Tag Archives: omnitrans coach operators

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.”

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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

 

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.

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 

A visit with Omnitrans student coach operators

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve McClure and a student coach operator go through routes on the system map

Our latest group of student coach operators spent time this week both in the classroom and out in the bus yard, mastering the customer service and technical skills they will need before going out on the road. I stopped by the training room yesterday to visit the class to see how it was going so far.

“Probably the most challenging thing so far is having to learn all 26 routes within a couple of weeks. It’s rough, but we can do it,” says one of the students confidently. The rest of the class nods, smiling.

“Christina’s been teaching us to use key words to help us remember each route,” adds another student. “For example, I remember that the route on Baseline and 16th is the 67  because 1 + 6 = 7. For some reason that sticks for me.”

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz has no doubt her charges will be ready to pass their final test. “They are on this.  They’re a great group and they’re absorbing information like sponges.”

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz

She points out there’s a lot more more memorization involved in training that most people realize. Not only do student coach operators have to remember the routes, they also have to commit to memory all the radio codes and fare box codes as well. This means lots of study time at home after  class.

The trainers also ensure the students experience public transit firsthand from a rider perspective. They have them ride the system in addition to learning to drive it.

“Earlier this week we dropped each of them off in different parts of Montclair,” laughs Christine. “And they had to figure out what buses to take to get back to the San Bernardino office. They actually did very well.”

Many of the students have operated large vehicles before, which they point out can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sometimes it means there are bad habits they have to break–like how to handle the steering wheel.

One of the students demonstrates how NOT to hold the steering wheel.

“Hand positions are at 10-2, 9-3, or 8-4 and should be kept on the outside rim of the wheel,” explains Christina.

“And no palming or putting your hand in the crossbar,”says a young man in the back.”The wheel could spin suddenly and you could get hurt or cause an accident”

Christina grins proudly. “See? They’ve got this.”

The class laughs. They joke with each other, mimicking examples of bad drivers at the wheel. They are obviously a close knit crew and have already bonded over the past two weeks. All of them are looking forward to going out in the field with coach operator instructors next week and driving the routes.

As I get ready to leave, they wave and say goodbye.

“Make sure you’re here on graduation day to take our picture,” calls out one of the women. “You’re going to need a wide lens ’cause we are all going to graduate. We’re in this together!”

-Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

Student coach operators clocking out at dispatch at the end of the day