Transit junkie boards IndyGo: New VP of operations hails from Columbus, Ohio’s bigger bus line

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Milwaukee native Trevor Ocock figures his interest in transit dates to age 3. At least that’s what his mother tells him.

But the transit bug overtook him at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, as he was earning a degree in business administration and human resources management. Soon, he was washing buses for Ohio State University’s transit line. Later, he drove an OSU bus-met lots of ladies that way-and eventually became its operations manager.

“I have always liked to be around transit,” said Ocock, 32, who has two display cases of toy buses behind his desk at Indianapolis Public Transportation Corp. IndyGo’s new vice president and chief operating officer just finished nine years at Central Ohio Transit Authority.

So what’s a transit nut doing taking a job in Indianapolis? After all, the nation’s 12thlargest city ranks a measly 76th in the size of its bus fleet. Even Columbus-No. 75 in fleet size-carries 15 million passengers a year versus Indianapolis’ 9 million.

“I’ve actually had my eye on this system for quite some time.”

One reason, Ocock figures, is that IndyGo has lots of potential to improve and grow riders, despite relatively thin funding.

Central Ohio Transit actually has a bigger share of funding, boosted by a 10-year, 0.25-percent sales tax levy recently approved by voters there.

But if Indianapolis had the cash, it could grow, because “there is more demand than there is supply” of routes, he said. IndyGo cut a number of routes three years ago amid a budget crisis.

“We have people looking for service, but we’re not able to meet their needs,” said Michael Terry, vice president of business development at IndyGo.

But the system is eyeing service expansion, including routes outside Marion County. Thanks to a federal grant, it plans to launch express bus service from downtown to Fishers this summer.

Rising gas prices can’t hurt, either. The cost of fuel is likely a big part of the 4.3-percent increase in IndyGo ridership last year.

IndyGo might get an additional $1 million in funding this year, thanks to transportation funding improvements by the Legislature. That’s not bad considering operating revenue, primarily from passenger fares, is around $8 million. Of course, taxpayers fork over more than $40 million, through Indy-Go’s take of such things as property and excise taxes, for the capital-intensive fleet of 232 vehicles.

Part of Ocock’s responsibilities will be to make that system more efficient. One of his managers is looking at extending oil changes to 10,000 miles from 6,000 miles, through the use of an oil additive.

The 70-person maintenance operation, with 8-1/2 acres under roof on the site of the former Duesenberg car factory just west of downtown, has everything from its own body shop to a new mechanical car intended to reduce labor costs.

Ocock, who describes himself as a “very process-driven person,” said he is still evaluating cost-per-mile of the fleet. By his 10th day on the job, he discovered some overlap in record keeping that could be consolidated. He said an intense review of Columbus’ operations saved $2.6 million.

“We looked at everything top to bottom,” he said.

Improving customer service is the other big goal. Ocock plans to jump aboard a bus every week to talk to customers about what the bus line could do to improve service. Many of the improvements don’t cost anything, such as making sure drivers do a better job of calling out the stops and being more courteous.

At the same time, he wants to get a better feel for drivers’ concerns. The former bus driver said people don’t appreciate the challenge of driving a 40-foot-long, 102-inch-wide bus in city traffic and constantly dealing with traffic headaches and meeting customer needs, eight or nine hours a day.

One area IndyGo especially wants Ocock to examine is flexible services, which includes the Open Door fleet that carries those with disabilities.

“We think there is a lot of room for improvement there,” said Jennifer Simmons, chairwoman of IPTC’s board.

Ocock’s position of VP and COO is new–merging responsibilities for maintenance and fixed and flexible service under one executive. The realignment follows the departure last year of Bruce Behncke, senior vice president of operations and service development.

Ocock, whose salary is $95,000, is likely to be helpful to IndyGo as a number of new technology investments are rolled out over the next year or so. One, which Columbus already has, is automated vehicle location. Not only will dispatchers know better where buses are, but the data can be relayed back to shelters to alert riders of the estimated time of arrival.

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