Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Robert Avant is a man of many talents: artist, writer, musician, coach operator, coach operator instructor and relief dispatcher. But with our BRT launch last April, he claimed a new title for himself as the “Maestro” of sbX.
One look at the sbX dispatch monitor, and it’s easy to understand the musical reference. A symphony of 60-foot coaches moves in sequence along the route, carefully guided by the dispatcher to ensure proper rhythm and flow. If the vehicles start to bunch in one area or a gap begins to separate them, the dispatcher must coordinate their movements to bring them back into balance.
“sbX is based on frequency rather than on time points, and there are many factors that come into play to affect the system,” points out Robert. “Traffic patterns and passenger load can change the timing of a vehicle. A coach operator who is transporting two wheelchair passengers, for example, will need extra time for loading and unloading. Traffic backed up at an intersection or unexpected detours can also cause delays. Every day is something different, but that keeps it interesting.”
Robert’s skills were put to the test during the initial launch of the sbX BRT service, when the system faced several unexpected challenges. The Traffic Signal Prioritization (TSP) system did not work as expected, delaying many articulated coaches along the corridor. In addition, not all Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were functioning correctly. This caused coaches not to appear, or appear inaccurately, on the dispatcher’s corridor map monitor.
This made Robert’s job as sbX dispatcher incredibly difficult. He maintained clear communication with coach operators, field supervisors, management and other departments to keep them apprised of the issues. He worked as best he could with dispatch’s GPS tracking system and radio to locate and track each coach along the corridor. When he identified a delay or coach bunching, he quickly coordinated with Operators to put them back on time to meet the riding public’s expectations.
Robert also helped create a monitoring system within a detailed sbX Dispatch Daily roster form to track and maintain service reliability and to ensure that shift exchanges and meal breaks occurred as expected. Once the system was up and running, Robert quickly and effectively cross-trained other dispatchers on these sbX dispatching procedures, broadening the department’s flexibility and reliability in coverage and increasing efficiency when dealing with unplanned absences, illnesses or emergencies.
“Before this system was put into place, we were trying to track information on seven different forms,” explains Robert. “There was no centralized resource for information. Now everything is recorded in one place so we can quickly see what needs to happen and what availability is at any given time.”
“Robert played an important role in jump starting the sbX system when it went live in April,” says Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera. “His contributions and problem-solving abilities helped ensure that the sbX service we provide is the sbX service that was advertised. We are so proud to honor him as Employee of the Quarter.”
Although he loves the variety and demands of dispatch, Robert also enjoys the personal connections he makes as a coach operator instructor. “I like helping people build their confidence and develop their skills. I try to create an atmosphere of trust where they feel comfortable learning. My policy is what happens on the bus during training stays on the bus. I’m not going to yell at anyone or later tell a supervisor that they asked a stupid question. There are no stupid questions.”
Creativity and spirituality are a huge part of Robert’s life. In his private time, he sketches portraits and paints still-life scenes. He’s also working on a self-help book, “Becoming The Best You.”
“I believe any challenge can be overcome,” says Robert. “It just takes dedication, discipline and the desire to succeed.”
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