• First Transit Honored To Be Part of Special Olympics USA Games

    by User Not Found | Jul 18, 2014

    special olympicsInspired.
     That’s the word that First Transit employees chose to describe their feelings about the company’s involvement in the Special Olympics USA Games hosted by Princeton University June 12-20.

     The Games featured 3,500 athletes from around the USA competing in 16 different sports events. Approximately 1,000 coaches and 10,000 volunteers supported the Special Olympic athletes, with an estimated crowd of 70,000 spectators. 

     Princeton Tiger Transit, operated by First Transit Princeton University, provided  transportation services for the week-long event.

     First Transit operated a specially designated bus that ran for five hours daily for the duration of the Games. Additionally, Games attendees took advantage of regularly scheduled Tiger Transit routes around campus.

     Assistant General Manager Stanley Subjinski and Operations Supervisor Terry Stein developed all of the scheduling and routes needed to serve athletes, coaches, officials and spectators. 

     Barbara Baldwin, a First Transit bus driver, told Town Topics, Princeton’s weekly community newspaper, the buses were nearly full all day. “It’s so exciting to see the kids’ faces when they get on,” Baldwin said. “And then when they come out of the events, you see them pumping their fists. It’s just so inspiring,” she said.

     “It was inspirational to see the Olympians competing and having a fun time,” said First Transit Area General Manager Steve Skoler. “My team feels honored to have been chosen for this event and even did some extra refresher training in ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) procedures on their own before the event began,” he said.

     No less than four years of training, planning and preparing preceded the Games, the purpose of which is to shatter perceptions and celebrate the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities.

     From Skoler’s point of view, the hard work paid off. “I have always felt that rather than just being the people who provide transportation at the university that we should be a part of the university and the community,” Skoler said.

     “Being chosen to be involved in an event such as this proves my point,” he added. “We are not just the other service but an integral part of campus life and the community that surrounds it.”

  • Sun Metro – Overhauled System Driving Toward Even Brighter Future

    by User Not Found | Jun 20, 2014

    By: Rick Dunning
    El Paso Sun Metro CNG Bus
    Twenty-two new buses recently rolled into service for Sun Metro, the El Paso public transit system. The 2014 New Flyer Xcelsior models replaced the 1991 models that had logged more than a million miles each. We welcomed their improved fuel economy and more aerodynamic design, but just as importantly, we welcomed what the buses represented for both Sun Metro and First Transit – Progress!  

    For its many ongoing efforts to improve public transportation in El Paso, Sun Metro has been named the 2014 Outstanding Metropolitan Transit System of the Year by the Texas Transit Association (TTA). This award, along with the others that have been presented, comes from the accumulation of years of hard work to create a better, more future-focused system.

    In 2004, Sun Metro customers felt the system did not fully meet their needs. The system had been pieced together over time, with no real strategic plan for how to make long-lasting improvements. El Paso leaders recognized that to make Sun Metro a lasting and viable transit system, much improved service and customer focus would be necessary.

    With city leaders fully committed, First Transit came on board in 2007, offering its extensive industry expertise. Working with members of the city and the Sun Metro team, we focused on creating a system that was designed to meet the needs of the community, a system in which passengers and employees could take pride. First Transit and Sun Metro both set about creating the necessary culture change. Recognizing the importance, Sun Metro staff and First Transit team members were all behind this vision.

    With Sun Metro staff, city leaders and First Transit working together with shared vision, culture changes began to happen. Customers too were soon seeing the improvements. And in 2008, the Texas Transit Association recognized Sun Metro as the Outstanding Metropolitan System of the year.  In 2011, the system was again recognized, being named the best mid-sized transit system in the country by the American Public Transportation System (APTA).

    As Sun Metro continues to grow leadership from both First Transit and the city of El Paso, the team continues to work together, ensuring the system remains focused on serving the community and anticipating their ever-growing needs.

    Since 2011, Sun Metro has completed four new transfer centers; begun renovating two older terminals into state-of-the-art centers; built a new headquarters for the system; developed various public-private partnerships to improve passenger experience; installed more than 370 new shelters; begun designing an ambitious Transit-Oriented Development for Northeast El Paso with support from a $10.3 million TIGER grant; and, broken ground and begun construction on the $145 million Sun Metro Brio—El Paso’s future Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT). The BRT, along with the development of seven acres in the northeast section of El Paso, will create vast opportunities for an improved economy.

    The changes in attitude are paying off big for Sun Metro and the El Paso community. From 2009 to 2012, ridership increased 21 percent on Sun Metro, increasing ridership to more than 17 million. Growth is expected to continue.

    Success stories such as Sun Metro demonstrate First Transit’s commitment to our customers. The people and the planning we offer involve far more than putting the bus in drive. First Transit is about the communities we serve; the safety of the people we transport; those with whom we share the roads; and, the services we offer at the heart of what we do. We are truly about providing solutions for an increasingly congested world, keeping people moving and communities prospering.

    Continual upgrades to the fleet and the system as a whole are sure to keep Sun Metro shining brightly well into the future.

  • "Most Wanted" List of Transit and Vehicle Improvements 2014

    by Ashley Mcnamara | May 21, 2014

    By Thomas J. Harris, Vice President, Safety and Human Resources, First Transit and First Vehicle Services; and Dale Domish, Sr. Vice President, First Vehicle Services

    (Editor’s Note: Welcome to the debut of Speaking of First, the joint entry into the blogosphere from First Transit and First Vehicle Services. As this is our first Speaking of First, we want you to hear from senior leadership within both companies.

    Speaking of First promises to provide readers with a steady flow of news and expert comments about the transit bus industry and vehicle fleets. Readers can count on the delivery of valuable insights on a wide range of safety, maintenance, technology, policy and entrepreneurship issues.)

    Most transportation professionals are familiar with the popular “Most Wanted” list that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) publishes at the beginning of each year. Imitation being the highest form of flattery, it’s fitting to launch Speaking of First  with a slightly narrower, perhaps more achievable variation on the NTSB list – a list of the half-dozen most wanted transit and vehicle improvements in 2014.

    Rebuilt roadways

    Let’s start with the big picture. The view from 30,000 feet is disappointing. It shows that U.S. roads and bridges carrying passengers and freight are crumbling. According to federal government data, 49 percent of the highway miles traveled in America are on roads that are in less than "good" condition, and 18 percent are on roads in less than "acceptable" condition. In addition, more than 21 percent of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

    For the sake of safety, the economy and vehicle wear and tear, Washington lawmakers should act this year on a long-term plan to fund and rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure. 

    A one-stop clearinghouse

    In a key safety issue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed to establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for all commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders in the United State. If approved, regulations would require businesses to utilize the clearinghouse when screening new hires and for an annual review of current drivers. The creation of a single federal repository is a vast improvement to the current process, as it nearly eliminates the possibility of hiring drivers with drug and alcohol related infractions on their records. After reviewing public comments that have come in during the past few months, the FMCSA should act expeditiously to turn the proposal into a reality.

    Increased fuel economy

    In February of this year, President Obama ordered the development of tough new fuel standards by 2015 for medium and heavy-duty vehicle. The new standards will affect 2018 model vehicles and later. Increased fuel usage is a welcomed improvement, but only if it comes without a reduction in safety. Too often, vehicles are created with lighter materials in order to achieve a higher MPH rating, but sacrificing safety is unacceptable. Also, the cost of the more efficient vehicles can’t be prohibitive.

    Focused drivers

    Distracted driving is the leading cause of automobile crashes. This threatens the safety of all highway travelers. The National Safety Council estimates that drivers distracted by cell phones cause 25 percent of automobile crashes each year. FirstGroup led the industry in 2008 when it issued a company-wide policy prohibiting all employees or contractors on company business from using a mobile device, either hand-held or hands-free, while driving. First Group supports efforts to put distracted driving on par in 2014 with national campaigns to fight drunk driving and to encourage use of seat belts.


    If the question is: Where is the transportation industry heading in 2014, one of the most exciting answers is – outsourcing. Transit authorities and fleet owners are looking to outsource service as a way of saving money, capturing efficiencies and improving safety. In the case of transit authorities, the revenue streams they count on are declining, but interest in bus service is growing. Look for outsourcing momentum to build to a tipping point this year, driven by economic, technological and environmental concerns.

    A smaller footprint

    Businesses should strive to reduce their environmental footprint. Transportation industry stakeholders have the opportunity to reduce fuel consumption through the use of better-managed driving styles, lower speeds, and maintaining tire pressure and other mechanical systems. Transit companies and fleet owners can do their part by recycling parts, doing a better job of tracking waste and developing better waste management processes.

    A smaller carbon footprint would be a major step in the right direction for 2014.