Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) took the top spot this year and was crowned the Grand Champion at the 41st Annual International Bus Roadeo. The Grand Champion Award recognizes the system with the highest combined bus operator and maintenance team score.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority's (KCATA) team took second place overall achievement honors, while the team from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) won third place overall achievement honors. The event was held in conjunction with the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Bus and Paratransit Conference in Charlotte, N.C. this week.
“Rain or shine those bus operators and maintainers strive to do their job to make getting around town safe and enjoyable for all their riders,” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall. “Going above and beyond to give the best service to their riders isn’t something they do occasionally, but what they wake up and do every day.”
“Those who operate and maintain a fleet of buses are the true unsung heroes of our industry,” said APTA Acting President/CEO Richard White. “These professionals deserve our thanks year round because they make a difference every day in the lives of those in our community by providing essential public transit options that are safe and reliable.”
In the 40-foot bus competition, which is the ultimate test of a bus operator’s driving skills, Jesus Rodriguez driving for DART was named best driver in North America. He beat out 39 other competitors to win the first-place award. Taking second place in the 40-foot bus competition was Benito Zavalza driving for Omnitrans of San Bernardino, Calif. Third place was claimed by Daniel Schmidt driving on behalf of Richland, Wash.'s Ben Franklin Transit (BFT).
In the 35-foot bus competition, BFT's Gabe Beliz won first place and was crowned the best bus operator in North America in this category. He beat out 22 other competitors. Taking second place was Howard Yoder from Columbus, Ohio's Central Ohio Transit Authority, with Abdelkader Tenouri, driving for Austin, Texas' Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority taking third.
Overall, 26 teams competed in the Maintenance Competition, which tests mechanics’ abilities to troubleshoot mechanical problems and fix them quickly. The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority of Orlando, Fla., won first place in the maintenance competition. The team from WMATA earned a second place finish and the team from KCATA took third place honors.
In addition to recognizing excellence among bus operators and mechanics, APTA also crowned Bennie Williams of the Maryland Transit Administration as the first place winner of the Customer Service Challenge Awards. This competition judges professionalism, customer service skills, and problem-solving creativity.
The International Bus Roadeo is comprised of bus operators and mechanics from public transit systems across North America who participate in separate competitions, which showcase their skills in safe driving and vehicle maintenance.
The Operator Competition includes events such as judgment stops, turning and clearing obstacles. The Mechanic Competition requires skills in the identification of defects in engine, transmission, brake and HVAC modules. The pre-trip inspection for operators and multiplex troubleshooting for mechanics are incorporated as scored events.