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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

Omnitrans Coach Operator Lorina Le’Roy

Do company wellness programs really make a difference? It did for Lorina Le’Roy who was honored this month as the Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for her dedication and caring in her role as coach operator and for her contributions in creating a positive workplace environment.

When Lorina had her health numbers checked at the Omnitrans Wellness Fair two years ago, she was surprised to learn that her blood pressure was high and her blood sugar was out of control. The health care representatives from Kaiser suspected diabetes and recommended that she schedule a visit with her doctor as soon as possible. Since she hadn’t had a complete physical in some time, Lorina took their advice and decided to go ahead and set up a full checkup.

During her medical visit, Lorina happened to mention to her doctor that she was suddenly lactating for no apparent reason. The doctor immediately brought in two specialists who explained to her that lactation not associated with pregnancy or childbirth is often a sign of a brain tumor.

A CAT scan showed that Lorina had a benign tumor about the size of an eraser tip in the front crease of her brain. The doctors told her it was very normal and not something she should be afraid of. They did want her to come in every six months, however, to be sure it didn’t get any bigger. If they started to see growth they could give her pills to help shrink it or they could go up her nasal cavity to remove it surgically. They tested her vision and cleared her as safe for driving.

“I go for an MRI every 6 months, and so far everything’s been fine,” says Lorina. “I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s the diabetes that worries me. I found out I had high blood pressure, needed to take cholesterol pills, was diabetic and had a brain tumor all in that one day.”

It was a wake-up call that she needed to start taking care of herself.

“My diabetes was uncontrolled for the longest time. I finally got it under control by eating healthier and walking . A lot of us girls around here just recently started exercising, and there’s about 11 of us who have bet going on.  Whoever loses the most weight gets a spa treatment. Sometimes it’s hard and I’ll call one of the girls and say I’m not doing so good. She’ll say I’m not either—and we talk and laugh. It’s good because I know it’s not just me. We all struggle with our weight–especially bus drivers—because we sit all day long. You sit and snack and most of the time don’t eat healthy. I was telling one of the girls that it’s funny how your lunch bag is too small for healthy food. Yet when you eat crap it’s the perfect size. My lunch bag is always overflowing because I bring an apple, a pear, carrots and a salad.”

“The Omnitrans Wellness Fair really opened my eyes. Thank God I went. Everything was really out of whack, and I never would have known. I was ignoring a lot of symptoms. For years I had been telling my doctor that I was having migraines. We tried all kinds of treatments but nothing worked. At one point he even wanted to give me shots in my skull! No way was I ready for that! It turns out my migraines were actually caused by the tumor.”

In addition to making healthier lifestyle choices, Lorina found she had a renewed sense of purpose.

“When you find out something that horrible about yourself, you want to somehow make things better.  For me, it became about work. At the time, morale was very low. People were coming to work always down, never really feeling alive. My whole thing was to try to uplift everybody. You start thinking what can we do to make the world better? How can we make it happy? How could we make everybody one?”

“It started with cleaning. I’ve always been a cleaner. You know how it always makes you feel better about yourself when you clean your house your car? First I did the windows in dispatch, then the tables in the drivers’ room. Then I went to the kitchen and thought we really need some condiments in here. I starting buying small things for the lunchroom: condiments, napkins, forks spoons and knives. It’s the kind of thing most people really appreciate. Occasionally the supplies run low, and people will ask where this thing or that is. But then it makes me feel good because they say ‘Where’s Lorina? She hasn’t been to work because it’s empty in here.’” Lorina laughs.  “I did it mainly for me. Some people tell me it’s a waste of my money. But it’s not. It’s important to me and makes me feel good.”

“It’s why I like doing the decorations. It’s a way for us to mark the holidays. Years used go by and nobody could remember what we did last Christmas. We all work, work, work , work and then we lose track of things. Especially last year around this time, when a lot of drivers were working seven days a week. Some of them just work, go home and go to sleep. They’re not going to the store or out shopping and it’s easy for them to forget the holidays are coming up. So this is a way to just boost up everybody and get them involved. It does make a difference. The Christmas tree decorating contest we recently did was so much fun for everyone, that they’re already talking about what they want to do next year! It’s really created a sense of community.”

“It is so exciting to get Employee of the Quarter. What really blew me away was that a lot of drivers really wanted me to have that award–it me feel really loved and supported. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of people from all the different departments by doing the potlucks and decorations, and I really enjoy that.  We never really interacted a lot before, and now we do. We’re all Omnitrans, and we do this job to help serve our community. It’s a good feeling.”

Omnitrans CEO Scott Graham (left) and Board Chair Alan Wapner (right) present Lorina with the Employee of the Quarter Award

Having worked for Omnitrans for more than 16 and ½ years, Lorina believes there are good opportunities here for people who might be having a difficult time finding work or who don’t want a traditional desk job.

“I would recommend being a coach operator to anyone. It’s actually a great professional career for someone who might not have a lot of education but who needs a good paying job.  If you enjoy driving and have great people skills, this is the job to come to. If you can drive a car, you can drive a bus, you really can. “

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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