We recently held RTAC’s 16th Paratransit Roadeo in New Berlin. As the day unfolded I became more and more impressed with the event and the people assembled at the fairgrounds. Even though I knew how many competitors would be there, I was more struck by how many others were joining the group gathered in the main room – family, friends, and volunteer judges from transit systems all over the state. RTAC educators Bob and Nancy Bugger who have attended 13 RTAC Roadeos, drove their beautiful 1960 Imperial to New Berlin adding some nostalgia to the fun. Medium duty buses were parked all over the lot and under a fairground canopy for the pre-trip inspection portion of the Roadeo. Sangamon County MTD supplied the vehicles to be used for the behind-the-wheel action. Earlier in the morning, Randy Barrows, South Central Transit’s operations manager, and his son led the placement of the rather challenging driving course.
At one point, early in the event, I complimented Jacqueline Waters for how well she had planned the event and how orchestrated everything was. Her simple response was “this isn’t my first roadeo, Dave.” Of course Vern Gosdin in 1990 put out the song “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” and according to Gosdin, the genesis of that song was the result of his compliment to some building contractors about their progress with constructing a building addition. One of the contractors used the “ain’t my first rodeo” line in response. Now, Gosdin wasn’t the first to use this great phrase – it probably originated in the mid-70s in country music circles, but Gosdin made it popular. The basic meaning of the phrase “I am experienced” is so easily understood and applicable to all walks of life. I had never considered how the phrase came about. So, there’s some history – and speaking of history, “roadeos” as we know them in the transit context probably were first created in the late 1930s for truck drivers. Rodeos with cowboys and farm animals were very popular then, so the concept of wrangling large vehicles through obstacle courses brought melding of the words “rodeo” and “road” and gave us “roadeos.” “Roadeo” is even listed in dictionaries. There are some spectacular roadeo driving feats recorded and available on YouTube.
Paratransit roadeos really do have value beyond the entertainment that comes with seeing a bus make it through the driving course unscathed, or seeing how far a barrel can roll after being struck, or witnessing a driver discover cleverly–rigged defects during the pre-trip inspection tests. It can easily be seen how drivers can become one with their vehicles and know exactly how brakes should feel and what sightlines are in each bus, and how particular wheel chair securement layouts work. Drivers must adjust quickly to the roadeo vehicles which may be the same make and model of the vehicles back home, but are subtly different in many ways. The camaraderie among competitors was evident as the roadeo wound down and the last drivers completed the course in New Berlin. I can see how drivers and administrators might go home with plans to practice all of the parts of the roadeo and prepare for another attempt in the future. The best thing I overheard was a couple of drivers in the lot as everyone was departing exclaim how they wanted to be holding one of those trophies next year.
Thanks to all of our hard-working volunteers who helped make my first roadeo entertaining and successful – and thanks to Midwest Transit for once again sponsoring the big prizes for the top three drivers. There is more about the 16th RTAC Roadeo later in this issue.
Transit’s Role in Battling Human Trafficking
Sadly, human trafficking exists not only across the country, but throughout the world. According to the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime, “Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.” Human trafficking victims are often transported on buses and trains in the U.S. It is estimated that nearly one million people, (mostly young girls) are trafficked against their will every year. In fact, by its very definition, human trafficking involves transportation and transit.
Fighting human trafficking has become a top priority for transit agencies across the country, especially in major metropolitan areas. Recent federal legislative changes have underlined the need for the transit industry to step up and help combat this devastating epidemic. Specifically, the Combatting Human Trafficking on Commercial Vehicles Act (S. 1536) directs the Secretary of Transportation to designate a human trafficking prevention coordinator from within the Department. The bill expands the scope of activities authorized under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) outreach and education program and commercial driver’s license (CDL) program implementation grants to include human trafficking prevention activities. S. 1536 also directs the Secretary to establish an advisory committee on human trafficking. Additionally, the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act (s.1532) directs the Department of Transportation to ban for life any driver who uses a commercial vehicle to commit a felony involving human trafficking. Many states are taking action as well. Some have even taken steps to require anyone applying for a CDL to complete human trafficking awareness training.
For several years now, the transit industry has taken the lead in fighting human trafficking. A coalition, DOT’s Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking, has brought together hundreds of organizations across the country to share trainings, work collaboratively on policy development and increase public awareness. South West Transit Association’s Executive Director, Kristen Joyner, has been hosting trainings for transit employees in all parts of the United States. Joyner points to several warning signs that transit employees should look for:
- Someone who boards the bus is not in control of their own money or ID
- One person, often a young girl, takes a seat while an adult who followed her sits a few rows behind
- The potential trafficker has multiple cell phones
- The potential victim looks frightened and/or battered
- The branding type tattoos, often a bar code on knuckles or chain around neck
Joyner says, “We never ask our employees to intervene in any situation. Transit agencies are developing standard processes for how operators can report what they see.” Public Awareness is another key component. Some agencies are spreading the word through posters in depots, transfer centers or in bus shelters. Some have even used handouts or bus wraps.
All transit agencies should consider creating policy and practices that can help in the battle against human trafficking. Consider hosting ongoing training for your operators or launching a public awareness campaign in your own community. For more information on how your agency can get involved, visit transportation.gov/TLAHT.
The Spotlight is on Marty Stegeman, transportation director, City of Quincy
1. How did you get started in rural transportation?
My start in transportation actually came about in an unusual manner. I started my career
in Transportation in Airport management in 2007. In 2010 I was asked to take on Quincy
Transit Lines as an interim director due to an early retirement program. Since that time I
have held several different positions within the City of Quincy but being the transportation
director was always a constant while I helped other departments.
2. If you didn’t have a transit background, how did you learn the ropes?
I had no experience whatsoever in transit. Through the help and patience of many people
I have become more informed and continue to learn daily. RTAC has been a tremendous
help. I am pretty sure that Ed Heflin would see my phone number pop up and want to run
from his office and hide. Many people in the transit industry are more than willing to help
if you just ask. I have been lucky to have some of the best in the local area.
3. Did you have a mentor in transit?
Being thrust into transit through attrition did not allow me to have the normal ascension
into leadership. I had 30 days “training” with the director I was replacing, so there was
really no time for him to mentor me.
4. Toughest day-to-day operational problem
So many different issues come to mind. We have had a serious issue with being able to
hire enough drivers to maintain our staff. We have had a number of retirements over the
past year. It seems finding people willing to take the steps needed to be a qualified driver
is limited. This leads to an enormous drain on our current manpower and an extremely
high overtime cost.
5. What’s a typical day like
What is a typical day? We operate a fixed route system with eight buses and our disabled
and elderly (D & E) service with four buses; we have an additional four minivans out daily
for our Senior Rides program. If all the vehicles are operating then the normal day
consists of dealing with phone calls for service and keeping up with the routine
paperwork. If we have mechanical issues then the day starts with a scramble to get a
replacement on the road or moving trips around so that we can service our clients.
6. What’s your proudest achievement?
This is a tough one. During my tenure at the City of Quincy I have been very flexible. I
started as a police officer with 10 years in the Juvenile Division where I handled mostly
child abuse cases. After transitioning out of city government for eight years I returned in
2007 to take on the position of airport director. When I accepted this position the airport
was under scrutiny from the FAA for issues. I turned that around in three years and in
2010 was awarded the Airport of the Year award from IDOT. That same year I started my
career in transportation. We have automated our dispatching system and continue to look
at expanding our current service area.
7. What motivates you?
It took me a while to understand how important public transportation is. I know that every
day we impact hundreds of lives and how what we do is vital.
8. What do you do to motivate your staff?
The best motivation comes from within one’s self. Each individual has a “Hot Button” that
motivates them. As a manager I try to make each day for my staff the best it can be. In
many cases this is done by staying out of the way while letting them know they are a
valuable part of the community. I have always tried to let each person use their strengths
to complete their jobs. Micro managing every detail just frustrates people. Hire good
people and let them do the job, be there when they need support, but don’t be such a
hawk that they are always looking over their shoulders.
9. What innovations have occurred since you began in transit?
In 2010 we were doing our D & E scheduling by hand; we have since automated and
have increased our trips for service exponentially.
10. How has your system grown, and why?
Our system has remained fairly consistent on the Fixed Route side; however, we have
seen tremendous growth in our D & E service. Since 2012 we have seen a 22 percent
increase in mobility-assisted rides. This increase came during a time when we had to cut
back our services from five buses to four buses per day and eliminated hours on the
weekend due to budget constraints.