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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

A Travel Training Story: Glory & Richard

Siblings Glory and Richard had recently moved from Ontario to Highland when they began VTrans’ travel training program. Richard is a veteran who has several medical needs and his sister Glory is his caretaker and advocate. She accompanies him wherever he needs to go, helps him stay on top of all his medications and makes sure he eats a healthy diet.

Glory learned about our program after calling her local community center and asking for assistance with transportation to go to doctor appointments and grocery shopping. Though they had experience in Ontario with public transportation, they did not yet know their way around the city of Highland. Their extremely limited finances also did not allow them to afford more expensive services such as Access. Though Richard can only walk short distances due to his age and disabilities, they live near an Omnitrans bus route and do not need to walk long distances to run their errands.

During their travel training, they learned how to navigate the  bus route near their home, stopping at Wal-Mart, the local church, the senior center, and the library. They were excited that all these places were only one short bus ride away. They wanted to start attending church again and visit the Highland Senior Center for socialization, to play pool, have lunch, and exercise. Glory liked that she could visit the library to use the computers and find other important resources for Richard, such as food pantries, In Home Support Services, and other income earning opportunities. With the help of their travel trainer they were able to take longer trips to the local YMCA, Social Security office, and the local hospital.

Glory and Richard were extremely pleasant riders and are greatly appreciative of the work their trainer did to help them become increasingly independent and social in their new community.

- Jessica Jacquez
jjacquez@vtrans.us.com

To learn more about VTrans one-on-one travel training, visit their website or chat with them on Twitter or Facebook!

For Omnitrans group travel training (10 or more people) contact Nicole Ramos at nicole.ramos@omnitrans.org.

 

NexTrip surpasses 1 million views milestone

Omnitrans NexTrip Customer

Real time bus arrival prediction technology embraced by transit riders

(San Bernardino, CA) Omnitrans’ customers accessed NexTrip real time bus arrival information over 1 million times in the first year. Since the agency introduced the new technology in mid-January 2013, NexTrip has revolutionized the way people connect to public transit in the San Bernardino Valley.

 

With the NexTrip system, Omnitrans passengers can request next bus arrival information through phone, text, Web or apps.  Online, customers can view buses and stops on a route map with real-time tracking. They even can sign up for automatic alerts that will notify them when the bus is five minutes away.

“Rider response to NexTrip has been tremendous,” says Omnitrans Director of Marketing Wendy Williams. “It saves customers valuable time.  Because they know when the bus will arrive, they don’t have to arrive extra early at their stop.”

Omnitrans is installing Nextrip real time bus arrival information signs at every bus stop

NexTrip signs to be installed at each stop feature instructions on how to access real time bus arrival info by phone, text, web or scannable QR code.

Taking the technology to a new level, Omnitrans is installing signs at all 2,500 bus stops that feature a QR code. Passengers with smart devices can instantaneously access bus arrival times simply by scanning the code. Signs also provide instructions to access NexTrip by phone, text or online with a smart device.

The NexTrip system uses Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking satellites and advanced computer modeling developed by Nextbus, Inc. of Emeryville, California to provide accurate arrival information for all bus stops in the Omnitrans fixed route bus system. Taking into account the actual location of the buses, their intended stops, and the typical traffic patterns, NexTrip estimates arrivals with a high degree of accuracy. This information is then sent to the rider within seconds.

 For more information go to: www.omnitrans.org/nextrip

- Wendy Williams, Omnitrans Director of Marketing
Wendy.Williams@omnitrans.org

Harms Joins Omnitrans as Director of IT

Omnitrans recently welcomed Jacob Harms as new Director of Information Technology.  Harms brings experience from the US military and management consulting to the transit agency serving the San Bernardino Valley of Southern California.

“I chose to come to Omnitrans because I like fresh challenges. I enjoy problem solving and program management,” said Harms. “The combination of leading intelligent people and constantly dealing with new issues and solving them is exciting to me. It’s never the same thing day in and day out.”

Most recently, Harms worked as a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading provider of management consulting, technology and engineering services in San Diego, where he provided program management support to assist the US Navy’s transition to Voice over IP (VoIP) technology.

Previously, Harms served in the United States Marine Corps as a communications officer. He led more than 70 Marines in integrating and managing command communications and computer systems across various platforms and transmission mediums for end users. Additionally, he worked extensively with data systems, radio communications phone and wire, and electronics maintenance, supporting more than 1,300 Marines in this capacity.

Although he will be leading a small team of just five people at Omnitrans, Harms is confident in their abilities and what they can accomplish together. “I would much rather have that than a larger group of people who are well-organized but not as good at their jobs,” said Harms.  “My challenge is to take this seasoned crew and just point us in the right direction.”

Harms holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from DeVry University, Colorado.

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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Omnitrans Field Supervisor Roberta Robertson

Omnitrans Field Supervisor Roberta Robertson

What does it take to be a good Field Supervisor? “You have to be a people person,” says Roberta Robertson. “You need to be able to assert authority in creative ways in order to diffuse tense situations.  And it’s important to listen–even if someone is chomping you out. Each individual is unique, and you need to be flexible and adapt to different personalities. You have to be that chameleon.”

Last October, Roberta joined Omnitrans as a field supervisor. Previously she worked part time for the City of Redlands Police Department in their community service division. Her full time job was working with probationary kids in a youth facility where she was a safety and security supervisor. She also has 15 years’ experience as a coach operator and drove buses for OCTA for 12 years. Her strength, she says, is conflict resolution and diffusing situations.

“The most challenging part of the job was coming here as an outside hire and trying to build relationships with the coach operators. It took a little time for them to see that I know my job, that I have high integrity, and that I listen to them and treat them fairly.  One of my roles is to counsel, but I also have to report things that could be a problem or safety issue. We’re all here for a common goal, to provide the best service we can to our customers.”

Mentoring is something Roberta understands well. She’s devoted much of her life to counseling young adults and encouraging them to reach for their dreams. She’s a volunteer in the “Midnight Hoops” basketball program at the Redlands Community Center which provides a supervised, safe haven for youth. “I grew up in the inner city, where there was a lot of gang activity. We lived in a low income neighborhood where people didn’t have any goals and never knew anything other than the street they grew up in.  As a kid I knew early on I wanted something different. I started playing sports and discovered I had a gift for basketball, averaging 30 points a game. It became my ticket out, allowing me to go to college. That’s part of the reason I like talking to kids. I tell them if I can do it, you can do it. But you do have to grab the opportunity when it presents itself.  If you’re motivated, a hard worker and have a desire to get things done there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.”

Roberta’s work ethic, self-discipline, versatility and personal rapport provide a strong foundation for her role as a Field Supervisor. The job requires wearing many hats, and often supervisors won’t know from one day to the next what their schedules will entail. They might have to investigate a customer complaint or commendation, serve papers, do a write up, handle a special task they are assigned or even drive a bus if the agency is short-handed. Often they are responding to calls, fixing fare boxes, or addressing customer service issues. Sometimes they are needed to set up detours due to construction. Approximately 7 hours of time each day is spent in the field. The safe operation of buses for both passenger and drivers is always a priority, and the bus agency wants customers to be happy with their experience so they will ride again.

“I’m out of my van more than I am in which is a little different for this culture,” says Roberta. “I don’t take complaints on the street—I guide them to our 800 number for that. But I do walk downtown a lot and talk to people. It’s a good way to build rapport with and get information from the riders who use our buses every day. It humanizes the bus service for them and earns their respect. It makes it easier to do my job. And if something goes down where I need help, they might remember me and have my back. I do the same with the operators. When I check in with a driver in the field, I always greet them with a smile and try to bring them a cold water. How you treat people has a domino effect. If you help them have a great day, that attitude spills over to everyone else they deal with.”

Ultimately, a Field Supervisor’s responsibility is to observe and report. Primarily their investigations are driven by complaints or commendations reported to the Omnitrans customer service line. A Field Supervisor may be assigned go into the field to watch what’s going on and take notes or asked to query video to verify the information received. Both complaints and commendations are investigated thoroughly to ensure their validity and to ensure they are connected to the correct driver. This can be difficult to do because often a customer doesn’t have the operator’s badge ID and coach number. They just have an area and approximate time frame, which takes longer to research. If performance standards are down, it is up to the Field Supervisor to figure out what’s happening.

“It’s hard when you know someone’s job is on the line,” says Roberta. “But it’s about being fair and adhering to the process.

The goal of the agency is to change the behavior through education and progressive discipline. Most of the time guidance and mentoring, along with classes designed to help improve customer service and driving skills, is enough to correct the problem.

“Operators have to understand the type of job they have. I was 21 when I started driving. I was such a little skinny chick, it used to scare people. Passengers would tease me and say ‘Are you sure you know how to drive this thing?’” Roberta laughs.  “It’s an immense obligation to know that you’re responsible for every person on that bus, for how well you’re driving and for how you talk to people. Anybody could be on that bus at any time. Once a mayor was on my bus and I didn’t know it. You don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize your reputation or the reputation of the company you work for.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson

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Homeless newlyweds get fresh start with Omnitrans

Homeless newlyweds used Omnitrans to help them overcome homelessnessThree years ago Corey and Maryrose Boggs were homeless and living on the streets in San Bernardino County. Omnitrans played a key role in their journey to self-sufficiency.

Corey was 19 and Maryrose was 18 when they met on the Internet and fell in love. However, there were major complications to overcome. Corey was living in Chicago and had recently lost his job. His plan was to find work and save up money for six months so the two could meet in person and get married. To Maryrose, that felt like an eternity. Unable to wait, she held a garage sale, sold most of her belongings and flew to Chicago to be with Corey.

Four days later, they got married at Corey’s uncle’s house church, Potter’s Field Ministries, in Bridgeview, IL. When they flew back to California, they faced less than ideal circumstances as they bounced from place to place, living briefly with relatives, staying at homeless  shelters, and working for a short time at a Christian-based farm for room and board. “”We even slept in a bush for a short time,”” laughed Corey. ””You can tell a woman really loves you when she’s willing to live with you in a bush!””

With little money and few resources, the two relied heavily on public transit to help them overcome their circumstances. “We used Omnitrans to do everything,” said Maryrose. “We rode the bus to get to the library to do job searches, to the Salvation Army so that we could shower and to the plasma center so we could donate plasma to get money for food and fares. For a while we even rode Omnitrans out to Crafton Hills College and used their library computers to take online college classes.”

At one point the couple posted an ad to Craig’s List, asking for a bus pass donation just so they could keep going. A good Samaritan responded, meeting them at an outlet, and buying both of them a 31-Day pass. It was an amazing and unexpected gift for the grateful pair. “The man told us he’d been through hard times himself,” said Corey. “And that he felt it was important that we all look out for one another.”

This October, Corey and Maryrose celebrate their third wedding anniversary. The two now live happily in a nice apartment in Illinois where Corey works in sales doing door-to-door marketing. He plans on going back to school and finishing his business degree. He offers two pieces of advice to others who find themselves out on the street.

“Don’t be an idiot and decide to do drugs. You need a straight mind to find a job and get out of your situation. There’s so many things you need to think about all the time. For instance you can’t shower just anywhere, and it’s a lot harder to get work if you’re dirty. You have to be able to find the resources you need to get help. Also, take advantage of public transportation in your area. Omnitrans was a huge lifesaver for us and opened the door to more opportunities. If you can, invest in a 31-Day Bus Pass. We did a lot of one day at a time passes, but it is so much cheaper if you can buy the longer passes. You will save a lot of money that way.””

“And have faith. Being together was always the most important thing for us,” added Maryrose. “We trusted in God and our love for each other.”

Corey agrees. “I can say with 100% certainty that our future is solid. When you’ve gone through living on the street together, you know there is nothing you can’t survive as a couple.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson

“Infinite Love” symbolized Maryrose and Corey’s love and commitment to each other

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.carlson@omnitrans.org