Tag Archives: omnitrans rider profile

Who’s Riding The Freeway Express?

When asked how often he rides Omnitrans, Rodney James, Jr. had to pause. 

 “Wow, a lot. Definitely more than three times a week” said Rodney. 

After moving to San Bernardino from New York 10-15 years ago, the 41-year-old began using the bus to commute to work, take care of shopping, and attend school.  His route of choice:  The 215 Freeway Express Route.

He moved from New York to San Bernardino initially to be with family.   Why San Bernardino?

“I was thinking about moving to Rancho Cucamonga, but San Bernardino felt a lot more like home.”

The convenience of a friendly transit system was something that played into Rodney’s decision.

“The people are really nice, and the bus stations are really close,” said Rodney.

Rodney attends San Bernardino Valley College in San Bernardino and is studying to be a nutritionist. His dream is to have his own start- up dedicated to helping improve the nutrition and health of others.

“But you will never guess what I was doing before -“I worked for Nintendo!” he exclaimed.  Rodney’s job as a “debugger” was to test new games video games before they hit the market. Nintendo 64, Gameboy, Virtual Boy, Gameboy Advanced -consoles that would make any gamer from the 90’s jealous.

“I tested games for all kinds of devices,”  said Rodney. He was also one of the first to try out Donkey Kong Country before it was released.

 Although he smiles upon the days he used to work for Nintendo, Rodney is looking forward to the future he has ahead of him.

“I want to help other people get healthy” says Rodney, an excited grin taking over his face.  

Nutrition is his passion and he is firmly focused on achieving his dream.  We’re happy that Omnitrans is helping Rodney achieve his goals by getting him to school, home and around town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we turn a non-rider into an sbX fan?

Mary and Jackson sbX BRT

Could we actually convert someone who is not normally a bus rider into an sbX fan? That was the question we set out to answer that question this week with a special tweetup aboard sbX.

It all began with this Twitter conversation.

Tweetup aboard sbX

Cloud9_72 is the Twitter handle for Inland Empire native Mary Risner. Mary takes a strong interest in community news and closely follows local reporters, law enforcement and politics on social media. Her husband works at the Department of Water, and the couple has a 10-year-old son named Jackson. When Jackson was three, he was diagnosed with autism, and Mary put aside her career as a school tutor to focus her energies on being a full time mom. She also connects with other parents of autistic kids online, helping them find the resources they need.

Omnitrans sbX BRT mom and son

Mary agreed to take us up on our offer of an sbX tour. I met her and Jackson at the Palm and Kendall Park and Ride where they were admiring the artwork on the glass station panels and checking out the ticket vending machine.   I asked them what they thought so far.

Jackson’s blue eyes looked anxious. “I’m a little worried because I’ve never ridden a bus before, except for a school bus.”

“Not a problem” I reassured him. “I am going to be your own personal escort and ride along with you and your mom. You won’t have to worry about a thing. I even have passes and goody bags here for you guys.”

He smiled and started digging into the bag I offered him. “Thanks!”

Mary pointed to the bottom of the map case. “I was trying to figure out the route, and the map was scaring me a little. It covers a huge area and it looks like it would be easy to get lost.”

“Actually that the map for the entire Omnitrans system,” I explained. “You’re right. We have a big service area, so it can be a little intimidating at first. We’re taking the sbX line which is pretty much a straight shot from here to the Loma Linda VA Hospital. The sbX coaches travel down the E Street corridor and back up again in a continuous loop.”

Mary smiled. “I think I can manage that.”

I snapped a few photos of her and Jackson beside the sbX coach. “Hold up your ticket for the picture, mom,” Jackson urged her.

We all laughed.

“I’ve only ridden a bus one time back when I was in high school,” Mary confessed. “And it wasn’t a good experience. I was so shaken up by it that I decided I would rather walk the three miles between my house and the school rather than ever ride again.”

“Let’s see if we can change your mind,” I told her. “Ready to go guys?”

We climbed aboard, and I showed them how to insert their passes into the farebox. Walking up the aisle, they were all smiles as they looked around them.

“It’s actually really nice,” said Mary sounding surprised.

Jackson made a beeline for the center of the vehicle. “Look at the high seats, mom! I want to sit there!”

Pulling out of the station, we made our way to Loma Linda. Jackson was excited as Mary pointed out familiar landmarks along the way: restaurants and malls, schools where she used to tutor, places where family friends work, and restaurants they might want to visit.

The two also liked seeing the different art at the stations we passed. Mary was particularly drawn to the Hunt’s Lane station display “Setting The Table” which featured vintage looking dinner plates on a glass panel.

“They look like real dishes in the glass!” she marveled.

As we pass by a car repair shop, Mary told me her husband had ridden sbX himself recently when he had to drop off his car to be fixed. Instead of waiting around the shop for two hours, her rode sbX over to a local restaurant to get a bite to eat. He thought the coach was nice and liked the fast travel time.

At Loma Linda we got off at the Park and Ride to have lunch at the BK Subs next door.

We chatted about our families, pets and our plans for the summer.

“With school out, we’ve been looking for things to do together that don’t cost a lot of money,” Mary told me. “Riding the bus today has been like a little adventure for us. What do you think, Jackson?  Maybe we could take sbX and meet dad at his office for lunch sometime? Or maybe the three of us could take a trip to Inland Center Mall and go to Chuck E. Cheese.”

Jackson grinned, “That would be fun!”

After lunch we board sbX to head back. I find out that Jackson is an avid gamer. He was excited to learn that I’m an angry bird fan and that the red bird is both our favorites. He loves Mario, Q-Bert, Pokemon and all the classics.

“He makes Youtube videos about some of his favorite characters,” Mary told me proudly. “He draws them and makes up stories about them. He’s a really talented artist.”

This was the perfect opportunity to talk to them about some of the features sbX has to offer tech savvy riders. I pointed out the overhead power outlets that can be used to charge small electronics and informed them there was free on board Wi-Fi.

“No way!” exclaimed Jackson practically bouncing with excitement.

He and Mary immediately pulled out their devices to give it a try.

“So what do you think? Have we made an sbX fan out of you?” I asked Mary. “Do you think you’d come back on your own and ride again?”

She laughed. “Yes, it was a lot of fun. And I can relax and hang out with Jackson instead of having to focus on driving. Next time I’ll bring my husband with us, and we can do a family trip. Maybe I can figure out how to take the regular Omnitrans bus to get here instead of driving.”

“That’s easy enough. Just call our customer service center, tell them where you are and where you want to go and they’ll help you plan your trip.”

“Wow, I didn’t know you guys did that. Thanks!”

As we arrived back at Palm and Kendall, Jackson suggested I take one more picture. He’d been having fun during the trip coming up with poses for me and took his job as a model very seriously. “I call this one ‘The Thinking Man,’” he said, propping his hand under his chin and elbow on his knee. “It’s a famous statue.”

“I know that, but I’m surprised that you know that,” I laughed. “You are one smart guy. Thanks for modeling for me.”

“You’re welcome.”

We all hugged when we disembarked, feeling like old friends.

“Thanks so much for the trip. We had fun!” said Mary.

As our two new sbX fans walked down the station, I pulled out the camera again. “Hey Jackson!” I yelled. “One last time!”

Jackson turned around on cue and gave a wave at the camera. A good model always knows how to strike a pose.

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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They call me the Bus Man

San Bernardino resident Jerry Silva has been riding Omnitrans since 1981. “They call me the Bus Man,” he grins. “I ride around ten buses a day, sometimes just to sight-see and get out of the house. I ride for the joy of it.”

Jerry also likes riding the bus to the movies or to hang out with his best friend in Fontana who he’s known since 1976. They are both Dodger fans who met in kindergarten and connected over their love of baseball. Forty-two years later, their friendship is still going strong and they go out of their way to spend time together.

Jerry has ridden the bus for so long that he knows all the routes, most of the drivers and even the Omnitrans receptionists who sell him his bus passes.

Jerry Silva and Omnitrans receptionist

“Everybody’s so kind and courteous,” he says. “I’ve known driver Daniel Hernandez over two years now. He’s really friendly and has a great attitude towards passengers. He gets the job done. He makes sure everyone has the right fare, has a bus book and so forth. Charlene is very nice too. I’ve had a good experience with all the drivers.”

Jerry Silva catching an Omnitrans busFor Jerry, the bus is more than just a means of transport. It is a way to stay connected with his community. Having struggled with depression for most of his life, he has found the best medicine is reaching out to make a difference to others.

“I like to help people get to where they’re going, especially the senior citizens,” says Jerry. “If they don’t know which bus to take, I explain it to them and let them know what it will cost and so forth. It’s all about kindness, making people feel better when they’re down and out, looking for opportunities to do nice things. I am always positive. I don’t believe in the negative. I always tell people that negative attitudes lead to bad experiences. If you just move forward, then you have a future. Today is a beautiful day. Who knows what tomorrow may hold for us? “

Jerry R Silva on an Omnitrans bus

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

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Omnitrans rider, veteran & leatherworker Ed Miller

Ed Miller with his prizewinning leather belt and holster

Longtime Omnitrans rider Ed Miller is a Vietnam War veteran, a talented leather craftsman and a recovering addict who is helping other vets in their struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. His story is an inspiration to anyone who thinks it’s too late to change their life.

In some was the deck was stacked against Ed from the beginning. When he was just an infant, his mother used to put alcohol in his bottle to quiet him and get him to sleep. His father was also an alcoholic. But it wasn’t until he received a “Dear John” letter during the Vietnam War that he started drinking heavily and began using opium. By the time he was discharged, he was completely addicted.

“For 43 years, my only focus was on how to get more dope and more alcohol,” admits Ed frankly. “It’s amazing that I still have any mental capacity after that. I drank and smoked my family away.”

Finally in 2006, Ed hit rock bottom. He devised a detailed suicide plan but decided to attend one last therapy session at the Loma Linda Veteran’s Administrantion Hospital. Psychiatrist Richard Newman took one look at him and knew that this was it. He asked Ed just one question. “Do you really want to change your life?” And Ed said yes.

“I quite cold turkey and never went back,” says Ed. “I got into the AA program, and it was like a little light bulb went off in my head. Hmmm . . . I have a choice. Do I want to fall asleep or pass out? Do I want to wake up or come to?”

“My life is very different now. I used to have to lock my stuff into a car to make sure it would still be there. At night I would pass out on my [drug] connection’s couch. Now I get to go home to where I live and enjoy it.”

Two years into his recovery, Ed joined a leatherworking class with Steve Nicholas at the VA hospital and discovered he had a gift for leather tooling and design. His intricate creations have earned him a well-deserved reputation among his peers. He is the current vice president of the Leather Artisans Guild of California.

In February, Ed competed in a veterans’ arts & crafts show and took home three first place awards for tooling, stamping and leather kit. He and the other first place winners now face a second elimination round. The final Gold Winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to Milwaukee where they will go on to compete on the national level against other veterans.

A collection of some of Ed’s leather work

Although he is passionate about his art, it is giving back to other vets that means the most to him. Three mornings a week he volunteers for Project Save at the VA, where he serves as a living example of what’s possible when you decide to turn your life around.

“About 50% of these guys come into the program because they are on parole or probation or have a court date coming up. I tell them they can wait around like me for 43 years, or they can change their lives now and enjoy the time they have ahead of them. If you were a civilian, you would have to pay over $10,000 to be in a 30-day recovery program like this. And it’s not hard to do. You just have to be honest with yourself–no more excuses–and follow along with what the facilitator tells you to do.”

Ed believes that Omnitrans provides a critical service for vets, especially those in the recovery process. “A lot of young vets in the program have had their cars impounded or mom and dad are tired of giving them money for gas and insurance. With the bus, they can’t say their car broke down or that they can’t afford the gas.  There are no excuses. They can attend program and get where they need to go without a big expense. It makes everything possible for them.”

Ed himself has been an Omnitrans rider for 3 ½ years and says it keeps him connected to his community. “Coming home I get to listen to the younger guys complain on the bus,” he chuckles. He sometimes shares his own observations with them that put it all in perspective.

“When you get past the complaining and the excuses, that’s when you have the power to change your life,” he says. “You just have to want it.”

If you are interested in contacting Ed or ordering one of his custom designs, you can reach him at edmill71@yahoo.com.

– Juno Kughler Carlson
Have a great Omnitrans story to share?  Let us know! Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

A symbol of pride: Ed’s leather stamp

Maria gets new wheelchair straps

Meet longtime Omnitrans rider Maria Greer. She stopped by our offices today for a wheelchair strap installation courtesy of Fleet Safety & Training Instructor Stephen McClure. Coach operators on Maria’s regular route had recommended she make the appointment so that her chair could be more efficiently secured.

“Every wheelchair is different,” explains Steve. “So the drivers can’t always tell where the best place is to hook it up to secure it. That’s why we offer free strap installation to our wheelchair passengers. Now, when Maria boards, her driver can simply attach these blue straps to the hooks in the bus to make sure she’s secured safely.”

Maria has been riding Omnitrans since she moved here in 1996, but her circumstances changed radically when she lost her leg to diabetes a year ago. Riding public transit now takes on a different perspective for the 50-year-old San Bernardino resident.

When she got her power chair in September, Marie first tried switching to our Access demand/response service but found that at $2.75 each way it was far too expensive for her limited income. Although she was self-conscious about being around people, she decided it just made more sense for her to go back to using the fixed route buses.

“But to me it’s not the same now,” she admits. “Before I could walk and choose where I sat and everything. Now I can only sit in the front of the bus, and I get a lot of eyes on me. It’s very irritating because after the eyes comes the question ‘What happened to your leg?’ It’s awkward. The drivers are good though. I have never had a bad experience with an Omnitrans driver. They help you out a lot, you know. They always ask where you want to get off and then make sure to stop right there and let you off.  And being the first on the bus—that’s a plus. Being the first off the bus, that’s a plus too. And when I have the grandkids with me, people are good about making room for them. They love having time out with grandma riding the bus!”

Family is everything to Maria.

“I love spending time with my grandchildren,” she smiles. “That’s just a blessing to me. I’m the mother of ten kids, and I have twenty grandchildren.”

“You’ve got me beat,” grins Steve from the floor as he gives one of the straps a hard yank with a wrench. “I have nineteen!”

Maria laughs, then says seriously, “We moved to San Bernardino from Los Angeles in 1996. There’s a lot of gang violence in LA, and I didn’t want my boys raised up in that. But, you know, you can’t run away from violence—it’s everywhere. You just have to teach your kids the best you can.”

All ten of Maria’s children and 19 of her grandchildren live with her in her 8-bedroom home. One of her kids has a car, but the rest take the bus. She’s raised all of her children alone and is now helping to raise her grandchildren. “I wish I had had the grandkids first,” she jokes. “They are more understanding, they listen, and I don’t get the backtalk. I’m so proud of them. Every day is something awesome, something new—never a dull moment.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Your safety is always our number one priority. Wheelchair passengers can call 909-379-7157 to make an appointment to come to our offices for a free strap installation with one of our friendly fleet safety experts. The straps take about 20 minutes to install. 

Omnitrans is why I stay in San Bernardino

When their car was totaled in an accident eight years ago, Eric Newton and his wife Brenda decided it was time to forgo the expense of repairing and maintaining a personal vehicle. The two have relied on Omnitrans as their sole source of transportation ever since. They depend on the bus to shop for groceries, pick up medicine or to visit their favorite destination—Victoria Gardens.

“I’ve gotten to know most of the drivers, and they are great people,” says Eric. “I find them to be courteous, friendly and good about helping people who need information. In fact, Omnitrans is one of the reasons we decided to stay in San Bernardino. A few years ago I had the opportunity to move back to Riverside where I grew up but, after riding both transit systems, I really like the bus drivers here. Robin, Ken and Pete are some of our favorites. They don’t just tell you to get a bus book or point you to a sign when you have a question. They’re more courteous and willing to take a moment to help. That really makes a difference.”

Born with cerebral palsy, Eric is confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn’t slow him down a bit. The 55-year-old San Bernardino resident does computer repair and volunteers his time as a youth pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship on E Street.

Eric and Brenda have been married for 19 years. They first met on Thanksgiving Eve when a friend set them up on a blind date. He dropped Eric off at Brenda’s apartment for a quiet evening of drinks and conversation, and the two hit it off right away.

“At the end of the evening, she went to give me her number so I would call her again. I told her I wasn’t going home, that I thought I should stay right there because we made a good pair. She laughed, and I stayed. We were engaged by Christmas Eve and have been together ever since.”

His secret to a great marriage?  “Happy wife, happy life,” he says promptly. “We take care of each other.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
   juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

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Professional commuter chooses public transit

Commuter Mark Adelson is a San Bernardino resident who works in Riverside for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. As section chief, he covers environmental science issues, water quality and permitting.

“My family’s roots are here in San Bernardino,” says Mark. “I grew up here, as did my two kids,  and I attended Cal State San Bernardino. My wife was born here and is the director of a local churched-based pre-school. We feel very connected to this area.”

For years, Mark relied on his car for the busy work commute. On a few rare occasions, he also tried the bus. He remembers being anxious, wondering what it would be like and if he would have to wait for a long time.

“Those were concerns that were actually pretty easy to overcome because everything is set up to make it simple for riders. The Omnitrans bus book, especially, is a wonderful tool. I’m basically a map guy and found the system map to be very helpful.”

Finally about seven or eight years ago, Mark decided that maybe it was time to make the switch from driving a car to taking Omnitrans for his work commute.

“Cost savings was a big factor,” he admits. “And I also wanted to commute in a more environmentally responsible way. In the end, it was the realization that I could save at least $150 a month that motivated me to make the change. On weekdays, I drive to the 4th Street Transit Center where I park my car for the day.  Then I take the bus to downtown Riverside. I mainly use my car on the weekends or for scooting around town. I like that I don’t have to deal with heavy commuter traffic or worry about parking issues in Riverside.”

Now instead of battling rush hour, Mark relaxes with his Kindle, reading books or news stories. Sometimes he’ll spend the time reading work reports or newsletters, and other times he’ll just sightsee. It’s a routine he’s become very comfortable with.

He offers this candid advice to other commuters who are considering the switch to public transit.

“By taking the bus, you do exchange some of the freedom you’re used to when you have a car at your beck and call. You also give up the convenience of not going exactly where you want to go, exactly when you want to go there. Still, for those people who can arrange their schedules, it’s a great solution that can save them a lot of money, eliminate traffic and parking hassles, and help the environment at the same time.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org