“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower said it well when he used this metaphor to describe the men and women who actively protect the freedom of the greatest nation on earth.
Nearly 26 million Americans alive today have served in the military. That includes 71 individuals employed at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).
This month, to commemorate Veterans Day, OCTA hosted a ceremony honoring our employees who have spent time in the military. The event recognized coach operators, maintenance workers and administrative employees who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
The event was an opportunity to reflect and also to thank those who have served bravely in the U.S. armed forces. These men and women are continuing their commitment to public service as employees at OCTA. They have made the transition from the military to serving the people of Orange County as well as their fellow OCTA employees.
Honoring and recognizing our employees, both veterans and others, shouldn’t just happen once a year. We must take an active role in developing and retaining our workforce.
This is especially important in light of the current economic turmoil. Our employees, just like employees in the private sector, have made many sacrifices in recent years. Hiring and wage freezes are commonplace, layoffs have taken place and service levels have suffered.
As an industry, we have to find unique ways to retain our employees and attract top talent to ensure we are providing a high-quality service to the public. Through programs such as the Veterans Day event, we can engage our workforce, letting them know they are appreciated.
OCTA has numerous programs in place to develop and recognize our employees, including a newly launched Leadership Development Academy, a program to train those who will be stepping into executive management positions in the future. We also have a formal mentoring program that pairs employees and encourages development at all levels of the organization.
I also strongly believe in fostering positive employee morale and building camaraderie among administrative and transit personnel. We do this through events like softball, basketball and flag football competitions, and my personal favorite, a 5-mile race vs. our neighboring transit agency Los Angeles Metro. As an aside, I am pleased to report that OCTA recently won the event this year, sending the loser’s trophy back to MTA.
Just as President Eisenhower said we can not lie down on the tracks and wait for the train of the future to run us over, we must find ways to empower, retain and attract employees who will carry on the future of our transportation agencies.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'A tale of transit in two cities" here.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.
As an experienced designer of streetcar systems, one question I am frequently asked is, "Can a streetcar _____?" The blanks are usually filled with design challenges, such as "turn left from a curb lane", or "go under a low clearance underpass" or "operate at higher speeds and frequencies." More often than not, the answer is YES! Modern streetcar systems, such as those operating in Seattle, Tucson, and Atlanta, are modeled after European trams that are designed to fit within tight, complex, and built-out urban environments. The unique combination of vehicle's size coupled with the ability to operate in the same lanes as automobiles, trucks, and buses allow designers to create safe, efficient solutions to nearly every design challenge that arises.
At the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority (DCTA), we’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage with passengers, generate brand awareness and increase ridership. This year with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, we saw a great opportunity to launch a campaign in which passengers could ride DCTA’s A-train commuter rail and Connect Bus for free on Valentine’s Day all day by saying “Be Mine” to the agency’s rail and bus operators. With low-trending ridership in February, we needed to find a way to increase ridership and brand awareness within Denton County and surrounding cities. Launching the Valentine’s Day promotion definitely would help us achieve this.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.