Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodbye, Buses

In November 2006, I began employment as the Service and Operations Analyst at Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc. (TCAT), which is the public transit agency for the Ithaca-Tompkins County area.

Tomorrow, our Human Resources Manager will announce to the administrative staff that I will resign, effective Friday, February 19.

When I was hired, I expected to spend most of my time on spreadsheets, crunching ridership and operational statistics to help TCAT make better business decisions. In reality, I spent the last three years working on an assortment of transportation planning, project management, technology, and public outreach functions, and oh yeah, a bit of statistics, too. Essentially, I was allowed to do nearly anything I felt inspired to do, whether "necessary" or just "cool," even if it wasn't in my job description (as long as I finished the work actually outlined in my job description).

What an awesome privilege and responsibility to give to a 24 year-old starting her career.

Remember that one time someone put a "For Sale" sign on the amenities truck? Who was that?

It's exhausting, though. At a systematic level, there are never enough resources to cover all needs. On a personal level, I do believe that TCAT plays a vital role in my community. At TCAT, I feel a sense of reporting not to our General Manager, nor to our Board of Directors, but to our ridership. With 3.35 million boardings a year, that's a daunting task.

It's made more daunting by the timing of my departure. Without going into too much detail, there were things I wanted to do at TCAT in 2010, namely to wrap up phase II of our farebox development and to analyze the effects of TCAT's new routing on ridership patterns.

So, in summary: I am inspired, thankful, exhausted, and not completely ready to leave.

Click the link below for the secret to loving your job!

Nonetheless, it's time to go. Even if I'm not quite ready.

TCAT bus in the garage!

What I will miss most are my colleagues. On the administrative side, I have been supported and mentored by a really great boss, who has set the bar really high for my future supervisors. There have been a few new faces join the TCAT family within the past year or so, and they all have handled the "breaking in" period with determination and grace. Everyone has a great sense of humor. Everyone works together. Everyone is willing to pitch in and help out, even if it's "not their job."

Someone's having fun. We can't be having any of that fun business, you hear?

On the operational side: WOW. Our maintenance team services a fleet of over 50 vehicles, with sometimes as many as 50 preventive services per month (that's in addition to break-downs and inspections). Our bus handlers and fuelers wash and fuel every single vehicle, every single night. This operation runs 22 hours per day, 360 days per year--and riders never see this piece of the puzzle. It just works.

Then there are our bus operators. These are the men and women who get up at 3:00 in the morning so you can doze off during your morning commute. They drive through the worst of the Ithaca sleet and snow, and they're ready to take you to Taughannock Falls when the summer sun is shining and they're stuck behind the wheel. They can navigate a vehicle that's 40 feet long and nearly 9 feet wide down the narrow streets of Collegetown without flinching. They deal with screaming babies, drunk college students, rude riders, and traffic jams, and they'll still smile at you and remember where you get off the bus. They know the routes, they know the transfers, they know the fares, they know the times, they know "the regulars." They deal with everything from a turkey flying through the windshield to a child choking on a piece of candy, and they'll still get you to work on time. They are TCAT bus operators, community heroes, and they kick ass.

I wouldn't want to drive through this... but a TCAT bus operator? She'll spit in the face of an Ithaca winter. (photo credit unknown)

I have received a tremendous amount of personal and professional satisfaction at TCAT. I hope that my service has given as much as I have received to TCAT as an organization, to my colleagues, and to TCAT's ridership.

Onwards and upwards!

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