2020 40 Under 40: Damon D. Dash

Aug. 18, 2020
Damon Dash, General Manager, The Wave Transit System/First Transit
  • One word to describe yourself: Inspired
  • Favorite hobby(s): The library and reading physical (real) books
  • Fun fact about yourself: I have been active with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in both Dallas, Texas, and Mobile, Ala.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Wheaton Station (WMATA- Washington, D.C.) contains the longest single span escalators in the northern hemisphere, taking just under three minutes to travel from top to bottom.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): The Deuce in Las Vegas, the best way to see the Las Vegas Strip.

Colleagues write that if you want to summarize what Damon Dash is all about as a transit professional, look no further than his initials, “triple D: Driven, determined and decisive.”

Dash started as a bus operator, but a management position as a bus traffic controller in Houston allowed him to grow as a professional. He has touched every aspect of bus operations on his journey, leaving him with insight into the business and a deep respect for the specialized skills required of its employees.

Dash’s hands-on and visible management style is credited with delivering a new and innovative public transit system to the city of Mobile, Ala.

Rider experience has been improved with the installation of more than 34 additional bus stop benches and trash receptacles and a safety manager has been added to specifically address safety and security efficiency. Dash has also overseen the start of direct service to the Mobile Regional Airport, a first for the city and a service that supports a municipal initiative, One Mobile, to connect residents to the transportation network to better access jobs and economic growth.

Capital improvements implemented under Dash’s tenure include upgrades to the network’s maintenance and administrative facility, a cloud based VOIP phone system, enhancements to the human resources and payroll system and additional fixed route and paratransit buses and service supervisor vehicles.

Additional projects nearing completion or planned include the installation of a new fare collection system, a new bus wash system, a plan to replace The Wave’s fixed-route bus and new two-way radios. These projects aim to deliver on Dash’s vision of what transit should be.

Dash is involved with regional and state entities including as a voting member of the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Alabama Transportation Association. As a result of being a member of the Alabama Transportation Association, The Wave Transit System has been able to host training for rural transportation passengers throughout the state of Alabama. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Making a difference and seeing that difference in action every day, in every way. Our team of dedicated employees keep the city moving, and I could not do this without each of them.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Allocating resources where they are needed most. Local and federal funding for public transit is limited, and the needs are great. I am fortunate that our mayor, Sandy Stimpson, believes in connecting people and communities.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

Direct bus service to the Mobile Regional Airport has been added to accommodate those traveling to and from Mobile, a feat that has never been done here. Multimodal transportation is a cornerstone commitment of our One Mobile initiative to connect people, work and play.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?

Learn your product. Ride your buses, ride your trains, learn your employees. I began as a bus operator and worked my way up to touch every aspect of bus operations. I gained an invaluable insight to the business, as well as a deep respect for all specialized skills required of the employees.

Why do you like being a part of the public transit industry?

Public transit is a vital public service. From school children to the vulnerable and elderly, transit plays a role in society. In large cities like New York, transit is the personal vehicle. In suburban cities, transit is the commuter’s way into town and on to work. Transit in every city is adapted to the needs of the region and the passenger.