Tag Archives: omnitrans bus maintenance

Omnitrans Selects Connie Raya for Maintenance Director

(San Bernardino, CA)  Southern California transit veteran Connie Raya recently joined Omnitrans as Director of Maintenance.

Raya has over two decades of experience in public transit maintenance gained while working at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). At Omnitrans, she will oversee a department of 108 employees responsible for maintaining a fleet of 188 buses and 25 support vehicles as well as multiple agency facilities.

“I’m excited to join Omnitrans, and to be part of an organization striving to improve the lives of residents living and working in the community, helping to improve air quality and mobility, by providing clean, safe, and reliable transportation in the San Bernardino Valley,” said Raya.

Raya joined OCTA in 1993 working in the Commuter Services Department. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, Raya transitioned to maintenance as a Fleet Analyst. From there, Raya continued to gain experience and be promoted, working her way up to Maintenance Resource Manager in 2006. In this role she was responsible for managing fleet assignments for revenue and non-revenue fleets, overseeing various maintenance systems used for asset management, timekeeping, and fluid management, along with overseeing the manpower deployment for the department.

In recent years, Raya took on various special assignments including the management of the facilities group assigned to maintain five operating bases and seven transit centers. As a division Base Manager she oversaw a wide range of maintenance functions including rebuild, automotive, maintenance training, electronics, and the body shop.

In 2016, Raya completed her Master of Science in Transportation Management from the Norman Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. “Since then I have been searching for this type of opportunity to combine my experience and enthusiasm to make a significant contribution to a transit agency,” said Raya.

Founded in 1976, Omnitrans is an award-winning public transit agency providing over 11 million passenger trips per year in the San Bernardino Valley. Omnitrans is governed by a 19-member board representing 15 cities and San Bernardino County.

Omnitrans welcomes 15 new additions to its fleet

Maintenance Director Jack Dooley with the latest New Flyer  bus to be added to the Omnitrans Fleet.

Maintenance Director Jack Dooley

Last week, Omnitrans got its first look at one of its next generation of fifteen New Flyer buses that will be added to the fleet over the next two months. These vehicles are customized with new features and state of the art technology that will enhance passenger and operator safety and reduce down time due to mechanical failure. Because these buses also come fully painted, the need for a bus wrap is eliminated. This means they can be put into service almost immediately.

All of the new buses will come equipped with triple bike racks to better meet the needs of our multi-modal passengers.

The bus also features a new brake monitoring system, which offers an additional layer of safety. Currently, we schedule buses for bi-weekly brake inspections. With the new monitoring system, we will know immediately if the brakes are out of adjustment, or if there is a problem that needs attention.

“It’s this kind of technology that our guys in the shop are excited about,” says Maintenance Director Jack Dooley. “These buses have an extensive health monitoring system. If there are any problems with the transmission, engine, air-conditioning or on-board computer, we’ll be able to communicate with that bus in real time. We’ll have software on our shop computers that will allow us to actually track what is happening.

“If we receive a call that a vehicle has broken down, we will be able to tell what engine code came up, what the temperatures and pressures were. We can even look back further and see what was going on with the vehicle just before the problem occurred. This allows us to anticipate potential problems before they happen. For instance, if I see that a particular issue occurred before an engine failure, I can set up parameters on the computer to notify me when that same issue occurs in the future. This way we can look at it, diagnose it, and try to prevent a major problem before it happens.”

One of the new 1300 series New Flyer buses

One of the new 1300 series New Flyer buses

The new buses will also be better equipped for quick diagnosis, Jack points out. “There is an LCD screen on the dash that allows us to easily access the engine, the transmission, the air conditioning—the entire computer system—without hooking up a laptop. The screen is smaller than a typical cell phone, but it will still allow mechanics to go through the codes and pull up diagnostics on the spot. This is a huge benefit, because we have a limited number of laptops available. If one of them is not working or they are all in use, one may not be one immediately available when it’s needed. This will allow us to speed things up and have fewer breakdowns on the road.”

Additionally, the new buses will eliminate a common problem resulting in road calls.

Jack explains. “We’ve made a change to heating and air conditioning system, specifically the defrosting area.  Sometimes operators turn off the fan but forget to shut off the heat valve, which circulates hot water to the front. Then later the bus would come in because the AC wasn’t working due to it being so hot in the front. Now the water will only circulate if the fan is on. This is another way we will lessen road calls and bus exchanges.”

Omnitrans Operations Director Diane Caldera (left) and Trainer Christina Diaz  with the rear-facing wheelchair securement

Operations Director Diane Caldera and Trainer Christina Diaz with the rear-facing wheelchair securement

Additional safety measures are also in place for our passengers with mobility devices. Each new bus will now have one rear-facing securement and one forward-facing Q-Pod securement, like those on our sbX vehicles.

The rear-facing system gives passengers with wheelchairs more independence. They back themselves into the area, pull the arm down and set their own brake on the mobility device without the need of the operator.  It also helps reduce dwell time.

The forward facing wheelchair securement has a three point safety belt, something none of the other buses have. When the mobility device is in place but still rolled slightly forward, the coach operator will press a lever to the side of the forward-facing securement that controls the bottom harness. The lever has a 15 second delay that allows the coach operator to easily reach back and hook both straps of the mobility device onto the harness at the same time. The harness then retracts, pulling the mobility device securely against the back wall. This also prevents the coach operators from having to squeeze into a very tight space that could cause potential injury.

The forward facing wheelchair securement area

The forward facing wheelchair securement area

The third securement harness is in front, and is hooked to the inside of the mobility device. Once tightened, it pulls up against the side of the bus. This ensures the mobility device will not tip over because it is snugly attached to both the back and side of the bus. This is especially important with scooters, which have limited or no securement areas for the operator to latch onto.

Finally, the passenger will click together the lap belt to secure themselves to the mobility device. This way, should the operator have to make a hard stop for any reason, the person will remain safely attached to the mobility device.

Coach operators will also see changes in the front area of the bus. The driver seat now features an orange, three point safety belt. The belt is equipped with an alarm that goes off if the operator is not wearing it.

Triple bike racks will be installed on all new buses.

Maintenance Manager Oscar Tostado demonstrates the triple bike rack

Another important safety feature on the new buses are the audible turn signals on the outside of the bus. A voice will warn pedestrians “Caution. This bus is turning left” or “Caution. This bus is turning right.”

“I’m very excited about the audible turn signals,” says Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera.  “I’ve been doing research on it. It’s a new technology, but transit agencies who have installed them are seeing good results so far. We always want to be proactive in our safety measures.

“We’re incorporating the audible turn signals as a way to heighten awareness among pedestrians. It’s very easy for people to be distracted because they are busy talking on a cell phone or texting a message. You’ll see them walking with their heads down, sometimes even tripping because they’re not paying attention.  Or they might be listening to music with ear-buds, not fully aware of their surroundings. The main purpose of the audible turn signals is to grab their attention and keep them safe.”

The new buses will have Euro style mirrors that hang from the top of the bus.

The new buses will have Euro style mirrors that hang from the top of the bus.

We have also added a special feature which allows the bus to be more accessible to our law enforcement partners in the event of an emergency situation.

Side view mirrors on the bus have been changed to a Euro style. They now hang from the top instead of coming up from the bottom, which helps to alleviate blind spots. The Mobile Data Terminal,  which is part of the radio system, now sits on the left side of the dash.

The cameras, radio system, and automatic passenger counters come fully installed, which is something the agency has never done before. Previously we handled the installations ourselves, taking the equipment from and old bus and installing it into the new. Because of the immense preparations needed, buses were held back from service for longer periods of time.

The sunroof has been eliminated due to excessive heat from the sun, and a light has been installed over the fare box. At night, when the headlights are on and the operator opens the door, the light will automatically illuminate that area for better visibility.

Omnitrans is proud to usher in this latest addition to our fleet, which underscores our commitment to safety and service. With these solutions, we will be retiring our remaining 500 series coaches as well as a few of the 2001 New Flyer buses. Some will also be added to our contingency fleet.

The new 1300 series New Flyer buses will be based at the Omnitrans East Valley facility in San Bernardino.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Omnitrans Maintenance Director Jack Dooley with CEO P. Scott Graham (seated)

Omnitrans Maintenance Director Jack Dooley with CEO P. Scott Graham (seated)

Omnitrans After Dark

So do you ever wonder what happens here at Omnitrans after dark? Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at all the work that happens behind-the-scenes from dusk to dawn.

There have been many changes since the start of our Vehicle Maintenance Facility construction, including the installation of a temporary Fuel Island and the setup of our new parking configuration.

At 4:30 p.m., the swing crew begins their shift. There is always plenty of work to be done: preventative maintenance vehicle inspections, brake jobs, A/C repairs and more. Sometimes there are bus exchanges to work on before the buses on route return. We have more than 86 buses on route on weekdays.

Around 6:30 p.m., buses coming in the yard at the end of their day are triaged by maintenance personnel. All incoming buses will be parked heading westbound in specific lanes. By reading the Operator’s Daily Report (ODR), the triage inspector can determine whether the bus is a good bus that just needs minor servicing or if it needs an ODR repair, a scheduled inspection such as a Preventative Maintenance Vehicle Inspection (PMVI), a Critical Items Inspection (CII), an oil change service or any number of other pre-scheduled/non-scheduled services.

How does the triage inspector know where a bus is to be parked? Well he has a map; the map shows all buses that have pre-scheduled services and lanes available. This map is updated daily. All north lanes heading west are usually for buses that need to be serviced or in need of some type of repair/service. Once all maintenance repairs and inspections are completed, the bus is ready for servicing. Three times a week, contractors wash the exteriors of buses.

Next utility service workers fuel the buses, also checking the fluid levels, emptying fare boxes, sweeping and mopping the floors, and wiping down the handrails inside the bus. Having completed this process, buses are parked, starting from the south lanes, and move up until all buses are in place. Buses parked in the lanes heading eastbound, indicate they are ready for service.

At 8:30 p.m., the graveyard shift starts. They work through the night and early morning hours until they leave at 7:00 a.m. One of graveyard’s responsibilities is to certify that all coaches get a Critical Items Inspection every 2 weeks. This ensures that the coaches are safe for both drivers and passengers. Graveyard is also responsible for tracking and scheduling the Preventative Maintenance Vehicle Inspections for the day shift. The PMVI’s are a bit more extensive than the CII’s and are conducted every 10,000 miles. Graveyard also does tune ups, fluid services and continues to work on carry-over repairs as well. Graveyard shift also ensures all coaches have been fueled and that enough buses are ready for dispatch to start assignments for pull-outs starting at 3:30 a.m.

It can be a difficult task when you consider that the east valley facility has approximately 90-100 coaches that need to be ready for service at any given day of the week. On average 80 to 100 buses are repaired, inspected and serviced nightly. Numerous parts are installed, countless small and large repairs are completed, various inspections are done, thousands of gallons of fuel, oils and fluids are dispensed. All this is done while most of us are quietly at home asleep. And that’s what happens every day at Omni after dark.

– article by Timothy Drake, Mike Plunkett and Oscar Tostado
– photos by Juno Kughler Carlson 

Thank you to mechanic Manny Cruz for allowing us to shadow him for these photos!

Behind the Scenes: Maintenance Shop

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to make our Omnitrans buses running smoothly and safely? We recently paid a visit to the shop where we were treated to a tour.

Mechanic Rudy Hernandez started working for Omnitrans as a young high school intern. As soon as he graduated, we brought him on board as a mechanic, and he’s been with us ever since.

Rudy and the other mechanics routinely  inspect each bus inside and out to make sure the vehicle is ready for its route.

From wheelchair locks,  bike racks, mirrors, engines, hoses and belts–everything must be tested to make sure it’s in good working condition.

Empty bus bays are always a good sign. It means vehicles are working and out on the road!

Omnitrans CEO Milo Victoria began his career in public transit as a mechanic. He still enjoys visiting the shop to check out the buses.

For more photos from our tour, visit us on Flickr!