A Safety Culture
One area of focus for First Transit that Brad Thomas mentions specifically is safety. He shares that a few years back the company took a look at itself and pushed safety to the forefront.
“First Transit has an abundance of resources available to its employees, from the Safety Resource Center to leveraging our buying power and getting great prices through our corporate purchasing agreements,” says Scott Lansing, a general manager with First Transit in Austin. “Our emphasis on safety is much more than words on paper; it’s a way of life for First Transit employees.”
Dave Van Fossen, a general manager with First Transit says, “As part of a larger company, we receive resources that would be otherwise unavailable. These resources include professionally produced training materials, including workbooks, handouts and videos that are current and relevant for both maintenance and operations.”
That information, he says, also includes safety procedures. “We also have information and materials on current safety issues and concerns that we can immediately share with our employees. All these resources make us a more safety-conscious and focused organization.”
As Jensen says, “Safety is part of the management culture which works to keep a constant focus on all the elements necessary for a successful program.” He explains, “We are able to measure the results of our safety practices against those of other systems and implement programs that have proven to be successful at other First Transit systems.”
Lansing emphasizes, “We live, eat and breathe safety at First Transit. If we can’t do it safely, we won’t do it.”
Building Trust, Building Partnerships
An interesting aspect of the organization is the importance of how they are seen in the communities they work in. “People seeing our buses operating in the community, they don’t know that we’re operating that vehicle,” says Thomas. “The public can’t necessarily differentiate between,” he pauses and reiterates, “They see that as the municipality that’s operating that vehicle so we have to be good.”
He stresses, “The partnership is strengthened and we represent that client in the community in a way that we really feel that we’re their partner.”
“We provide more than 160 million passenger trips a year so certainly that is a huge responsibility.”
“I think that we have been able to provide our clients with transportation at a very competitive price and that there are parts of this industry that are growing, where there is more opportunity than ever before.”
Lansing shares a similar sentiment. “The synergies and expertise that exist because of our size extend to the local level and ultimately, our customers.
“We understand what it takes to run an efficient, effective, public transport system and we apply that knowledge to every contract we have.”
He continues, “While there are many differences between agencies, there are many more similarities and we share the same ultimate goal — quality service at an affordable price. The more we share, the more we learn; the more we learn, the more we share.”
Jensen says, “Public transit, by its very nature is often subject to politics and sometimes decisions made on a political basis are not always in the best interest of the agency or the public.
“I believe that the biggest advantage of being part of a large national organization is having the backup expertise and resources available to develop, support and defend positions that are right for the agency.”
Thomas says, “A lot of municipalities are dealing with budget crunches, they’re dealing with reduced tax revenue and, as a result of that, the opportunity to contract out, whether it’s for transit services or for our First Services fleet maintenance, it’s there.
“I think that an organization like ours can provide them opportunities to continue to provide these services, to do it at a lower cost and that’s an opportunity for us.”