Transporting more than 160 million passengers, covering more than 260 million fleet miles and maintaining more than 50,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment is First Transit and First Services.
Bit by the Bug
In early 2009, Brad Thomas became the president of First Transit and First Services. He started in transit in contract grant administration, fresh out of college. “I went to work for a small regional transit company in the Northeast,” he says about working for Progressive Transportation Services out of New York State. “We were so small that quickly I had to become knowledgeable in different parts of the business.” And that led to becoming more and more involved with operations.
It was at this time that his interest in transportation grew. “I think I got bit by the bug at that point. The company grew and the opportunities for me grew.”
In 1996 Progressive Transportation Services was acquired by Coach USA and Thomas had the opportunity to work for a national transportation company. He ultimately became the president of Transit Services of that organization in 2000, an organization that was about $100 million in annual revenue.
“In 2003 we were acquired by First Transit and again I had a great opportunity to join an even larger organization,” Thomas says. “I became the senior vice president of the East region at that point, which was actually larger than the coach business I had been leading at that point.”
Keeping Communities Running
First Transit and First Services focuses on the public transit, shuttle services and fleet maintenance services. Behind that is First Group America, which includes First Student and Greyhound, all providing additional support.
“We’re able to focus on the parts where we provide service, but we have the support of a larger organization behind us and the resources that go along with it.” He adds, “That could mean everything from sharing best practices throughout the different types of businesses; a lot of things translate from one business to the other.
“I think people might not know how diverse of an organization we are,” he emphasizes. “We’re clearly known in the public transportation industry as a contractor for fixed-route and paratransit, but we’re getting more and more involved in the shuttle business, universities and airports and corporate shuttle.”
First Services provides fleet maintenance and employs about 3,500 people, most of which are technicians. “We maintain more than 50,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment nationwide,” Thomas says. “We maintain everything from police and fire fleets down to street sweepers, rescue boats and motorcycles for municipalities.”
First Services allows the municipalities and organizations to concentrate on the services they are tasked with providing their communities. “This is an area of our business that has been growing consistently,” stresses Thomas. “More and more of these municipalities and corporations realize that they want to be able to concentrate on their task they have to do every day; they would rather leave the maintenance of their fleet to a maintenance expert.” He adds, “It will save them dollars, it will save taxpayer dollars, it will keep the quality of the service up.”
Behind the Operations
There’s never a day that goes by that there isn’t a lot happening, Thomas says of transit. “There are a lot of things going on every day and a lot of different things to get excited about.”
Thomas came up through the business on the operations side, and that’s what he said really interests him. “I’m very interested in how systems run and the systems of getting people from point A to point B; how you can do it more efficiently, and how you can be cost-effective.”
Another thing he likes to talk about is the people. “We all share a passion for transportation,” he stresses. “This organization has a long history; there are people who have been in this organization for 30-plus years.