The path of public transportation management diverges into the two roads of public and private agencies throughout the transit industry with many diverging combinations along the way. However, West Covina?s Foothill Transit in the shadow of Los Angeles has its own uniqueness in the way its management structure is put together - three independent contractors all working together for the greater goal of quality transit.
The concept behind Foothill Transit goes back two decades when local leaders looked to create a different transit model instead of raising fares and reducing services. Foothill Transit was created as an experiment to do that, to give local leaders greater influence over local transit services and to maximize service levels.
Foothill Transit is structured with Veolia Transportation overseeing the authority?s two transit yards. The Pamona yard is under contract with First Transit and operates all of Foothill?s express service. The Arcadia yard operates primarily local service under the auspices of MV Transportation.
While there is some friendly competition between the two facilities, as Foothill Executive Director Doran Barnes says, they do operate fairly different kinds of services that, "had been provided by the public sector," but now use, "the forces of private competition to be able to come up with a new model for developing that service."
Barnes thinks the experiment has been a success to date, having allowed the agency to manage costs and focus aggressively on quality. And this is a combination he really believes in.
"It's not about being the absolute lowest cost; it's about maximizing the value for the investment," Barnes says.
"So it's really not about driving to the bottom in terms of price. It's really driving to best value for the invested dollar."
Barnes would know better than most about getting the value out of a dollar in the transit industry. A University of California Davis graduate, he worked for the university transit authority, Unitrans, as an undergrad first as an operator and eventually as director of operations and director of planning. Upon graduation he went to work for Ernst & Young, one of the world?s leading financial consulting firms, but he was never an accountant.
"I was never an accountant," says Barnes with a smile.
"I worked in their transit consulting group, and one of the projects that Ernst & Young was assigned to do was an evaluation of the cost effectiveness of Foothill Transit, so I was one of the staff members who did the comparisons that looked at the first three-year period of Foothill's existence to see if it had indeed achieved the things that it had set out to do."
That was Barnes' introduction to the agency he would one day find himself in charge of. After several years with Ernst & Young working on a variety of transit projects Barnes became director of planning for Monterey Salinas Transit before returning to Foothill as deputy executive director in 1997.
"They remembered me. I guess I made a halfway decent impression," Barnes laughs.
Barnes would stay with Foothill for four years before spending two years in Tulsa, Okla., as general manager in what he calls his "two-year sabbatical" before returning to Foothill, this time as executive director.
"So that's kind of the story of how I found myself here," Barnes says.
Barnes is officially employed as a vice president for Veolia Transportation, and is the executive director of Foothill Transit, and is a vice chair (Human Resources) on the American Public Transportation Association's executive committee, and is executive committee chair for the California Transit Association. Oh, and he is also a Dale Carnegie Institute certified instructor.
Many transit officials have similar resumes, so how do they balance it all? Barnes says you just have to understand that transit isn?t an 8-to-5 job.
"And I don't think any of my colleagues in the industry would say their job is either," he admits.