Tag Archives: public transit

Leadership program encourages employee innovation

Six of our employees graduated from the Omnitrans Leadership Action Program (LAP) this month. During the 6-month program, each participant worked on a project of their choosing with the potential to improve a process or generate significant savings for Omnitrans. The participants thoroughly research their projects and present their findings to the executive leadership team for possible implementation. This year, the combined projects have the potential to save the agency more than $2 million per year!

Ross Hrinko: Benefits of Preventative Health & Wellness Programs
Encouraging participation in the agency’s Wellness Program, soliciting employee feedback and enhancing communication on preventative health are a few areas Ross targets as potential areas of refinement.  The introduction of “Company Nurse” services could assist employees with health issues, by making referrals or suggesting alternative treatment. This would cut back on costly and unnecessary doctor visits, while still providing valuable information and support to the patient.

Louise Acosta – Liquid Natural Gas Delivery vs. Pipeline Natural Gas
For her project, Louise investigated the pros and cons of switching from liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel delivery to pipeline natural gas. Omnitrans currently pays for the delivery of LNG fuel from a third party vendor. Natural pipeline gas would cost substantially less than LNG, but initially would require new equipment to compress the gas for our buses.

Joseph Tibita – Reorganizing Mobile Offices for Cost Reduction
Joseph’s goal was to redesign the equipment placement and storage  in our 15 Field Supervisor mobile offices for practical use and savings. By improving the positioning and layout of user interfaces and streamlining the wiring of data and power cables with a docking station, his plan eliminates the problem of lost time due to displaced equipment and slow system access, and prevents safety hazards.

Christina Diaz – Coach Simulator Acquisition & Training
Christina’s proposal to acquire a coach simulator for operator training was recently actualized. By partnering with Cal State San Bernardino in exchange for data generated by the simulator, Omnitrans was able to obtain the $70,000 simulator for free. Coaches are needed for many types of training, but pulling a coach from revenue service costs the agency approximately $90 per hour. As an added benefit, the simulator can safely mimic challenging and hazardous scenarios not easily duplicated on the road. This allows coach operators to improve their reaction times, behavioral driving, judgmental and perceptual skills. The simulator has also been successfully implemented by the Omnitrans workforce development program to introduce the public to regional coach operator careers.

Caroljo Mitcham –  CNG Conversion & Off-site Fueling of Access Fleet
Caroljo focused on the savings generated by transitioning our current Access paratransit fleet from unleaded gasoline to CNG fuel. By obtaining CNG fuel from an offsite service station, current regulatory compliance fees and tank maintenance would be eliminated and costs would be reduced.

 

Carolann Williams – Rostering Versus Cafeteria Run Bid Process
With the current cafeteria style run  bid, coach operators select and bid on the routes, shifts and days off they want. It is a lengthy process and, depending on how these are combined, can result in split days off for the coach operator. 
With rostering, off days are built into the work assignment, which  reduces the number of days the bid process takes, gives coach operators more varied work assignments to choose from, and minimizes the number of split days off.

Preparing for a coach operator career

Whenever a coach operator job position opens at Omnitrans, our HR Department receives hundreds of applications. How will you stand out?

Each time an Omnitrans  coach operator position is advertised, our HR Department receives hundreds of applications.  Yet only about 8% make it through the hiring process.

Surprisingly, most are immediately eliminated for one simple reason. They failed to fully complete the application. Others are weeded out during personal interviews for lack of professionalism. 

“Personal appearance, business etiquette and strong interview skills are absolutely critical for success in today’s competitive job market,” points out author and career coach Patricia Dorch.

Bridge Program instructors Patricia Dorch and Henry Shields

That’s where the Bridge Program comes in. The free 5-day workforce development program is facilitated by Dorch and co-instructor Henry Shields, a former Omnitrans Fleet Safety & Training Supervisor.  Together, they introduce job seekers to potential new careers as public transit coach operators. They also prepare participants for the application and interview process, teaching them how to make a great first impression and brand themselves for success.

“Every single day we were challenged,”says Bridge Program graduate Karena Rojas. ” We created portfolios,  covered everything you can think of in the interview process, and learned skills specific to the job of a coach operator. Everyone who graduated the program with me was happy to be a part of it. It boosted everyone’s confidence, so much so that we are all looking harder for jobs and feel surer of ourselves in obtaining one.”

Are you ready for a new career this year? Bridge Program classes are continuing at the Omnitrans San Bernardino office through January. Space is limited. Click here to sign up today.

Australians try out Omnitrans coach simulator

Omnitrans coach simulator

A team from Advanced Training Systems in Melbourne, Australia were given a tour of the Omnitrans training facilities today by Omnitrans Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier.  Advanced Training Systems is a safety company hired by corporations to mitigate hazards and reduce costs associated with these incidents, much like  our ATAP committee here at Omni.

The group was joined by Enrique Mar of Oceanside, the developer of our new, in-house coach simulator system, who treated them to a hands-on demonstration. Enrique set up several scenarios with various challenges for our visitors to overcome, from glare or rain on the windshield, jaywalking pedestrians, aggressive drivers, busy streets and obstacle courses.

Our Australian friends had a wonderful time and were extremely impressed with our facility and the simulator, which will be used to train Omnitrans coach operators and help prepare them for challenging driving situations.

 

Bridge Program students do bus role play

Coach operator Bridge Program

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

Our first Bridge Program class is  this week, and we’re here with a sneak peek behind-the-scenes. Funded by a Workforce Development Grant, the program introduces participants to the transit industry and teaches them how to apply for and successfully secure jobs as coach operators. 

The class covers everything from basic job application and interview tips to a general overview of coach operator skills. We had a little fun with them while they were doing coach operator and passenger role playing exercises.

The right way:

And the not-so-right way:

Coach operator Cecil Stevens: “People matter”

Omnitrans coach operator Cecil StevensIf you ask Omnitrans coach operator Cecil Stevens what matters most to him in his work, he will immediately have an answer for you.

“Customer service is one of the most important parts of the job,” he explains. “A lot of times when you go someplace, people will treat you like you don’t matter or like they’re too busy to help you out. I don’t like that. People matter.”

Formerly one of our Route 8 coach operators, Cecil is now an sbX driver and coach operator instructor. He emphasizes the importance of keeping a good attitude on the job and taking care of your body. He works out 4-5 times a week in the Omnitrans gym.

“It’s easy to get out of shape when you’re driving,” he says. “You’re sitting constantly. It’s important to get out and walk and exercise every day. It helps out a lot. If I don’t do it, I feel the difference right away.”

Working out is not just about fitness for Cecil. He believes it’s also a great way to clear your head and prepare for a day on the road.

“I try to make sure all my passengers have a good bus ride. I always tell them good morning, good night or have a great day. If they seem upset, I ask if they’re alright. I also pay special attention to first time riders and try to find out where they are going so I can help them out. Then, when I see them on the bus again later, I always ask them how their trip went last time,” he chuckles. “They’re always surprised that I remember them. I want everyone to have a good experience.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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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

Do you like this story and want to share it on your blog or newsletter?  All of our articles may be freely shared with others.

Have a great Omnitrans story to share? Email Juno Carlson at juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Don Frazier

omnitrans employee of the quarter don fraizier

Interim Director of Operations Diane Caldera, Employee of the Quarter Don Frazier, Board Chair Alan Wapner, and Director of HR Marjorie Ewing

On May 9th, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier was named Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for his dedication and invaluable contributions to success of the agency. His emphasis is always on the rider experience and on ensuring that our coach operators have the tools they need to be safe and successful. His knowledge, experience, professionalism, humor, friendly demeanor and willingness to always go the extra mile makes him an outstanding ambassador for Omnitrans and has earned the respect of his peers.

Don’s career in the transit industry has spanned more than 39 years and includes 24 years with LA Metro. His biggest challenge and one his proudest accomplishments has been his role in the launch of our new sbX BRT line.

Don frazier driving sbx

Don assisted with launch preparations for our sbX service by testing vehicle features and identifying potential problems along the corridor. He also served as the driver for our sbX safety video and VIP tours.

Don was responsible for training his team, as well as our field supervisors, maintenance crews and other key agency staff, on the operation of the articulated coaches. He personally developed an in-depth, hands-on training program for our sbX coach operators to ensure they had the skills necessary to safely and efficiently run the route. He also tested vehicle features and helped identify potential problems along the corridor. So much was new for us: longer coaches, rear fare validators, interior bike racks, rear-facing wheelchair securement, bus only lanes, center stations, level docking and traffic signal prioritizations. Thanks to Don’s program and his excellent 5-person training team, our operators were well prepared for launch of service.

Don and the training team frequently do free wheelchair strap installations for Omnitrans riders to ensure they can be safely and easily secured on the buses.

“It was a huge amount of work,” admits Don. “And it was definitely a team effort. I had to ask a lot of my training staff. Many times they had to give up a day off or come in at 3 or 4 in the morning just so we could cover everything that had to be done. Often we had multiple training sessions going on at once: student coach operator training, sbX coach operator training, route training classes, and coach operator instructor classes. It was a grind, but we got through it. They are an amazing group of people and none of this could have been done without their help.”

Omitrans fleet safety and training team

The training team: Charles Molloy, Verretta Johnson, Kimberly Perkins Don Frazier, Dhristina Diaz and Stephen McClure

One thing immediately evident to anyone who works with any of the training staff is their supportiveness and dedication to their students. That mentoring process means a lot to Don.

“Students tend to come in with that deer in the headlights look, feeling nervous and unsure of themselves,” Don smiles. “I always tell them, give us one year. You’ll see everything and experience everything and see if this is really for you. Recently a student from my very first training class here reminded me of that. She’s been here 12 years now. She told that she owes a lot of what she has to what she learned from me. That can’t help but make you feel good. You’re making a difference in other people’s lives, seeing them become happier and more confident.”

Trainer Christina Diaz congratulates Don after the award presentation.

Don believes a good work ethic and a positive attitude are critical for student coach operators.

“The toughest part of the job for me is when I have to tell a student they’re not cutting it. I want to help people be successful. If you are lacking in driving skills but are willing to learn and have a great attitude, I’ll even come in on the weekend and work with you to help you get this job. But if you don’t have the right mindset or the proper attitude coming in the door, then you simply won’t be a good fit. Not everyone is cut out to be a coach operator. It’s a tough job. You have to have good people skills and good driving skills. It’s a great job, but it’s also hard.”

Don is looking forward to adding a new resource to the training arsenal very soon. Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans will be getting an on-premises coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes. It’s something he has lobbied for over many years, and he is excited to see it about to become a reality.

Don and his wife Audrey enjoy a moment together on board sbX. The couple has been married for 42 years and have one son and one daughter. They regularly share their home with foreign exchange students and are looking forward to meeting two new students who will be joining them soon from Japan.

“This is the next wave of technology,” says Don. “It will bump our training up to a whole new level and save the agency a lot of money. Right now it costs $90 an hour to run a bus. Putting a student on a coach simulator doesn’t cost the agency anything. It’s an excellent defensive driving tool and will allow us to test the reaction times of student coach operators. The system can also be hooked up so that other students can observe the driver in the simulator as part of the learning experience. Normally this technology costs between $130,000 to $200,000, but we are getting it for $20,000—all of which is covered by a federal grant. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”

Don and Audrey Frazier on the sbX Green Line