Norman, OK - The Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA) annual spring conference was held May 23-25 in Norman. OK. Meeting highlights included several prominent speakers, including Oklahoma Transportation Secretary, Timothy Gatz, remarks by OK State Delegate, Nicole Miller, and a city welcome by Norman Mayor, Breea Clark. The three-day event also included several breakout sessions and a transit tradeshow and was attended by public transit leaders from around the state.
The OTA also held the annual 2022 Transit Awards of Excellence that recognizes leaders and advocates in the transit community for their outstanding work in the past year. The 2022 awards featured the following categories: Transit Professional of the Year, Innovation Award, Safety & Training Award, Supplier of the Year, Major Ed Pulido Transit Hero of the Year Award, Transit Champion of the Year Award, and Transit System of the Year.
2022 Oklahoma Transit Association Awards of Excellence Winners included:
Transit Professional of the Year - Martin Hernandez, Transportation Director of The City of Guymon – The Ride won the Transit Professional of the Year award is given to a member of the transit community who demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities, actively collaborates with other public transportation services, and helps the community actively accomplish its goals. Hernandez has been the Transportation Director of The Ride for seven years and has been voted ‘Best City Employee’ by the public four times. He provides bus route training to all new employees and teaches safety classes for proper bus lift usage for disabled clients. Outside of work, Hernandez serves on the Board of Directors for both the Panhandle Counseling and Heath Center and “Pink Heals”, a non-profit that helps individuals fight cancer.
Innovation Award - the CLIMB - Ride Program pairs mobility and social service for the child welfare system and is designed to reunify families through the Department of Human Services Child Welfare by removing transportation as a barrier. It also provides families in the foster care system with comprehensive transportation options, including transportation training, incentives and post-program support, as participants work to complete their court-ordered services. The program is administrated by Marilyn Dillion, Phd. of Embark.
Safety & Training Award - Rebecca Tahchawwickah, Comanche Nation Transit Safety won the Safety & Training Award recognizing transit organizations for their commitment to improving the safety and security of transit employees, customers, and communities through application of effective safety initiatives. Tahchawwickah worked her way up from a dispatcher to become the wave of change that played a key role in making Comanche Nation Transit the safe system it is today. As Safety Coordinator, Tahchawwickah created Asset Organization and Data Collection Systems that led to overall improvement of service as well as a safety reporting tool empowering employees to express concerns or safety issues.
Supplier of the Year - Brent Roy, Creative Bus Sales is a bus sales professional with Creative Bus Sales specializing in the sale and support of custom vehicles for public transit agencies throughout the Southwest for transits of all sizes. An expert in bus technical specifications and regulations, Brent is an advocate for public transit agencies with multiple bus manufacturers. A strong supporter of the Oklahoma Transit Association, Brent has previously served on the board of directors and has been a longtime member and sponsor.
Major Ed Pulido Transit Hero of the Year was awarded to three Embark Transit Drivers, Laura Figueroa, Palomar Family Justice Project Shuttle Driver, Kirk Rayner, Embark Bus Operator, and Nicole Cavicante, Embark Route Supervisor were chosen for their heroic efforts to stop a human trafficking incident on a city bus, and they have continued to raise awareness about human trafficking and public safety in their transit and communities, as well as, showed significant commitment and awareness about their passengers wellbeing.
Transit Champion of the Year- The Honorable Mayor Breea Clark, City of Norman, won the Keith Leftwich Transit Champion of the Year Award. The Keith Leftwich Transit Champion of the Year Award is given to an excellent community member who demonstrated a vested interest in the transit community through public service, volunteerism, or community engagement. Within the past year Mayor Clark passed a public transit sales tax, spearheaded the ‘Ready for 100’ initiative, served as a proponent for the Regional Transportation Authority, and was selected for the Bloomberg Harvard leadership program.
Transit System of the Year - All Oklahoma Transit Agencies were awarded this honor for 2022. Each year, this award is given to honor the Oklahoma transit agency that has demonstrated outstanding service that implements innovative concepts, effective problem-solving techniques, or promotes a positive image of transit in the community. Throughout Covid, each agency continued to serve vulnerable community members while following and adapting to federal guidelines. Agencies also worked collaboratively to help secure additional funding for the OK Transit Revolving Fund.
“We are so pleased to recognize these outstanding transit leaders and supporters for their commitment to supporting public transit. The goal of the OTA is to continue to make transit systems in Oklahoma some of the best in the nation and these award winners exemplify what it takes every day to make this happen. In 2021, Oklahoma Transit agencies gave over 10 million rides to Oklahomans who needed to get to work, shopping, medical appointments and more. With the vision of these outstanding leaders heling move public transit forward, we hope to increase our ridership and routes in 2022 and beyond,” said Andrea Ball, Executive Director of OTA.
For more about the efforts of OTA to increase access and further improve public transportation in the state of Oklahoma, visit www.oktransit.org .
Founded in 1983, the Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA) is the state’s voice for public transit. OTA’s membership is comprised of the 37 urban, small urban, suburban, rural, and tribal transit agencies in the state who share the common priority of providing and improving mobility and access for all Oklahomans. Industry-related vendors who share that vision also belong to OTA through its Associate Member Program. OTA’s mission is to support public transit through advocacy, education, communication, and partnerships. The organization’s vision is to be distinguished as a leader in the public transit industry by facilitating the enhancement of mobility and access for all Oklahomans.