June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

LTD names Transit Ambassador Thom Locke employee of the month

10 min read
Thom Locke: "I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the incredible opportunity to be part of this testing and success of the LTD ambassador program...The impact of our collective efforts goes beyond mere guidance. It extends to providing a comforting presence for riders who might feel uncertain or maybe vulnerable."

For the first time ever, an LTD transit ambassador is named employee of the month. At the special meeting Dec. 13:

John Ahlen: Later today, you’re going to hear from our December employee of the month for his work on the ambassador program. Very proud of the work we’ve been doing…

[00:00:15] We’ve joined many other transit agencies along the West Coast in beginning a transit ambassador program. What this is doing is, it’s helping with the perception of safety. So, riding public transit is very safe. However, there’s legitimate concerns, and if you spent any amount of time downtown, you’ve probably noticed that the tone and nature of our community and not just here, but throughout our country has begun to shift and change.

[00:00:43] We can show that statistically. The amount of specialized behavioral health transportation that we’ve been doing has seen a huge spike over the last couple of years.

[00:00:53] So we need to make sure that people feel safe riding public transit. One of the ways we’ve attempted to begin to address that is through our transit ambassador program. We’ve typically up to this point drawn upon a pool of light-duty operators to be able to assist us in this way. These are folks who due to a injury or for whatever reason, aren’t able to operate a bus, but still want to be involved in the workforce and be able to do whatever they can to be able to help.

[00:01:19] And that’s been part of the culture at Lane Transit. So, we all just do what we can to be able to support our community, and this is one way that we can utilize our pool of light-duty operators to be able to continue to assist our riders in their times of need.

So, some examples of that: During heat waves in the summer, we had transit ambassadors handing out bottles of water. In the wintertime, we have folks handing out handwarmers, ponchos for people that are getting drenched in the rain, even pairs of socks. We see people walking around barefoot, both trying to get on our system and just navigate to where they need to go. Countless bottles of hand sanitizer.

[00:01:52] We’ve been using ‘Be safe, be seen’ lights. So, nowadays, when folks are traveling when it’s dark out, need to be mindful of traffic, being able to be safe, and we’re giving out lights to be able to help people do that too. So there’s many different types of ways in which our transit ambassadors are able to help the public in this capacity.

[00:02:15] We have folks that are stationed both that are Eugene and Springfield stations and supporting our customer service efforts there as well as out riding the system. So, alongside that challenge for all employees to be able to be out on our system, be visible, be seen, you’ll notice transit ambassadors wearing extremely visible high-vis vests that say, ‘I’m here to help,’ being proactive in talking with our writers and saying, ‘What can I do to help you?’

That could be through trip planning. Hey, what bay does my bus leave out of? What transfer do I need to catch, to get to the grocery store? What do I need to do if I want to take the bus to get to my doctor’s appointment? We’re also helping people just understand how to ride, how to pay fare, how the tap cards work.

[00:02:58] Where do I get one? How much does it cost? Would it be cheaper if I got a month pass? We’re helping people with overall referrals to customer service center:

‘Hey, did you know we have an honored rider program? You’re 65 or over. Did you know that you could ride free on LTD? Let’s get you a card here. I can take you over there and show you how to do. It’s very easy. We’ll be in and out in 10 minutes.’

[00:03:35] General questions, help, things that people may not have ordinarily thought that they may have needed. We’re able to then assist in real time. If there’s an incident on a bus and people that may be riding that the next day feel like it may feel a little bit unnerving to be riding that same route, we can have a visible presence, people with logos on that bus, providing that reassurance: ‘We’re here to help. It’s safe to ride. We’re here alongside you.’ So, in that way, the transit investor program has been incredibly successful. Their primary responsibilities are to provide a welcoming presence, to be a deterrent.

[00:03:56] So, if you’re familiar with the ‘broken windows’ philosophy, they’re assisting in that way to be able to help and answer questions and to be able to observe and report or to ‘See something, say something’ model.

What they are not are public safety officers. They’re not doing fare enforcement. They’re not trespassing anyone off the system. They’re purely here to help to be a positive presence for our community.

[00:04:14] There’s only so much I can say about it, but I wanted to mention in both the public and our ambassadors’ own words, some of the things that have happened on the street. So qualitative examples. So I’m usually not a fan of talking at people, but I felt like I couldn’t do the same justice as the folks that are actually out there doing some of the work on the front line.

[00:04:33] So I just wanted to share a couple of examples that have come through our desk. One says, ‘An ambassador who is fluent in ASL helped a customer who needed interpretation. After learning that the customer had experience regarding passenger safety laws, the ambassador helped the customer send us helpful information. The customer was very pleased with the way LTD banded together as a group to help her navigate the correct path in reaching her goal of seeking passenger safety for the future of Lane Transit.’

[00:04:58] Here’s another. Another ambassador reported that in her time on the job, she had helped families from across the country on the EmX who were in town for track and field events at Hayward Field; assisted a rider with a vision impairment who had gotten on the wrong bus, made sure that they connect with the correct bus; helped regularly with ramp deployment and boarding/deboarding on the EmX since many riders are wearing headphones and don’t think about getting out of the way.

They said, ‘It’s a great pleasure to be in this position and work for such a great outfit that strives to improve and is truly there for the community. It’s been my pleasure representing LTD as an ambassador and being able to assist whenever necessary. For a community, along with my coworkers, all the great feedback I get from our writing with my community reminds me of how lucky I am to be part of the team.’

[00:05:45] Here’s another. An ambassador assisted visitors to Eugene who were here for a conference at the University. He helped them transfer buses, explaining fares and how the system works and providing a Rider’s Digest. The ambassador asked the operator to make sure the customers got off at the stop they needed. I turned them over to the driver and let him know where they were going and he made sure they got off at the stop they needed. They were so happy. They could be from out of town and feel comfortable using our system in just a few minutes. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to be part of the ambassador program.

[00:06:23] One more: We also received a compliment from a customer from Yachats about one of our ambassadors calling him ‘the most amazing ambassador.’

This customer reported that they didn’t just tell her what bus to take so that she could catch a connection to a coastbound bus. Instead, he rode with her on the bus and got her to the exact spot for her connection. This customer went on to say, ‘What a relief for a weary traveler. He was so very kind and your company is so lucky to have a wonderful, kind and considerate employee. Thanks so much for a great experience.’

[00:06:45] One more. Another ambassador stated: ‘My job as an ambassador for LTD over the past week has consisted of over 100 contacts with the general public, ranging from a simple hello to a meaningful conversation, which benefits LTD’s public relations. This position has provided me with a unique opportunity to assist our community with both information and guidance on transit as well as on other types of services and assistance community members rely on.

Among his interactions, they reported contacting public safety to help a customer who felt being harassed, assisting a customer who appeared dehydrated by providing water, helping customers navigate the EmX, and referring customers to other community resources.

[00:07:21] I’m going to be looking forward to sharing more of these examples with you in the future.

[00:07:25] John Q: Later in the meeting, introducing the December employee of the month:

[00:07:29] Jake McCallum: My name is Jake McCallum. I’m the director of Operations and Public Safety here at Lane Transit District, and it’s my pleasure to introduce Thom Locke as your December employee of the month.

[00:07:39] Thom was selected to receive the December employee of the month award. Thom started his career here as a bus operator July of 2015. During his time here at the district, Thom has been nominated multiple times and was previously employee of the month in 2019 (is that right). Thom started as a transit ambassador due to some unforeseen circumstances.

[00:08:05] In his role, Thom has been a transit ambassador on several different routes. So he’s not only doing the transit ambassador thing at the stations, he’s actually going out on routes, riding the buses and able to interact with our customers and our employees on the buses. His coworkers have noted he is super helpful to his fellow operators and all the customers.

[00:08:31] He’s great with kids, elderly, and the unhoused. It doesn’t seem to matter who it is, he gets to know the customer and their story. He shows that he doesn’t do this because it’s a job, he does it because it’s the type of person that Thom is. He’s a great representative for Lane Transit District.

[00:08:52] When asked to comment on Thom’s selection as employee of the month, his supervisor Jeff Hadden said, ‘Thom was nominated to be December’s employee of the month for helping an out-of-town traveler with a tight time frame get to Amtrak bus at Knight Law School so they could make it home that night. Thom took the time to not only start work early to assist the traveler, but also got on the bus with her to make sure she got to her destination in time to make her connection.

[00:09:23] ‘Thom is a great ambassador for LTD, and this is only one of the many stories that reflects his excellent customer service and dedication to our community.’

[00:09:34] Real quick, because I know we’re running a little bit late, I’m just going to say a couple more things that we’ve gotten on Thom. ‘So Thom was present as ambassador on my bus on Sunday night. My bus wouldn’t raise lower doors wouldn’t work, had a bunch of issues. Thom came on and carefully helped unload both my passengers with wheelchairs by hand.’

[00:09:56] ‘Thom was riding my bus when he was approached by a regular customer. He was so pleasant and present. I was very impressed by his compassion and his ability. It made me feel very proud to be part of this team.

[00:10:10] ‘Thom was ambassador on my EmX yesterday. Very helpful and friendly to the customers and super helpful to me as I had a lot of accessible service ramp uses that I had to do.’

With Thom, Thom does this every day, day in, day out. Whether he is a bus operator or in his current role as a transit ambassador, he sets the example for others to follow.

[00:10:36] He’s a pleasure to work with. I enjoy working with him. We’ve known each other for quite a while and travel in the same circles. So, Thom, do you have anything you’d like to say in regards to this?

[00:10:48] John Q: LTD employee of the month:

[00:10:51] Thom Locke: Board members, Jameson, Cosette, and Jake (because I know the ambassador program has meant a lot to you guys): Wow. Employee of the month for being an ambassador. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the incredible opportunity to be part of this testing and success of the LTD ambassador program. It’s an enriching experience and I feel privileged for my involvement and contributing to the ongoing success of the ambassador program and the growth of it.

[00:11:27] Being an ambassador has shown me firsthand the importance of this program in fostering the sense of community and support for those that are navigating the unfamiliar territory. The impact of our collective efforts goes beyond mere guidance. It extends to providing a comforting presence for riders who might feel uncertain or maybe vulnerable.

[00:11:56] Being an ambassador has not only allowed me to enhance my skills but also to provide a platform to connect with our riders, our community, and like-minded individuals who share a passion and a hand. Your support throughout this journey is invaluable, and I am truly thankful for the trust that you have all placed in me.

[00:12:21] I look forward to continuing my involvement and contributing further to the program’s ongoing success. Thank you once again for the opportunity to stay as an ambassador.

[00:12:33] John Q: A report on the transit ambassador program, as one of their own is honored as employee of the month.

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