high school, I was on the principal’s honor roll.”

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Today Maria attends Westwood College where she is in her second year studying business administration. Because of her hip injury she is unable to drive, so she relies on Omnitrans to get back and forth to her classes.

“Without the bus I would not have been able to go to college,” she says. “I would have had to quit school and continue to work factory jobs or at a fast food restaurant. I wanted to do better. One day I’d like to work in sales or marketing or maybe manage an office.”

Maria also likes the sense of community she gets from riding the bus. “The drivers are very friendly. Our family has been using the bus for so many years, that they all know us and what stops we normally use.”

“Most of the time my parents ride the bus together. One day they took separate buses going in opposite directions. That afternoon the driver joked with me asking what was going on with my parents taking seperate buses now.”

She laughs. “It actually gives me peace of mind to know that that someone is paying attention and looking out for us that way.”

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Million Mile Coach Operators Honored

Omnitrans Million Mile Drivers

Left to right:Million Mile Club Honorees Kenneth Brantley, Larry Pollard, Enedina Casillas, Joe Armenta, Marco Pacheco, Larry Day, John Barnett

This month, the Omnitrans Million Mile Club welcomed nine new 1 Million Mile drivers and three 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!

The coach operators were honored in a special awards ceremony at the Omnitrans Board of Directors meeting on March 5th. Each received a presentation certificate and a check for $500.

Omnitrans Million Mile Safe Driving Award

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Board Chair Allan Wapner and Operations Director Diane Caldera present Million Mile Club honorees with certificates of achievement.

“This particular group not only has an exemplary safety record, they are also very customer service oriented,” says Transportation Manager John Steffon. “Their kindness, professionalism, courteousness and concern for others have earned them numerous commendations from our passengers.”

Our gratitude and congratulations go out to each of these exceptional coach operators who set the Omnitrans standard for safety and excellence:

Two Million Mile Drivers

  • John Barnett
  • LaMorris Hall
  • Marco Pacheco

One Million Mile Drivers

  • Joe Armenta
  • Kenneth Brantley
  • Enedina Casillas
  • William Collins
  • Larry Day
  • Ronda Downton
  • Glenn Licher
  • Michael Mayo
  • Larry Pollard

For more photos of our Million Mile honorees, visit us on Flickr.

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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

 

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 

Bus keeps Ben rolling and independent

Ben Martin with Omnitrans Fleet Safety & Training Supervisor Don Frazier

One of the things we love best about working in transit is that we get to meet so many interesting people. Passenger Ben Martin is a good example. We had a great conversation when he dropped by the office to get straps installed on his wheelchair.

When I caught up with them, Omnitrans training supervisor Don Frazier had just finished tightening the straps and was testing them with a good yank. He and Ben were joking with each other like old buddies. They had discovered they grew up and went to school in the same neighborhood in LA.  It was an instant bond.

Ben explained he just bought himself this new wheelchair for his 61st birthday. He told us he has been an Omnitrans rider for about 4 years and loves it. It  gets him out of the house and gives him the opportunity to meet new people.

Omnitrans passenger Ben Martin

“My experience so far has been great because Omnitrans helps me to be independent. I buy all-day passes and don’t have to depend on members of my family to come take me or wait for some friend to pick me up. I look at the bus book, see how close it comes to where I want to go and just go. Sometimes I just get on the bus and ride to get away for a while. Three days a week I go for dialysis, and those days are hard.  I feel I just survive. Other days I feel like I could go out and be a Wal-Mart greeter, telling people hey, how ya doing? Come on in and spend your money” he laughed.

Ben told us he was a former Chino prison guard.

Heading for the bus stop

“It’s not something I wanted to do at first,” he said. “I used to play basketball with these prison guards. They would be on me all the time to come work there, but I always said no. At the time I was interested in working with the San Bernardino Marshalls or maybe becoming a lawyer. Then one day a job opportunity opened up at the prison and I saw how good the wages and benefits were. Once I got on, I thought this is not too bad. I worked there for 24 years.”

In 2003, however, he faced an unexpected medical challenge–diabetes.

“I was a macho, Dr. Pepper prison guard,” Ben explained. “You see, if you wore your uniform and went to 7 Eleven, you could get Big Gulps or cups of coffee for free. So I would go in there and get my Dr. Pepper. I was a Dr. Pepper man.  I would put 4 or 5 of them in my Igloo cooler to drink at work. If it was a real rough day, I’d get 3 or 4 more out of the vending machine. But I didn’t know it had all that sugar in it. I’d heard about diabetes and even took a little pill, but I wasn’t aware of the silent workings of diabetes. Sugar is the number one drug in America.”

“One day my big toe started turning dark. I thought it was bruised because I was having problems with my boots, but my ex old lady and my sister made me go to the doctor. They held me hostage at Kaiser Hospital for 47 days. They took my toes off and put a vein in my leg to help with circulation which was the problem. Diabetes works on your eyes, your organs, your kidneys, all that. The best thing I always tell people is drink plenty of water and walk. You see, I wasn’t doing a lot of walking. After 24 years, I was in the top 20 in terms of seniority.  I sat at my desk all the time, working the phone and entering the logbook. I sent rookies to do all the running around. Seniority killed me,” he laughed ruefully.

“I was off work for 15 months. I came back right after 9/11. The doctors wanted me to use a walker, but I was too bad of a prison guard to use a walker. I tell people today, man, use that walker when they tell you. It keeps the pressure and stuff off your feet. A lot of guys have that macho ego and they wind up not doing what the doctor says. And that’s what happened to me. The next thing I knew–boom–the doctors were asking me what do you want to do? Do you want to live? Because now we have to remove your other leg. That was a tough week. I told them to take it off. Life goes on. I live for my kids now.”

Boarding the Omnitrans bus

“I like the bus because sometimes I meet people I haven’t seen in years. You never know who is going to get on at the next stop. I’ve met people I knew back in high school or from when I went to Chaffey College. People recognize me. Sometimes I don’t like to be recognized. Sometime someone will shout out, hey man, don’t I know you from Chino? I just yell back yeah man, yeah.” he shook his head laughing.

Coach Operator Amy Prescott prepares to secure Ben’s wheelchair on the bus.

When Ben finally headed out the door to catch the bus, I gave him an Omnitrans cap and thanked him for talking to me. Delighted, he immediately put it on.

“So you think the bus driver will give me special treatment for wearing this hat?” he joked.

“Seriously though, I love Omnitrans. This bus company has helped me to keep rolling.” Ben grinned, “Only in America.”

Secured and ready to roll

 – Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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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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