Top 40 Under 40 2013: Jon Y. Nouchi

A graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in urban planning, Jon Nouchi started his career with TheBus in 1998 as an entry transportation clerk. He quickly rose through the ranks as transit planner, senior planner, manager of service development and was appointed to his current position in 2009. In his current capacity, Nouchi has a staff of 33 involved in service evaluation, scheduling, intelligent vehicles and bus stop amenities. His group schedules about 1,500,000 service hours per year. TheBus provides about 76 million unlinked trips per year, and Honolulu has the fifth highest per-capita ridership measured by the annual number of trips within the region.

Nouchi is one of those fortunate few that ended up doing what he wanted to do as a kid. He has a passion for improving the quality and effectiveness of transit for the customer. He is respected by all his peers from many different departments and sections in the bus company. Jon has a very collaborative style and is equally comfortable dealing with bus operators or congressional leaders. When he speaks at public meetings, members of community groups know they are hearing the real deal, and Jon has that uncommon ability to explain transit operations in a way that is meaningful to lay people.

Nouchi is an active participant in American Public Transportation Association affairs. He is a graduate of Leadership APTA class of 2012 and is a member of the Bus Operations Committee. Nouchi is a frequent attendee at industry conference (sometimes at his own expense) and has developed a nationwide network of colleagues from different systems and regions throughout the United States and Canada.

Nouchi is an innovator and has participated in many projects that have made a profound impact on local and even national transit. He was one of the pioneers working with Google Transit to develop the schema for Google’s General Transit Feed Specifications (GTFS). He worked with renowned Hawaiian language expert Puakea Nogelmeier to be the “voice of TheBus” and to make automated next-stop announcements. The program has been recognized for correcting the pronunciation of many Hawaiian street and place names and has been credited with having a community-wide impact.

“I love introducing necessary change into Honolulu’s over-hundred-year-old transit network. Restructuring services to implement efficient routings and connections into new and changing neighborhoods brings a strong satisfaction that I am contributing to changing these communities permanently and for the better. I love to ride first trips of new services and watch the ridership grow over time.

“My grandparents were transit riders by choice. My parents utilized transit when they could. I grew up on a street with a regular bus route and was reassured by its regularity and accessibility. Riding public transit in my hometown and in many other cities lets you experience a different and truer view of the urban landscape. I lived in Los Angeles in a time when many of their currently successful rail lines were in their infancy; using the extensive and often underrated multimodal transit networks in Los Angeles convinced me to return to Honolulu to work at establishing better-connected, more-efficient and always-evolving transit opportunities for my island home.

“I love the collaboration of our industry. We love to interact with each other and share our successes and even our occasional failures to help our brother and sister agencies and cities improve the efficiency of their services. It’s easy to reach out to your peers and colleagues to work together to solve our common problems with creative solutions.

“The future of public transit depends on our ability to meet the needs of passengers who are born into and are living in a “me-centric” world full of personal choices. How do we attract them to public transit and retain their loyalty? How do we, as transit agencies, make sure we meet, exceed, and do not fail the expectations of an entire next generation?”