2022 40 Under 40: Christopher Zdanis

Aug. 23, 2022
Christopher Zdanis, MBA, Chief Operating Officer, Susquehanna Regional Transportation Authority dba Rabbittransit

One word to describe yourself: Eager     

Alma Mater: University of Phoenix     

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Port Authority Bus Terminal. This is my favorite station because of the intermodal capability and how it connects lines from all over. Thousands of passengers go through this terminal every day to connect to other routes or lines.   

Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): Maryland MTA Light Rail. Growing up I would take the light rail to go watch the Baltimore Orioles. Riding backwards was the greatest experience as a child because it was not normal. 

Christopher Zdanis has been in the transit industry for nine years and during this time, he has made a significant impact on not only Rabbittransit, but also on those with whom he has worked. A few years ago, the organization that helped launch his career looks radically different today. The authority was struggling with numerous inefficiencies that impacted the overall quality of service and bottom-line. However, his active participation in the leadership of the organization assisted in a complete turn-around of the transit program. On-time performance is greatly improving and the budget is balanced.     

Today, he holds the position of chief operating officer at Rabbittransit. From day one, Zdanis jumped into the organization, was eager to learn from bottom to top the way things were done and actively sought ways to improve the structure of the organization.  He developed into, and remains, an integral part of the team and people at all levels of the organization look to him for guidance. 

In 2018, there was a shift at Capital Area Transit (CAT) as a management agreement with Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (CPTA) was implemented. Replacing the CEO, this left Zdanis as the still new, yet top-position leader of CAT. Operating within an organization in distress, this was the perfect opportunity for Zdanis to showcase his skills and abilities, not only for those he was to lead, but also those on the sidelines who were watching. His colleagues describe him as highly approachable, very easy to work with and exhibiting quality leadership skills that effectively impact those with whom he works. Jan. 1, 2022, advanced the merger of CPTA and CAT into the new Susquehanna Regional Transportation Authority (SRTA), operating as Rabbittransit.   

This change provides Zdanis with new opportunities to display his passion for transit.  The organizational change added rolling stock maintenance and transit planning for an 11-county service area of more than 6,000-square miles to his already expansive list of responsibilities. He provides leadership to a planning department of six team members and a maintenance department of 47 with a total revenue fleet of 431 vehicles, in addition to his previous responsibilities overseeing the Dauphin and Cumberland County operations team of 123 individuals. 

He played a central role in several initiatives, including connecting employees with employers across the service area, including 15,969 riders to Chewy in Mechanicsburg and 645,934 riders to Hershey properties; realigning fare prices and eliminating zone fares to streamline routes and create a more organized system; implementing a mobile ticketing app; participating in CAT’s network redesign, a comprehensive assessment of all routes to assess the rural, suburban and urban transit needs of the capital region; contributing to new fare box installation on CAT buses, giving riders access to MyPass and Token Transit, which streamlined boarding and resulted in improved financial and ridership data management; improving on-time performance in fixed route and paratransit; leading the CAT and WITF partnership to provide free transportation for the 50th anniversary of the PBS children’s program Sesame Street; contributing to the partnership between CAT and the Dauphin County Commissioners to provide free transportation to and from Lebanon VA Medical Center; and spearheading renovations in the driver area at the Harrisburg location.     

He has participated in many transit training programs with APTA, CTAA and PPTA, as well as being a graduate of the local Leadership Harrisburg Program. He quickly embraced the mindset of regionalization whereby SRTA sought to function more like a single, integrated transit system rather than a collection of independently functioning transit agencies. After six years at Rabbittransit, Zdanis has made a significant contribution to the organization, making it an efficiently functioning system that can be respected in the communities in which it serves. 

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?   

I started my transit career as a dispatcher. This experience allowed me to gain a good understanding of the front line work in transit. I have used this experience to help me achieve where I am today.    

What do you enjoy most about your job?  

Serving the community and seeing the positive impact that we have on our passengers. After my time in the Marine Corps, I felt a void from no longer being able to serve. I can serve the community now and see the changes that come with it. Seeing the end result that allows for a higher quality of life is what I enjoy the most about my job.       

What’s the most challenging part of your job?   

Waiting. When you have a task outlined or started and you know what the end result is, waiting is challenging. Successful planning, implementation, observation and completion are important for the success of any task. Just knowing how great something can be and wanting it now is a challenge. As they say “good things come to those who wait.”