When I talked to Larry King, general manager of Muncie Indiana Transit System (MITS), I was expecting more of a cavalier review being that it was the recipient of APTA's 2005 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award. King instead gives you a pragmatic description detailing the agency's achievements without vainglorious additions.
When asked about the agency's achievements that earned the award, he tells me unvarnished of the inessentials, "There's a statistical part to that selection process and I think our numbers are pretty good in terms of productivity and efficiency." He adds, "Everything we do, the recognition program, our policies, our financial management, is geared toward putting out that basic service and making it as good as we possibly can." As he simply explains, "We do the basics very, very well." Those basics mean vehicles and facilities are clean and well maintained and service is safe, secure and dependable.
It has not been without support that MITS has achieved all that it has. A strong board and strong community support have contributed all the way. King says that the community has responded positively to MITS and he adds, "If they try us, they're pleasantly pleased and stay with us." He stresses, "There's one thing that makes everything we do possible and that is, we just have an excellent board of directors." He emphasizes, "It is a very supportive and proactive group. They have given us direction based on their individual talents and what they think is the best for the community."
It was one thing after another that led King into the world of public transportation with MITS. With a degree in urban and regional planning, King was senior transportation planner for the local MPO and doing a long-range transportation study. Public transportation was one component of that study. "At the time I was doing this, [MITS] was still a private operation and one of the recommendations that came out of that long-range plan, was to publicly acquire the private operator," King says. The city asked King to head that effort, to make the transition, both in finding facilities and doing grant work to get new equipment. "Once the public takeover was completed I was asked by the newly formed public transportation corporation if I would be interested in being a project administrator for a new facility they were planning on building." After that process, he says, "I was asked if I would be interested in becoming their assistant general manager and really fell in love with the business." King adds, "I've been here ever since.
King has been with MITS since 1984 as a First Transit employee. "My assistant and I are First Transit employees," King says. It has been a positive relationship with both sides pleased. "At a small agency I'm very fortunate to have a talented and innovative staff, but that staff is small. I don't have expertise in all of the various areas that you might encounter," he explains. "It's reassuring to know if there is something that we cannot deal with locally, I can go to First Transit and explain the problem and ask for assistance.
"Either through central staff or them bringing in an expert to help us, I've always got that support."
He also shares how the networking capabilities allow him to call other employees at the same company, and discuss similar-type problems. "I think the transit management is a good idea for a community, especially a community the size of Muncie."
Providing Basics Well
JobConnection is a service MITS provides as a supplement to the fixed-route service. Riders can preregister to get bus service between their home and place of employment when bus service is not normally available. It is available throughout the city limits and to the industrial center. JobConnection provides fl exibility for the riders so they can use transit anytime.