Tag Archives: public transit bus drivers

Employee of the Year: Benito Zavalza

Omnitrans CEO Scott Graham (left) and Board Chair Alan Wapner (right) present the Employee of the Year Award to Benito Zavalza and his proud daughter Dahlia.

Some people go to work to make a paycheck. Others, like Omnitrans coach operator Benito Zavalza,  see it as an opportunity to make a difference. Although he has only been with the agency for 15 months, the quiet young man has earned a reputation for exceeding performance standards and providing unparalleled customer service to his passengers.  This month he was honored with the Employee of the Year Award.

“When I first came here I knew nothing about transit,” says Benito. “I was just happy to have a job and a way to support my family.  Now I find myself thinking about ways to make things better.  How can we get more people to ride the bus? How can we improve what we do?”

Omitrans bus driver Benito Zavalza

While driving his routes, Benito does what he can to make transit a better experience for both passengers and coach operators. He reports potholes and other potential hazards and suggests bus bench locations for waiting passengers. When he works Sundays, he reminds his riders of the reduced Sunday schedule to ensure they make their connections. Currently he is working on an invention to reduce the window glare coach operators sometimes have to deal with.

“I see passengers and coach operators as a team,” Benito explains. “If we work together, it benefits everybody.  For instance if passengers know how to have their money ready, understand how to read the bus book and so on, it makes everything much easier. When they’re not ready it slows us down and impacts service. My goal is to help educate my passengers so when they board the bus, they’re ready to go. I ask people all the time if they have any questions about where they’re going or how to get there. Here’s an example. One night I was driving the Route 3 and was running 4 minutes ahead of schedule because it wasn’t busy. One of my passengers asked when the bus arrives on Saturday. I gave him the information he needed and showed him how to read the bus book. I made a deal with him that if he would study pages 9 and 10, the next time I saw him I’d ask him a question about that route and see if he could answer. And you know what? He did!”

Benito has received numerous customer commendations over the past year. His passengers describe him as friendly, professional, courteous, kind and knowledgeable, greeting everyone with a smile and a thank you. And, more than once, the coach operator’s calm, respectful demeanor and quick action has helped defuse potentially volatile situations. People matter to him and it shows.

Benito would love to one day be involved in special projects focused on customer service and community outreach where he could share some of his experiences and try out new ideas. Like possibly spending time at transit centers, answering questions and showing people how to read the bus book. Benito’s passion for what he does is contagious. We are glad to have him on our Operations team.

Read how Benito got his start and why it’s important for him to pay it forward by helping others.

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Couple pays it forward to bus drivers

Most of the time we hear from people if something has gone wrong. Husband and wife, Herman and Patricia Alderidge, make a point of telling us when things are going right.

Every week or so this, couple comes into the Omnitrans office with a list of coach operators who have gone above and beyond. “Omnitrans means everything to us,” said Herman, whose diabetes has left him confined to a wheelchair. “For three and a half years I never went anywhere–never left the house. I became depressed and it was very hard on both of us. We’ve been together since we were 15-years-old and for the first time I couldn’t go with her when she went out.”

Patricia finally convinced Herman to try traveling on the bus with her. At first he was nervous. It was hard being out in public again and feeling like he was at the mercy of his surroundings. But time with his wife was a huge incentive. Now he’s completely comfortable on the bus and likes getting out, meeting people and traveling to different destinations. The freedom and independence it gives him makes him feel like his old self again. And he and his wife can once more enjoy being out as couple, something they both treasure.

“The drivers have been so good to us,” said Patricia. “One of them recently recommended a car show that he thought we would like. We went that weekend and had a lot of fun together. He’s actually one of the names on our commendation list today.”

The couple has grown so fond of certain drivers that they go out of their way to catch their buses. A trip home that should only take 2 transfers turns into 4 so that they can see their favorite coach operators. They are very aware of how difficult the job can be and notice when the drivers have a smile and a kind word or go above and beyond with their passengers.

“They have to put up with a lot from people,” said Patricia. “And we want to make sure that they are recognized for the good they do.” She makes sure to write each coach operator’s name and good deed into the little notepad she keeps on her to make sure she remembers to commend them.

What about those drivers who might be feeling a bit grumpy one day? “Everybody has a bad day once in a while,” said Herman. “I keep a bag of lollipops on me. If I can’t get them to smile, that always does the trick!”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Omnitrans CEO Milo Victoria thanks Patricia and
Herman Alderidge for their support of coach operators.