Giving Back to the Community

Canton, Ohio

Kirt Conrad

Executive Director, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority 

In 2014, SARTA, the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, endeavored to begin contract services for Medicaid Clients in Stark County.  We felt this was an important venture not only for the financial future of our agency, but because we did not feel that the transportation needs of our community were being met.  With the expansion of the Affordable Health Care Act, tens of thousands of individuals were now eligible for Medicaid in Ohio and also for transportation services.  Traditionally, Medicaid has not turned to local transit systems to provide this service rather, to independently run transit providers.  Furthermore, what we continued to hear from our social service providers, and the community, was the demand for transportation was not being adequately addressed. 

As a result, SARTA met with community partners to determine their needs and begin the lengthy process of becoming a Medicaid provider.  This included changing policies and procedures to align with state Medicaid requirements.  In addition, we developed new trainings and more stringent background checks for our drivers.  A new contract administrator position was created providing a single point of contact for all of our contacts should any problems, questions or concerns arise. In addition, a new billing procedure was put into place so that were able to bill for trips. 

Once SARTA began providing transportation, the response was overwhelming.  We started with a small contract and soon started receiving calls from other agencies in the county wanting to know if we could provide services for them as well.  In addition, once Medicaid users learned they had the option of choosing SARTA as their Medicaid provider, they began to request SARTA as their Medicaid transportation service provider.    

Why are Medicaid clients choosing SARTA?  The answer is simple.  SARTA provides transportation that is safe, reliable and trustworthy.  We have been in operation for 17 years, providing over 140,000 demand response trips a year to seniors and those with disabilities.  We employ over 200 trained staff members who specialize in ensuring that we deliver the best service possible to the residents of Stark County. 

Giving back for us, is about identifying a need in our community and making sure we are there to provide that service.  Those who require Medicaid service are those in our community with the greatest need.  We at SARTA want to make sure they have the access to medical appointments, adult day care services, employment or any other needs they may have.  

Wilmington, Del.

Patty Boyd

Marketing Specialist, Delaware Transit Corp. (DART)

As the calendar turns to October, DART’s Marketing & Public Affairs Department is starting the behind the scenes work for the annual “Stuff The Bus” Thanksgiving Food Drive.  The 2014 food drive marks the 17th year that DART has partnered with the Food Bank of Delaware to feed hungry Delawareans in need.  We had another successful year in stuffing two 30-foot Gillig buses and collecting 9.7 tons (19,355 pounds) of food.

As a statewide transit agency, partnering with the Food Bank of Delaware is a great way for DART to give back to the community, as all the food collected stays in Delaware.  Through the Food Bank’s more than 550 hunger partners, we are all helping to stomp out hunger.

Stuff The Bus is a statewide, four-day event in early November that rolls out with buses at both the Dover Acme Market and Milford Walmart; Day Two is at the Acme Market in Fairfax, and the last two days are spent at Rodney Square, downtown Wilmington’s transit hub.  At the end of Day Four, the buses are taken to the Food Bank’s warehouse in Newark, Delaware to be unloaded by Food Bank staff and volunteers. 

Outreach is one of the most important parts of a successful food drive.  Early on, e-mail blasts are sent to all schools, both public and private, state agencies and past participants, along with information in both our Rider and Employee newsletters.  Information is provided to fixed route riders in the form of bus posters and passenger notices.  As the event nears, we use our website and social media such as rider alerts, rider e-news and Twitter to get the word out about Stuff The Bus.  We also partner with local radio stations for live remote broadcasts from the bus during the food drive help generate more donations, and this year’s media coverage was phenomenal.

Even though DART’s Marketing & Public Affairs Department heads up the food drive, it truly is a corporate-wide event.  It takes the cooperation of all the departments to make the event run smoothly; from Operations handling the logistics of transporting and maintaining the buses to all the volunteers from other DART departments.  Some staff members have worked the event since the inaugural food drive 17 years ago.  The volunteers provide a lot of help during the event from making boxes and loading the food on the bus, to providing information about DART services and the Food Bank. 

And of course, Stuff The Bus couldn’t happen without the kindness and generosity of our riders and the general public, including schools, businesses, and state agencies. It gives us all the same warm feeling knowing that we’ve helped to provide a meal to a person or family in need.

The Stuff The Bus Thanksgiving Food Drive is DART’s way of giving back to the community. 

San Diego, Calif.

Rob Schupp

Director of Marketing and Communications

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS)

The best way transit agencies give back to the community is in providing great service, expanding service where it’s needed, involving the community in decisions, responding quickly to community groups and individuals when they pose questions or concerns, providing exceptional security and maintaining an excellent quality of life in our stations and on-board our vehicles, making sure that the system is in a good state of repair,  providing technological advances that customers demand and much more. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System in San Diego is doing all of that and we are proud of the advances we have made in the last decade that have led to a record ridership of 95 million trips in our last fiscal year. We are also proud of our community-giving programs which engage MTS in meaningful ways throughout the communities we serve.

One of our best programs is an employee-led initiative to provide every first grader in a designated school a bicycle, helmet and grocery coupons. During the year, employees have Friday barbecues, bake sales and a “buy-in” program for employees to wear jeans on Fridays.  Then, each holiday season, MTS MTS surprises the students with the bikes at a special assembly where we also provide the students with safety tips on how to ride transit. This year, we will be providing 54 bikes! Also in December, the MTS “Stuff the Bus” program collects enough food for 20,000 meals. We partner with our local grocery chain, the Girl Scouts and the San Diego Food Bank to collect food for thousands of hungry families. We park buses in the parking lots at Albertsons and MTS employees and Girl Scouts help let shoppers know of our goal to stuff each bus with appropriate canned and dry foods. Our third annual holiday program is to have morning and evening concerts at Trolley stations. We work with a council district and a local performing arts groups to provide holiday music.

Of course we spread out our community involvement throughout the year. San Diego’s great weather means there are community fairs and festivals almost every weekend.  We provide free advertising inside and outside of our vehicles for selected events in exchange for strong “Ride MTS” messages on their ads and the opportunity to have information booths at the event.  We are also increasing our outreach efforts to provide even more social service agencies the resources they need to educate their clients on the benefits and ease of riding transit.

In reality, everything a transit agency does is giving back to the community. Our services enhance air quality, reduce congestion, increase mobility and provide thousands of jobs. That’s what makes our work special.

Alexandria, Va.

Allyson Teevan

Marketing & Communications Manager, Alexandria Transit Co. (DASH)

The mission of the Alexandria Transit Company (ATC) is to Keep Alexandria Moving by providing high quality DASH transit service that focuses on customer service, safety, and reliability.  DASH is a vital part of the Alexandria community, and as such, works to give back to the community it serves.  DASH does this through the collaboration, sponsorship, and partnership of community events throughout the year.

To celebrate DASH’s 30th Anniversary in 2014, Alexandria Transit Company reached out to the community to be part of this milestone and celebration.  A new community program that was developed this year was “DASHing Words in Motion.”  A collaborative project between DASH and the Alexandria Office of the Arts, in which local poets competed to display their poetry on the DASH buses and King Street Trolleys in honor of National Poetry Month in April.  DASH selected six winners from the many entries that were received, and the recipients were invited to read their poems at DASH’s 30th Anniversary Reception at City Hall.  DASH placed placards of the winning poems on their entire fleet of DASH buses. 

DASH also embraced a new tradition whereby they donated a retiring bus to Del Ray’s Art on the Avenue community event.  The bus was primed white and the public was invited to paint the bus using their handprints.  DASH teamed up with local Art classes in area schools and created a theme for the bus that was painted on by art students. 

ATC is promoting its service by using the bus in a special “DASHing Art Around Alexandria” promotions that will offer free rides to those who spot the bus.  ATC’s painted DASH bus is also part of a social media promotion where the public can take a picture of the bus and post it to DASH’s Twitter or Facebook page to win a monthly DASH Pass.  In addition to being a novelty, the bus provides transit and safety education to area schools.  

DASH continues to provide annual sponsorships and partnerships with the community in the participation of events by offering free shuttle service at First Night Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, as well as provide 40 buses for use in the George Washington Parkway Classic.  DASH is also the transportation for the Living Legends in the George Washington Birthday Celebration Parade in Old Town as well as the main event in Old Town in December at the King Street Trolley Welcomes Santa Event.  This event allows the community to have their picture taken with Santa, for free, on the King Street Trolley.  DASH Representatives also collect Toys for Tots at this event and hand out special gifts from Santa to the children. 

DASH also parcipates in other events, such as, Bike to Work Day, Earth Day, Try Transit Week, transit fairs, and and collecting donations for back to school supplies.  DASH continues to receive praise and recognition by the community and the media for Keeping Alexandria Moving. 

Lombard, Ill. 

Andrew Strumolo

Marketing Coordiantor, Transdev

The holidays are an important time for our industry. Passengers are shopping and on-the-go. Special events are taking place everywhere.  It’s also an opportunity to give back to those that may be less fortunate.  Transdev manages over 200 transportation contracts for cities, transit authorities and airports, so its local teams are in a unique position to help thousands of families during the holidays.

Stuff-a-Bus is a very successful holiday campaign in many Transdev locations. Local teams usually dedicate one bus to be stuffed with all sorts of donated items from the public including toys, clothes, cash and household essentials. Eventually the bus turns into one giant, mobile, gift-wrapped present for neighbors in need.

Many transit authorities around the country do stuff-a-bus promotions around the holidays, but Transdev invested in creative bus wraps, a website and promotional kits for its city locations to easily publicize the local events in a well-branded and professional way.

Over the past few years, numerous Transdev properties partnered with local business owners to stuff buses and donate the proceeds to groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Salvation Army. Buses are parked in front of partnering businesses during weekends in December.  Local residents who donate items get coupons or a free beverage from the local partner business In-store promotions and visits and broadcasts with local radio personalities increase visibility, traffic and participation.

Transdev is committed to being a part of the communities it serves. Successful Stuff-a-Bus events in many cities is a great way  to support community charities and spread some holiday cheer!