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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis February 10, 2012
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Mary Ann Collier

Director of Operations
Swayzer Engineering Inc.
Chair, APTA Human Resources Committee

One of the results of technology is that it’s raised the level of expertise and talent we need in our employees.

When you think about it, it used to be that bus operators only had to be able to drive a bus, but now—with such features as smart cards and farebox collection and more, all pretty much technology-based—we need to make sure the people we recruit either have or are capable of learning new skills.

That raises the bar, in my opinion. It’s not a circumstance of young vs. old—I have some senior people who are as technologically astute as the younger ones (but I do think the younger generation comes with those skills)—but it is about being flexible, with a willingness to learn.

The core of our business is providing real-time communication about scheduling, incidents, delays—and we need to continue to enhance that.

These days, people can load their smart cards and pay for transit-related parking without having to go to multiple places or use different payment methods. That’s important because it makes it seamless, which in turn makes it more customer- and service-friendly.

In workforce development we talk much more about using social media to attract younger people to our industry—to advertise, to communicate what our career options are, to talk about sustainability, going green—all those kinds of marketing issues that young people are interested in. That’s one of the resources we’re using because, if we just put it in newsprint, they won’t see it.

Social media is also an excellent tool for marketing key issues in public transportation, including legislative ones. It’s so important to keep our public engaged, aware of the ability to use transit, which means supporting our ballot initiatives.

Focusing on the flip side of social media—how we gain information rather than putting information out—one example is that we frequently use Facebook to obtain a broader reference of an applicant, before we even arrive at the interviewing process.

Another use of technology is in interviewing someone from out of town and gaining information you wouldn’t have through just a telephone conversation. In my previous position, we conducted an on-screen interview where the applicant was clearly aware that we could see and hear him. And yet, through his non-verbal communication we saw such things as non-positive facial expressions and body movements that indicated discomfort, which helped us make a decision about who would make a better candidate!

Yet one more use of technology—in these economic times where a lot of travel budgets have been cut—we hold Go To meetings or present webinars. With the ability to see speakers and post questions, it’s like you’re there on site.

Technology, no question, has been and continues to be a tremendous asset across the board.

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