Some times it’s the simple things we all know that make something successful. For Jay Banasiak, general manager of Wichita Transit (WT), he says his agency’s success comes down to having a plan. “Get your vision set on what you think you need and stick to it,” he says.
Not as simple to execute, but that is what has worked for WT as last year the Kansas Public Transit Association (KPTA) named it Transit System of the Year and it received an FTA Achievement Award for Zero Deficiencies in the Triennial Review, the first ever in FTA’s Region VII.
Diesel in the Blood
Banasiak laughs that it wasn’t that he wanted to get into transit; it is just that he’s been in transit all his life. His dad was a bus driver, so transit was always important. After the Air Force, Banasiak went after his master’s degree in Louisville. During his studies he took a course in transit planning taught by Bobby Griffin, the manager of the Louisville system at the time.
“He [Griffin] worked for a management company that managed Louisville at the time,” Banasiak explains. “They were obviously looking for young people to get into the transit business.” That company, ATE Management, now First Transit, hired him and he’s been working for them since.
“They hired me on and I was kind of in a manager’s program for about a year. Did all kinds of bus line inspections and comprehensive operation analysis and marketing reports,” he says. From Louisville he went to Cincinnati for a year, then Peoria as assistant manager and eventually to general manager.
ATE told him about an opening in Wichita and it looked like a good opportunity to Banasiak. “I got on the Web site, looked at Wichita, looked like a nice-sized town, had a nice economy, had a lot of airplanes and manufacturers here,” he says. “I said this is right up my alley. I was in the Air Force and I’m in transit and I can go to the air capital of the world.”
About all this he says, “It really had nothing to do with me wanting to get into transit, that’s just what happened.” He adds with a laugh, “I guess it’s in the blood or something. I must bleed diesel fuel.”
Having a Plan
Having a broad background has been a benefit when Banasiak looks at what is best for his agency. “I’ve been to a lot of agencies, many different sizes throughout my career and every agency is different. Everybody’s got their own issues and problems.”
He continues, “You really need to come up with a plan and try to really think out what needs to be done first, what are the logical things you have to have done first.” He adds, “The most important thing you need is new buses. No matter whatever else you get, you need to have reliable buses that are passenger-friendly.”
“You get your bus, you get your farebox, you start to get some technology, you just come out with a plan,” he says. “Once you get your plan, you can present your plan to your legislators and say these are the things we need, whether it’s your city council, and then your federal legislators, and even state legislators. Start planning and get that money. Luckily Wichita city council has been great in supporting WT’s plans.”
Regional Van Maintenance
One of those plans for WT is to build a Van Maintenance Facility (VMF) by January 2009. Not just a standard maintenance facility for its paratransit vans, this facility would be for all of WT’s support vehicles and the approximately 115 similar paratransit vans operating in the community.
WT has a fleet of 21 vans to provide paratransit rides and it also has six contracted agencies providing paratransit service. One of those is the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation. They provide clients with daycare or training that they have to get to. “They have a fleet of vans, so instead of us providing service for their folks, they will provide the service for their clients,” Banasiak says. “In every instance for those six agencies, they’re really their own client.