Automatic Vehicle Location, automated passenger counters, Mobile Data Terminals and Vehicle Logic Units are not what you expect when you think of a small transit system, but Beaver County Transit Authority (BCTA) in Rochester, Pa., utilizes that technology for Phase 1 of its intelligent transportation system program. General Manager Mary Jo Morandini has nothing but great things to say about the program. "It's a very well-thought-out system and all the pieces are interoperable." With a federal earmark, state bond funds and technology by Siemens, implementation of Phase 1 started in 2000. "Phase 1 included the Automatic Vehicle Location system that provides real-time information to our customers about bus arrivals and departures," explains Morandini. "It included automated passenger counters, a new radio system and a kiosk at our facilities and electronic signs that provide real-time information to customers."
The program was challenging, being one of the first small agencies undertaking such a project, but BCTA did its homework and the learning process has strengthened the technology department. BCTA is looking on to Phase 2 and expanding the program to the region. "We have been a participant on a steering committee to look at a regional ITS program," Morandini says. "Our program here at BCTA was selected as the prototype for the small systems of our region."
Planning a Career
Morandini's educational background is in geography with a concentration in urban and regional planning. During her studies, she got her first taste of politics while doing an internship with the housing authority with the Venango County planning commission. "I was led to believe I would get a position with the housing authority after my internship was completed," she explains. "I was very disappointed that I didn't get that position." A couple of months later there was a position for planner advertised for the county transportation system where she was living at the time. There she began her career in transit.
"I moved into a management position there," she says. "I served as an assistant executive director and executive director at that agency before I left." She adds, "I've been doing [transit] ever since and really love the business."
After a reception at a legislative event in Harrisburg, the state association members decided to go out to dinner. Morandini sat next to Bruce Ahern, BCTA general manager at the time. After enjoying endless hors d'oeuvres at the reception, they were not too hungry as they looked over the menu so they decided to share a slice of cheesecake. That was the first time they had met and a couple months later, Ahern contacted Morandini about a position at BCTA. "He contacted me about a position to manage the paratransit service." She continues, "I accepted the position and ended up working with Bruce Ahern for about 15 years." When he moved on to another position, Morandini took the helm as general manager.
"When the organization was formed we didn't own vehicles or any facilities and contracting for service was a good decision," Morandini says. BCTA has transformed as now, "We own the fleet of buses and we own two facilities, including a terminal here in Rochester and a state-of-the-art maintenance facility in Center Township." She explains, as the organization matured, it had the leadership ability and the skill set necessary to operate the service directly, so that decision was made.
Continuing Quality, Continuing Success
"I think what really makes the organization successful are the people," Morandini states. Contributing to that success is the staff and board longevity. "We have a very strong board and they provide the foundation of success for the organization. Our board chairman, Richard Ober, he has a very long history with our organization. He's been the chairman for more than 20 years," she says. "He has been a great asset to the board." She also stresses the board has the best interests of the community in mind and is supportive of the staff.