Aurora Jackson, General Manager, Lane Transit District
Grew up: Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles
Studies: Bachelor’s degree in public administration from University of La Verne
Career aspirations: I wanted to be a teacher or serve in a social service organization. I knew that I wanted to help people, I just couldn’t decide if that would be working in a nonprofit or becoming a social worker or a teacher.
Industry start: I first began by driving school buses for the Los Angeles Unified School District and thought I could go into education at a future date. That of course didn’t happen. I took a bus operator position at Montebello Bus Lines (MBL), a small municipal transit operator. I had ridden MBL as a youth and while attending high school. I was familiar with the community and I viewed it as a new opportunity to work in the place where I grew up.
Within a couple of years, I was promoted to a supervisory position and then took on more responsibilities. I was the manager of operations when I left Montebello Bus Lines for a management role at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro). I continued to accept progressively greater roles during the more than five years that I served at LA Metro. I returned to Montebello Bus Lines in 2008 to assume the general manager’s role. It was a full-circle moment for me. I went from being a transit rider as a child to becoming the head of the transportation services, responsible for serving 13 communities in East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
Influences: The best job I have ever had was being a bus operator. I enjoyed transporting older adults and disabled riders on Montebello Bus Lines’ dial-a-ride service and also driving the regular fixed-route services. It is rewarding to work all day providing a service for people who really want and need transit services. I liked that every boarding was different and there was a new face at every stop. After a while, the customers treated me like family. I always felt good about doing the best job I could for each one.
Current role: As the GM for Oregon's Lane Transit District, I have the opportunity to be a leader in making decisions about mobility in Lane County. With a dedicated team of approximately 350 transit employees, I am responsible for fixed-route, bus rapid transit, paratransit, non-emergency medical transport, transportation options, and most recently, mobility-on-demand.
Accomplishments: There are so many great projects that I have had the privilege to be part of that I believe have made a difference in improving transportation in each community where I have worked. What I am really proud of is having the opportunity to work beside such talented professionals [during]: the recruitment, CAD/AVL and electronic fare projects at LA Metro; the alternative-fuel project at Montebello Bus Lines; and the EmX West, bus rapid transit project at Lane Transit District.
Projects: Lane Transit District has several new exciting projects that come to mind, such as the recent launch of TouchPass, our new electronic fare system; the new student and low-income fare subsidy programs; and the two exciting mobility-on-demand (MOD) pilot projects branded Em-Go. These projects, along with several others, are part of Lane Transit District’s efforts to improve mobility and increase ridership.
Inspiration: The professionals that truly inspire me are many of the women in transportation who are setting a new standard for the future of our industry. They work hard every day to make a difference for their communities. Some of these women leaders drive buses, other work in various departments in transit agencies nationwide, or serve on their local transit agency’s board of directors. I recall when I was one of just a handful of women in the industry. Now, there are women in every aspect of transportation.
Favorite pastimes: I enjoy hiking the local trails, visiting the local wineries and breweries, or just enjoying a University of Oregon Duck or Eugene Emerald’s baseball game.