2023 40 Under 40: Elyce Embery

Aug. 22, 2023
Elyce Embery, Specialized and Accessible Program Specialist, Lane Transit District

One word to describe yourself: Easy-going

Fast fact about yourself: Lane Transit District had one of the first fully accessible fleets in the nation starting in 1985 (five years before the ADA).

What’s your best experience on transit and what made it memorable?

The subways and speed trains in Netherlands. The experience was always top tier! I would love to see us adopt more high-speed rail in the U.S.

Elyce Embery, a dedicated and innovative professional, joined Lane Transit District (LTD) in 2017 as a customer service representative and has ascended to a leadership role within the organization’s RideSource services, an initiative that addresses vital transportation needs for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Through strategic collaborations with government agencies, non-profits and transportation providers, RideSource offers a consolidated platform for both ADA paratransit and Medicaid non-emergent medical transportation services (NEMT).

Central to Embery’s responsibilities has been cultivating and nurturing these partnerships, allowing for a synergistic pooling of resources that greatly benefits the community. Noteworthy endeavors stemming from this cooperation include services catering to veterans' transportation, a convenient shopper shuttle, in-home eligibility assessments and a volunteer transportation program in underserved rural areas.

Embery’s leadership stood out during pivotal moments, including navigating the complexities of evolving Medicaid regulations and addressing the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She adeptly confronted these obstacles, championing innovative solutions that ensured individuals in need remained adequately supported. Her guidance illuminated the path toward strategic resource alignment and enhanced preparedness for unforeseen contingencies. Collaborating closely with Coordinated Care Organizations, taxi services, medical transportation companies and regulatory bodies, Embery orchestrated network adequacy during a critical period of driver shortages, preserving the high standard of service expected by the community. Impressively, despite the significant volume of trips, the number of complaints remained minimal and customer satisfaction remained high, which LTD says is a testament to Embery’s tireless efforts.

Beyond LTD's immediate operations, Embery’s work focuses on assisting vulnerable segments of the population—older adults, individuals with disabilities, low-income groups and underserved communities. Many rely on accessible transportation for essential activities such as attending school, going to work, attending medical appointments and securing groceries. Embery finds personal fulfillment in enabling these essential trips, and her dedication has permeated the entire organization. Her initiatives have not only improved service quality, but have also resulted in cost savings for LTD, permitting further service expansion.

Embery regularly engages with the community through educational presentations at schools and community groups and offers training to colleagues. Her impact has garnered recognition from peers and neighboring industry players, who seek insights into her success. Embery’s leadership style is characterized by inclusivity, fostering an environment that values accessibility and belonging.

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

I've been fortunate in my life to have many great mentors and leaders who have pushed me out of my comfort zone to seek new challenges. I started at LTD as a customer service representative (a vital role where you are positioned to learn more about your organization than practically anyone else) and was taught the value of communication and teamwork. During the pandemic, I changed job functions entirely. This could have been an incredibly stressful transition but the support I received from my team and my supervisor made it easy. The adaptability of LTD during the pandemic truly helped me continue to thrive. Throughout my years working at LTD, it's become clear to me how important it is to all LTD employees to provide riders with equitable and reliable transportation. It’s this connection with people, with our community, that drives all of us to do this work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

In my experience, the best part of every job I've ever had has been the people I get to work with every day but being able to contribute something back to my community is hugely important to me personally.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

My department is responsible for keeping many plates spinning with a fairly small team, which can pose a challenge at times. In addition to ensuring that all of our fixed-route busses remain fully accessible and any questions or concerns are immediately addressed, my department also oversees our RideSource service, which offers a multitude of programs, including ADA paratransit and (NEMT). The pandemic added extra strain, as we experienced a large shortage of available operators.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I am most proud of the incredible work that is done every day by every single employee at LTD. Not a single piece of our organization can work without the other, and I feel very fortunate that I am able to contribute in some small part to this amazing team and mission. As I have continued to learn and grow into my role at LTD, I have been able to do more and more to create real change for older adults and people with disabilities in Lane County. In 2022, we were able to help facilitate more than 250,000 trips through our RideSource service. Additionally, RideSource users traveled more than 2.7 million miles and exceeded 225,000 hours of travel through our NEMT Medicaid program in 2022.

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

If you can establish good working relationships and lines of communication with other transit agencies, I believe you will find that everyone working for (or with) public transportation has a shared desire to help people and work together to create better public transit for all.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.