Tag Archives: public transit

Bridge Program students do bus role play

Coach operator Bridge Program

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

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.