Tag Archives: omnitrans rider profile

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

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

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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

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Omnitrans rider helps hospice families

Cynthia Bushaw has ridden Omnitrans since she first moved to San Bernardino in November. The 59-years-young former kindergarten teacher is a cancer survivor and proud grandmother of 9. She stays active with volunteer work and enjoys assisting one of her daughters who runs a home school.

Having ridden public transit in metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and Miami, she gives Omnitrans high marks for its clean buses, frequent service and  helpful drivers.  Occasionally it’s a challenge finding priority seating at the front of the bus because Cynthia has a disability that is not obvious to the other passengers. “Because I don’t use a walker or wheelchair, they don’t realize I have a need. When that happens, the drivers are good about asking people to move. Overall my experience has been excellent.”

As a regular rider, Cynthia relies on the bus daily. “I use Omnitrans for family visits, doctor appointments, church, shopping, and the laundromat. I will also be volunteering for elderly respite and hospice work soon and will ride the bus to those appointments as well.”

She has worked in hospice assistance before and found the experience to be both rewarding and challenging. “I like knowing that I can help these families. Not everyone can deal with death. I’m able to give the caretakers a break away from the situation and provide whatever support is needed.”

Still, she admits,  it’s not an easy thing to do. “Anyone entering into a hospice program has 6 months or less to live. You do get attached to the people and their families.  The important thing is simply to be there for them. My own mom passed away two years ago at age 87.  Even when death is expected, it is never easy for those left behind. I like the feeling that I can help make a difference.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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One year plus on the bus

I travel Route 22 almost every day. Since I’m a freelance writer, I like to take the bus down Riverside Drive in Rialto to the local Starbucks, which I call “my office,” to write. And what’s so nice about taking the same bus a lot is getting to know the drivers and some of the other passengers. Plus, I get to relax when I travel. No more honking at the driver in front of you because he doesn’t move when the light turns green, or shaking a fist at the driver who turns in front of you. I just relax and let the bus driver handle it! 

Since March 2012, I’ve been riding Omnitrans all over the Inland Empire and sometimes connecting to Foothill transit or Metro into the San Gabriel Valley.  Although I gave up my car unwillingly–thanks to an early morning drive on the 210 freeway in which sleepiness and the center divider got the better of the me–I’ve learned that, not only can I get wherever I need to go on the bus, but I enjoy it!

There are three drivers on that route whom I’ve talked to a bit, and they are always so pleasant.  Pete always greets me with a ‘hello’.  I haven’t been bold enough to ask the names of the other two, but we do joke around a little when I get on or off.  It’s nice to see an amiable face when I travel.  I always try to smile and say hello so that just maybe I can bring a little brightness to their day.

I know from personal observation that the Omnitrans drivers have an often stressful job dealing with the public.  I’ve seen a few situations where the driver is asked a question while they are driving, and they can’t answer fully because they have to pay attention to maneuvering that big bus in traffic.  Passengers don’t always understand, and some can get a bit offended.  But I’ve never seen a driver lose his or her cool.  They’ve always acted with tact and professionalism.

A few times in the last year I’ve had to range a bit farther afield in my bus travels.  It can be nerve-racking when you’ve never been somewhere before, and you’re not sure which way the bus goes, what times it arrives or leaves, or at which stop to get off.  But I’ve got the Omnitrans phone number stored in my call-list on my cell phone, and the agents always answer promptly and can direct me where I need to go.  The online maps and schedules have helped a lot too when I’ve had time to plan my trip ahead.

What I really like is the NexTrip information.  It’s nice to know when I have time to take out my glasses and read at the stop before the bus comes, and when I have to put them away to get out my bus pass!  Plus, before NexTrip started, I had many times when I’d leave my house for the bus stop, and either just miss it or get there way too early.  Now I can check NexTrip online before I leave so that I know exactly when to leave to catch the next bus.  So far, it’s always been extremely accurate.

I highly recommend Omnitrans.  It’s a great way to travel!

– Lynette Ranger, Omnitrans Passenger

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Life-long love of transit

Paul Castillo has been fascinated by public transit since he was 5-years-old. “As a child it made a big impression on me,” he admits. “Planes, trains, buses–I loved them all. My mom never drove a car, so we took the bus wherever we went. In school when they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I always wanted to be a bus driver.”

Eventually he realized his dream and became a coach operator, driving buses for LA’s Metro Transit. “LA is very different from the Inland Empire. It’s like a jungle. There is tons of traffic which make it challenging to stay on time point. Passengers are generally rushed and often cranky. It’s a busy job. You really have to stay on your toes and be aware of your surroundings. You learn to keep your cool, and remain courteous and professional at all times. What I like best about being a coach operator is that you’re outdoors–not stuck in a cubicle all day. And you get to meet all kinds of interesting people.”

During the past year that he’s lived in San Bernardino, Omnitrans has been Paul’s primary form of transportation. He is currently out of work and is finding it helpful in his job searches. “I ‘m not as familiar with this area, so I go on the trip planner section of the Omnitrans site to do Google Transit searches. This way I can see right away how far away a business is, how long the travel time will be and what routes I would need to take in order to get there.”

His goal is to take a position with another transit agency, eventually working his way up to a trainer or management position. “I’d love the opportunity to work for Omnitrans, actually. I like the buses, and I’ve had good experiences riding the routes here. The passengers are much more laid back than in LA, and the coach operators have been very courteous and helpful.”

Paul is a 10 year member of Southern California Transit Advocates, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion, development and improvement of public transportation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. He likes being around others who share his interests and enjoys the occasional group excursions to various transit agencies to learn firsthand about the ridership, buses and services.

–Juno Kughler Carlson

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Reading, riding & reaching out to others

“Omnitrans is the center of my universe,” says Liz Neal. The 46-year-old San Bernardino retiree has a history of seizures which prevents her from driving. But she doesn’t let that hold her back from enjoying the things she loves. She relies on Routes 2, 5 and 15 to get her where she needs to go.

An active member of her church, Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, Liz’s days are filled with Praise Dance practice, choir rehearsals, Bible study, community service and spiritual counseling.  She hopes to one day return to Bible College to obtain a ministry degree. Liz is also an avid reader, preferring true crime, biographies and computer books, and is a frequent visitor at the local library. She always has a book on her, and finds the 45 minute commute between home and church to be a great time to relax and read.

“I like that the buses are neat and clean–and air conditioned. Always great on those hot days!  I know I can get where I need to go on time, and the bus drivers are all very nice. Whenever I’ve had questions or needed directions, they’ve always been very helpful and informative.”

Because she rides every day, Liz purchases 31-Day disability bus passes in order to save more money. And she’s a huge fan of the new NexTrip bus arrival prediction technology.

“It’s been heaven. Whoever came up with that–I just want to hug them!” she laughs. “I trust it and love it and can’t imagine life without it now. Before I used to have to phone the call center every day or check the bus book to get information to plan my trip.  Now I have the NexTrip app downloaded to my smartphone, and it’s always right on the money. If it says the bus is arriving now, I can look up and actually see it coming down the street!”

Liz says NexTrip also gives her the opportunity to talk to people and help them. “It never fails. Whenever I’m at a bus stop, someone always comes along to ask how long I’ve been waiting and do I know when the next bus is coming.  I just pull out my phone and show them. It’s so much easier than looking at the map at the bus stop or at the bus book. It’s that important.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson

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Bus helped Esthella start life in U.S.

Esthella Nne Nsek can recount stories of her past with amazing clarity and detail, down to the exact bus route she was riding at the time.

“If you want to appreciate what you have in life, you need to remember the past that blessed you to get you where you are today. I’ve been successful so far in my life and, for the past 12 years, Omnitrans has played an important role in that.”

Esthella was born in the U.S. to Nigerian parents in 1980 and lived here for her first four years. Her father was studying engineering at UCLA and her mother, business management at Woodbury University. When the family returned to Nigeria, it was always her father’s dream that his little girl would one day return to the states as an adult citizen to pursue her education and make a life for herself.

When she turned 19, Esthella did exactly that.  She returned to California and settled in Ontario, where she hoped to establish herself and later bring her husband over to join her. What she didn’t know at the time was that she was pregnant.

“It was very rough being a single young mother and trying to figure everything out on my own. I am so grateful that Omnitrans was available to help me. The drivers were always so friendly and looked after me to make sure I always made the right stop. Whether I was running errands or getting back and forth from work or school, I rode the bus everywhere and learned how to find my way around,” she laughs. “Now I am like a human GPS system. I can tell you how to get just about anywhere!”

Having public transportation available enabled Estella to create a life here for herself and to follow her dream of becoming a nurse.

“I was inspired to go into the medical field with the birth of my first son. I was fortunate to have a wonderful nurse who really took care of me, explained things to me and made me feel comfortable. I was incredibly naïve about health and medicine at the time. In Nigeria, my brother died of asthma because we were not knowledgeable about such things. If I had known CPR, I might have been able to save him. Because of these things, I have pursued an education in nursing. My ultimate dream is become a nurse practitioner and to one day help to create better health care and nursing care for underserved populations.”

Currently Esthella lives in Redlands and temps for ReadyLink Health Care as a registered nurse, providing nursing assistance to hospitals and home care patients. She is also working on a project on dehydration in tube-feeding patients as part of her Bachelor’s degree program.

Her son Nathan is now 12 and a math whiz; his little brother Kafre (meaning “do not forget”) is 8 and has a passion for science. Esthella and her husband have since divorced, and she has been raising the boys alone. For the past several months the two children have been staying with her mother in Nigeria to give her the opportunity to finish her degree.

“I have missed them terribly and am so excited that they are coming home now. I have been decorating their room with posters of baseball, Spiderman, Star Wars and Justin Beiber—I even picked up an Xbox 360 as a surprise gift!”

Although they have loved their time with their grandmother, Esthella says her sons complain about the Nigerian heat and prefer the conveniences of living in the United States.

“Conditions are not always good in Nigeria. Not everyone has a washer and dryer because it takes too much electricity, so most people wash by hand. The boys don’t like that much,” she laughs.

Now that she is finally able to afford her own car, Esthella is still an advocate and occasional user of public transit. She likes knowing the bus is always there as an option.

“Whether you live high or live low, life can be hard but it will always bring new opportunities. It is a blessing,” she smiles. “It is good to know that Omnitrans is always there to help you when you need it.”

-Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org


Levi Lane, Navy Vet & Omnitrans Rider

Levi Lane served in the Navy on the USS Kitty Hawk as a Culinary Specialist. He’s been an Omnitrans rider for more than a year, and rides the Route 2 to the Veteran’s Center in Loma Linda five days a week, where he attends self-help group meetings. “I’d prefer to drive,” he said frankly, “but I can’t right now. So I bike or take Omnitrans wherever I have to go. It’s good to have the bus to fall back on whenever you need it.”

Levis is looking forward to the new sbX BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) service which is scheduled to begin in early 2014. It will cut his travel time in half, and he believes it will help eliminate bus overcrowding for those traveling the regular fixed route as well. As a cyclist, he’s also excited that the new sbX BRT line has interior bike racks which will make it more convenient to board and disembark. “I can’t wait!” he laughs.

When we spoke to him at the bus stop, Levi talked about how proud he was of his service as a vet, and the opportunity it gave him to help others. It’s a legacy he continues to pay forward today. “Several years ago, I suffered from depression and went to get help,” he said. “I saw there was a big need for people who could offer support, so I stuck around and began volunteering as resource counselor for adults suffering from mental illness and addiction. Helping others actually helped my own depression.”

Bob Sudal, former Mental Health Clinic Supervisor for San Bernardino County, believed in Levi and helped make it possible for him to continue his work. “Bob passed away a few months ago,” said Levi emotionally. “I really miss him. He believed in me. He sent me to school for free to get certified as a family and peer advocate. He helped others too—I wasn’t the only one.”

In 2007, Levi was awarded Honorable Mention for his work as a family and peer advocate by the County of San Bernardino. He is proud to have made a difference in the lives of so many people.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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!

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Coupon Queen loves saving through Rideshare

While having a car is sometimes more convenient, the expenses involved in gas and upkeep are often overwhelming. As a result, it’s becoming more common for people to opt for public transit over expensive vehicle repairs when their cars have problems.

LaToia Jones, an eligibility worker for the County of San Bernardino, decided to let go of her old Ford Taurus when it broke down two years ago. She’s been ridesharing ever since, relying on a combination of riding the bus and carpooling with co-workers.

“I live out near Tyler Mall in Riverside, so I use both Riverside Transit and Omnitrans to get back and forth to work,” said LaToia. “I love Omnitrans because of the frequency. It generally runs every 15-30 minutes which makes it very easy to get where I need to go quickly.”

But it’s the savings that matters most to this county worker. “Driving the 91 was always ugly during rush hour and took forever,” said LaToia. “It used to cost me $80 to $100 a week in gas when I was driving. Now I pay that in a month. It’s a huge savings.”

Pinching pennies is a passion for this busy mom of two, who is always on the lookout for a great deal. “Couponing is a hobby with me, and I’ve gotten very good at finding free things online for my family and friends. Times are hard for everyone, so every little bit helps. I love saving money!”

Riding Omnitrans has not only been a boon to her budget, it’s also forged unexpected connections with regular passengers and coach operators along her route. One of the drivers shares her love of cooking and occasionally swaps recipes with her. “I told her I’d never had tamales before so she gave me the recipe to try. Once she even surprised me with a plate of cookies she’d baked for me,” LaToia said, smiling. “Things like that mean a lot.”

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!

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org