Victoria “Vicki” Learn, director, maintenance, for IndyGo in Indianapolis thought she was going to work with animals when she originally laid out her career trajectory. That was until a friend offered her a position running parts for Wayne’s Frame and Body in Gary, Ind. It was here she realized she could create an opportunity for herself.
“As a parts driver, I was making about 40-50 cents more an hour than I was as a veterinary’s assistant. Seemed like a lot back in the eighties,” she explains.
Learn then spent five years learning the trade and purchasing parts for the company, until she was recruited by Phelps Holdings, owner of American Truck Parts. She eventually became the purchasing manager at their headquarters in Portage, Ind. In 2010, Learn moved into the director, maintenance, position with IndyGo, giving her about 30 years in the aftermarket sector.
Her main focus is ensuring that all buses are kept up to FTA standards, as well as employee and public safety, which she considers to be her biggest responsibility. She also writes all maintenance and bus-related RFP’s. With around 100 employees she manages, she also runs a parts warehouse with approximately $3.5 million in inventory.
To date, Learn has accomplished many feats for IndyGo, including writing the RFP for remanufactured, fully-electric Complete Coach Works buses, with the help of a $10 million TIGER grant the organization received in 2013. Because the technology for electric buses was relatively untested in 2013, Learn championed that launch, and the buses were officially put into service last year. It was a risky move, Learn explains, and IndyGo is one of the biggest organizations to implement this type of technology, but other agencies are catching up. “It was definitely being on the bleeding edge rather than the cutting edge,” she says.
Learn is also currently part of the APTA Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) Group, helping to create the standards for zero emission buses and taking this new technology she advocated for forward.
Learn has expressed that living up to the public’s expectations is difficult, especially with 22 service hours a day and a 20% spare ratio, but the people she serves makes her job worth it.
“Transit is a great equalizer. On any bus at any given time you might find an executive and a warehouse clerk, both commuting. Some have a choice while others don’t. But both people are equally as important to their families who rely on their support. Transit provides equal dignity to both,” she says.
As a person who prides herself on both her attention to detail, and the compassion she brings to her staff, she feels this balance is what has helped her get to where she is.
“Compassion is a tricky thing as some feel you might be playing favorites, but hopefully, the other person never has to go through the same thing, whatever the issue is at that time,” Learn says.
Currently, Learn is writing a new RFP for the new all-electric BRT buses that will be launching in early 2018. The Red Line will be IndyGo’s first BRT line and it is a very exciting time for transit and IndyGo. The 60-foot buses are being designed from the ground up, including all the amenities anyone could want while traveling to work, such as Wi-Fi and USB charging ports for electronic devices, along with a new thought process for the interior design of the bus.
When she’s not working, Learn is playing with her rescue cats and dog and attending WNBA games. She supports the Indianapolis Fever because they work so hard and still only earn about 1/16th of what male athletes earn, she explains. She also helps with the Catch The Stars Foundation, a literacy, mentoring and fitness organization for children, run by four-time Olympic athlete and WNBA Champion, Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings.