Tag Archives: omnitrans employees

Omnitrans Hires Deputy General Manager Erin Rogers

We are honored to welcome to the Omnitrans family the newest member of the executive team: Deputy General Manager Erin Rogers!

A Syracuse, New York native and resident of Tustin, Erin joins Omnitrans with nearly 30 years of experience in the transit industry. Her journey began in Boston, where she first worked as a paratransit manager at DAVE Transportation Services.

Erin spent 16 years working for the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), including 10 as assistant general manager. Most recently, she served as regional vice president for MV Transportation, Inc.

“I knew the Omnitrans team was doing great work and that there are exciting projects on the horizon, such as the West Valley Connector and Arrow,” Erin shares.

As deputy general manager, Erin will serve with CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham and the Senior Leadership Team to set the direction of the organization and ensure that we deliver on the agency’s commitments to the Board of Directors and residents of the San Bernardino Valley.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of the team and making positive contributions to better connect our community.”

Employee of the Quarter John Steffon

What do you do when your department is without a Dispatch Supervisor, Assistant Transportation Manager (ATM), and West Valley Transportation Manager? Well, if you’re John Steffon, you buckle up, postpone your retirement plans, and rise to the occasion. Earlier this month, John, East Valley Transportation Manager, was declared Employee of the Quarter for his contributions to the Operations department while taking on three other positions’ responsibilities.

“Time management was tough,” admits John. “Some of your own work has to take a backseat to what really needs to be done then and there. This was the biggest challenge – trying to keep everything up to date from attendance, to handling all ATM duties, making sure all dispatch supervisor duties were being handled, and covering at West Valley if we needed to handle any disciplinary issues.”

While juggling multiple jobs during this time in addition to his own, John had to work with his team and the agency to increase our part-time driver roster. This was critical in addressing a challenge faced by Omnitrans at the time – drivers having to work overtime on their days off to deliver service to our customers. Their efforts paid off.

“We’ve recently graduated a class of eight new coach operators, and today we have six people testing, with another class joining us in December,” reveals John. “The onboarding of new drivers is really helping to keep service on the road without forcing overtime on our existing coach operators. We are focused on building up our part-time drivers so that overtime goes down and as people retire or leave, we have people ready to fill their positions. It’s been tough, but we need to get service on the road because our passengers are the ultimate customers and they are depending on us.”

Employee of the Quarter John Steffon (second from right) is congratulated by (from the left) CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham, Director of Operations Diane Caldera, and Board of Directors Chair Ron Dailey.

This year, John celebrates his 23rd year at Omnitrans. He has nearly 50 years of transportation experience, having spent almost 25 years at Greyhound in Los Angeles prior to Omnitrans. “Before that, I spent years in the army on boats, planes – all different modes of transportation! I served in 1967 and 1968 after being drafted upon graduating college,” says John, a Vietnam War veteran.

John began his career with Omnitrans as a field supervisor in West Valley. Sunday bus service had just started in 1994, and the agency hired two additional field supervisors, one of which was John. A year later the Transportation Manager position opened, and he was promoted in 1995.

“The most satisfying part of this job is coming to work with a positive attitude and seeing that we’re getting service on the road and helping people. The community needs us, and we need them. Being in the service industry, it’s our duty to provide that service, especially for those who really depend on us to get to work, meetings, doctor’s appointments, or other errands,” says John.

“You learn something new every day. You think you’ve seen all the situations that you possibly can; it’s mind-boggling. What I’m learning is how to keep up with all this new technology in the transit industry and, not to be too funny, but, also learning how to deal with millennials and speaking a little bit of their language,” he laughs.

Outside of work, John likes to dedicate his time to reading, golfing, and going outside on walks. He is also a major football enthusiast, and he is ecstatic that his team, the Rams, is back in Southern California. He proudly shows off his 2016 Omnitrans Fantasy Football League trophy. “The reason I need to walk is because I’m a couch potato when it comes to watching football!” he jokes.

Although John looks forward to retirement early next year, he remains fully committed to our mission of connecting our community. “It’s coming to an end and it’ll be time to move on in a few months. Omnitrans has been very good to me, and I come here every day with a smile on my face.”

Employee of the Quarter, January-March 2017

For Field Supervisor and Employee of the Quarter Tiffany Barnes, persistence is the name of the game. Having started her career with Omnitrans as a Coach Operator 12 years ago, Tiffany has always looked forward to continuing her growth within the agency. She not only wishes for a lucky break to happen, she diligently chases her goals and creates opportunities for herself.

In the first quarter of this year, Tiffany held three different positions in the Operations department, simultaneously: sbX Coach Operator, Relief Field Supervisor, and Relief Dispatch Supervisor. “Tiffany is an operator who has shown perseverance and determination,” says Director of Operations Diane Caldera. “She is utilized in all of her positions, doing very well in each, and is an excellent example of succession planning.”

“I’ve been trying to be a Field Supervisor for five years now,” says Tiffany, who would like to move upward at Omnitrans as far as she feels prepared to go. “I’ve tried and put in maybe four or five applications before becoming Relief Field Supervisor. Around that same time, I got Relief Dispatch Supervisor, so I held three positions at once.”

Tiffany faced a challenge in adjusting to three roles, but was able to take it in stride. “My schedule was all over the place!” she laughs. “That’s the challenge that I’ve faced. Getting the hang of things came naturally and everything fell into place. Everything meshed well together while juggling the three positions, but the irregular schedule was tough at first.”

It may seem like a daunting balancing act, but Tiffany is no stranger to multitasking. The mother of two boys, 5 and 12, decided to become a full-time college student to advance in her career. “I decided I needed to go to school to get a full-time Field Supervisor position. I enrolled and got a bachelor’s degree,” she says. “This July I’ll be going back for a master’s in business administration.”

Employee of the Quarter Tiffany Barnes (second from right) is congratulated by (from the left) CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham, Director of Operations Diane Caldera, and Board of Directors Chair Sam Spagnolo.

In March, while in the capacity of Relief Field Supervisor, Tiffany’s leadership skills had the chance to shine as she and other staff members responded to a customer’s life-threatening emergency at the San Bernardino Transit Center.

While mitigating the situation, Tiffany collaborated with 9-1-1 dispatchers, Omnitrans security officers, and customer service staff at the transit center. As smoothly as possible, she had the facility evacuated, while also coordinating with customer service and Omnitrans dispatch to adjust our transportation operations as necessary during this time.

“As a supervisor, I had to get the facility cleared and locked down. It was a good team effort and we did the best we could in the situation. It was challenging but I felt prepared for it after my training at Omnitrans,” she says.

The situation was new for Tiffany, who was able to remain calm and level headed to figure out the best way to approach the situation and have it handled properly. Prior to Omnitrans, Tiffany had worked in the medical field, which taught her the importance of maintaining composure during an emergency. She also gives kudos to the SBTC customer service staff and security team for their great crisis management skills.

“Customer service and security were awesome! It was a team effort, so I give kudos to them. I had customer service call dispatch to reroute the buses, and they helped to lock down the facility. It was just great synergy and teamwork.”

The day the Omnitrans Board of Directors recognized her as Employee of the Quarter in May also happened to be Tiffany’s first day in her new and sole position of Field Supervisor, the job that for five years she had been striving for. “It’s tough getting turned down, but I never gave up,” she says. “I don’t believe in giving up on myself or my goals. So that’s what I will continue to do.”

Omnitrans has become “home” for Tiffany, so it is no surprise that she is committed to her job. She has a deep respect for her colleagues who she considers like family, and has love and passion for helping the people that we serve. “I love people and believe treating people the way you would want to be treated whether they’re homeless, or different than you. That’s what I live by and teach my children,” she says.

Employee of the Year 2016, Marcos Espinoza

Reliability, expertise, and a friendly demeanor are what make our 2016 Employee of the Year an invaluable asset to the Omnitrans team. Marcos Espinoza, network technician in our Information Technology department, has been a member of the Omnitrans family for less than two years, but has already significantly impacted the agency.

Last year, during a data transfer to a new server, the agency’s onboard bus video surveillance footage was deemed irretrievable due to faulty hardware. The footage is critical to ongoing investigations and claims pertaining to accidents, liability claims, law enforcement assistance, and more.

Marcos, who admits to enjoying “breaking down” electronics and putting them back together, rose to the task after failed attempts by outside vendors to retrieve this footage. He methodically tackled the issue and successfully gained access to the files, recovering all footage. Although this may have unfolded behind-the-scenes, his action saved the agency time, resources, and potential trouble.

Employee of the Year Marcos Espinoza (second from left) is congratulated by (from left) Director of Information Technology Jacob Harms, Board of Directors Chair Sam Spagnolo, and CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham.

“Marcos has demonstrated that he can master nearly any task put in his way, and is self-directed in seeking out new projects to accomplish,” says Director of Information Technology Jacob Harms, lauding Marcos’s high work ethic and self-motivation. “The only challenge in having an employee like Marcos is keeping enough fresh challenges in front of him.”

In addition to resolving issues surrounding wireless problems in our video systems and Citrix network slowness, Marcos has earned a positive reputation among co-workers for his strong ability to resolve issues of any magnitude, treating each Help Desk request with such urgency and importance. We thank him for embodying the spirit of teamwork and his exemplary commitment to the advancement of Omnitrans.

Coach Operators recognized for safe driving record

The Omnitrans Million Mile Club has welcomed new drivers to its ranks! Fourteen coach operators are recognized this year for their achievement in safely driving 25,000 hours without a preventable accident, a feat that is accomplished over the course of 12 years. One driver has completed 50,000 driving hours over 25 years without a preventable accident, making them a 2 million mile club member.

From left to right: Salvador Soto Luna, Antoinette Meza, Jerry Milton (2 Million Mile), Michael Morrow, Dagoberto Perez, Elizabeth Samaro, Clarissa VanDyke.

“To put into perspective what each new member of the elite Million Mile Drivers Club has accomplished, consider the miles driven,” says Assistant Transportation Manager Mike DiFonzo. “The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. Each driver drove an equivalent of 40 trips around the earth without a chargeable accident or safety violation. What an amazing accomplishment!”

From left to right, are: Manuel Acosta, Kathleen Havey, David Castillo, and sbX driver Juan Miranda.

Each driver was presented with a special plaque, jacket, hat, belt buckle, certificate of recognition, a silver name plate, a day off with pay, and $500. Our 2 Million Mile driver also received a bonus five-day cruise to Mexico including paid time off!

Our congratulations go to these drivers for setting the standard of excellence. We are grateful for their commitment to safety as they connect our community.

1 Million Mile Coach Operators

  • Manuel Acosta
  • David Castillo
  • Kathleen Havey
  • Antoinette Meza
  • Juan Miranda
  • Michael Morrow
  • Dagoberto Perez
  • Earl Roberts
  • Elizabeth Samaro
  • Salvador Soto Luna
  • Dennail Sweatt
  • Jackie Sweatt
  • Wendell Taylor
  • Clarissa Van Dyke

2 Million Mile Coach Operators

  • Jerry Milton

To view more photos of our 2017 Million Mile Club inductees, click here.

Employee of the Quarter, October-December 2016

Director of Operations Diane Caldera, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz, Omnitrans CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham, and Board of Directors Chair Sam Spagnolo.

When asked to attend the Omnitrans Board of Directors meeting in February to be officially recognized as the Employee of the Quarter, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz was appreciative and humbled, but a little apprehensive.

“I don’t like all the attention,” a modest Christina reveals. “I just want to come to work and do the best job that I can. That’s how I like to prove myself.”

Christina’s passion for the work that she does led her to this achievement. She does not seek pomp and circumstance, or praise. She would rather let her strong work ethic speak for itself – and it has.

When she’s not leading a new class of coach operators through their five-week training period, Christina is working on tasks to improve our fleet safety. She currently also sits on the Accident Tracking and Prevention Committee and is an alternate representative on the Accident Incident Review Committee.

Over the last quarter, Christina has: become the first in the Training department to complete the Leadership Action Plan program, the University of the Pacific Transit Management certification, and developed an employee proficiency form that has improved the Operations department’s CHP and DMV audits of over 400 coach operators. She has also volunteered to attend the DMV Employee Testing Program (ETP) examiner course in Sacramento later this year. Gaining this certification saves the agency money and resources by having an ETP examiner on-site to administer the tests for coach operator commercial driver licenses.  

As involved as she is within her department, Christina’s enjoyment comes from interacting with new coach operator students in the training room.

“I get to be a mentor as well as a coach,” Christina smiles. “This is what I tell students when they come through the door: ‘I don’t teach you how to drive, you already know how to drive. I am just going to add to what you already know.”

Christina’s approach to training is not to simply teach from a manual, but to pass on knowledge that she has gained through experience, and share it with future drivers to enrich their own job performance. This is what makes her look forward to another day at the office.

“I enjoy interacting with our trainees and being exposed to different types of personalities. It helps me learn to work with different individuals. The agency relies on me to execute what needs to be done, and if I can contribute to that greater goal of the agency by instructing new drivers, then I am happy,” she tells us.

Fleet Safety and Training team at the 2016 Omnitrans Bus Roadeo: (left to right) Charles Molloy, Christina Diaz, Norma Zamora, Don Frazier, Kim Perkins, and Steve Sisneros.

Before joining Omnitrans in 2013, Christina had been a driver at other transit agencies. When the time came for a change, she found an opportunity in Training that was suitable to her skills and experience. She describes this as the agency “taking a chance” on her without knowing her, for which she is grateful.

In her three and a half years with the agency, her proudest moment is having been an integral part of the sbX launch in 2014. “I was here since its inception,” Christina says proudly. “Even though I was new here, I got to be involved in the process from the beginning, learning how to drive the 60-foot articulated buses, and passing that on to operators who had not driven them before,” Christina shares. “That was a milestone – to launch the region’s first bus rapid transit line – and I got to be a part of it. I made history with the agency!”

Christina’s mindset is that fostering mutually beneficial relationships with coach operators is crucial. “Someone once told me that if you have a know-it-all attitude, and you believe there is nothing else that anybody can teach you, you’re in trouble. There is a lot to learn, always.”

She continues, “I am always asking a lot of questions! We are all part of one agency, and the more that you’re aware and knowledgeable of other departments and facets of the agency, the better that you can do your job. Knowing more allows you to understand the broader picture of what we do for our public.”

Christina’s pride and dedication are not lost on anybody, especially her supervisor, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Don Frazier. “Christina has been a true leader in the Training department. She has volunteered for tasks continuously and has worked many days off to make sure that tasks are covered,” says Don. “Christina has definitely proven to be not only an excellent instructor, but an overall great employee to the agency.”

Moving forward, Christina wants to continue to exceed expectations. “My goal is to continue to fulfill the needs of the agency and to meet the demands to the best of my ability. I also want to continue to grow and learn as much as I can.”

“I take such pride in this job, which is something that I haven’t always done before. I didn’t always care about my uniforms looking neat and pressed,” she laughs. “But now at Omnitrans, I go as far as taking them to the cleaners, because that’s how proud I am to be here.”

Special Transportation Services Department Aims to Improve Quality of Life

Earlier this year, Omnitrans welcomed the Special Transportation Services (STS) department, formerly known as Valley Transportation Services. STS provides a number of services for senior citizens and people with disabilities, including one-on-one travel training on Omnitrans’ fixed route system. The department also oversees the Transportation Reimbursement Escort Program (TREP) (also known as Volunteer Driver Program), another initiative that makes it easy for eligible individuals to be transported by a friend or relative, who is then reimbursed for trip mileage. Finally, the department’s RIDE program partners Omnitrans with taxi and Lyft services, providing fares at a discounted rate for those who are unable to ride our existing bus service.

The team is lead by Director Nathan Churan, whose vision for the department is to provide innovative transportation options for seniors and individuals with disabilities in the communities which we serve.

The Special Transportation Services department.

Nathan explains that one of the agency’s biggest issues is “first-mile/last-mile,” a common issue in transit regarding the efficiency of getting customers from a transit center or centralized location to their final destination, particularly in less urban areas. For senior citizens and those living with a disability, it can be particularly challenging. “This is a problem that our RIDE partnership with Lyft and taxis, which we’re going to develop and build, can alleviate,” says Nathan.

While the RIDE partnership is a convenience, it presents another complication for those who may not have a smart phone. Nathan has a solution. “There is an app called GoGoGrandparent, where a senior can pick up the phone and request a ride, and the message is sent out to Uber and Lyft,” explains Nathan.

GoGoGrandparent connects the rider to a Lyft or taxi pickup. Because the drivers are aware that the request comes from a GoGoGrandparent user, they are able to provide a higher level of customer service for customers. “The best part is, the senior never even needs to use a smart phone, so this will allow us to really reach that demographic,” explains Nathan.

Elias Camara and Esteban Villegas, Paratransit Eligibility Technicians. They conduct the in-person assessments of applicants who are inquiring about Access, a service for people unable to independently use our fixed route bus service. The technicians determine whether the clients can get to and from a bus stop, if not, one of our special transportation services intervenes and assists anyone who requires being picked up at their home location and transported to their destination.

Future goals include creating partnerships with local senior centers in the county as part of the department’s senior mobility management pilot program. Nathan reveals that after the planning and outreach phase, the department hopes to award contracts to partner senior centers to begin offering some direct services. This will be of great benefit to our community of senior citizens, especially as it relates to their health care transportation needs.

Special Transportation Services’ focus is on improving quality of life for the senior citizen community and those living with disabilities through innovative transportation programs. To become more familiar with their work, and learn how to take advantage of these services, please visit their new webpage on Omnitrans.org.