He admits that DTA probably got into ITS more heavily than an agency his size would like to at the time, but now, he can’t imagine an agency this size without it. “That was a statement I probably could make five or six years ago,” he says. “What’s happened is, the whole industry has matured greatly. We jumped into the ITS picture and once you’re in it, there’s never any going back.”
For other agencies looking to jump in, he did have some words of advice. Know what you’re getting and have the staff that can work with it. “We were probably a little overly ambitious about some of the software programs that we needed,” he says.
But as Jensen reiterates, “The technology is wonderful, there’s no question about it. We have more reports and everything else.” He stresses, “The easier we can make it for them [the public] to access information, then the more inclined they are going to be to ride the bus.
“When agencies go through this, I think the best thing they can do is call other systems that have had experience with it and just get a good discussion about what they’re getting into and what some of the issues are going to be,” he says. “Every situation is different. Every agency has different requirements, expectations.”
One area DTA has reduced its costs is with its insurance. “I remember when I first arrived here in the early ‘70s our insurance was costing us $400,000 a year, just for liability,” Jensen says. “It was a real concern. It wasn’t so much that we had a bad safety record, it was just that’s how much it cost at the time.
About 10-15 years ago, DTA made a decision to go self-insured. He explains, “When I say self-insured, that’s with a $100,000 self-insured retention and buy umbrella insurance.
“We did a calculation, I think it was last year, we’ve saved probably over $2 million doing that, just in insurance premiums and pay-outs.”
One of the reasons for the lower liability claims is the onboard security system. “What did I say was the best thing we ever did?” he says laughing. “I forget what that was, but the onboard security system is worth every dime that any system wants to invest in it.
“I credit that with diminishing a lot of the liability claims over the years,” he says. “But more than anything, it just provided a very accurate record of what goes on, on the bus.” Not only liability claims, but customer service as well.
“I would say in 99 percent of the cases, the cameras verify that the drivers were doing the correct thing,” he states. “And also, the longer you have them on there, the more aware the public becomes of them. I think that helps in reducing a lot of the issues on the bus.”
He continues talking about his staff and like every other agency, you are only as strong as your staff. “My philosophy is, you always hire the best people you can for the job,” he maintains. “Can’t always pay them what they want, but you tell them, work here and you’ll get great experience and it’s a great company. That really proves itself out.”