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Public Transit Puts Out Welcome Mat for Vets

Dozens of public transit systems nationwide marked Veterans Day by conducting career fairs to recruit and hire service members, offering free rides to veterans, holding special events, and recognizing their current employees who are former service members. “We are proud of our country’s veterans and the contributions they gave to our nation and are now giving in the public transportation industry,” said APTA President & CEO Michael ­Melaniphy. “Public transportation offers a great career path for veterans looking for civilian jobs that will use their military skills.” A round-up of a few activities follows.

Putting Vets to Work
Following her 11-year stint in the U.S. Navy’s Seabees, Denver native Dawn Kantrud signed up for the Workforce Initiative Now program (WIN), the career development and training program founded in 2011 by Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and other partners to prepare workers for careers at RTD and other transportation and construction firms.

The program was devised by RTD General Manager and CEO Phil Washington, APTA chair, who served in the U.S. Army before retiring after 24 years as a command sergeant major. “We are proud of WIN and the program’s efforts to put veterans and others to work,” he said. “With so many troops returning home, it benefits all of us to lend the support they need and to thank them for the sacrifices they have made by serving our nation in times of need.”

WIN is currently training 398 participants, including 30 veterans. More than 15 percent of RTD bus operators and mechanics are veterans and in the last 20 months, 20 percent of new hires have been veterans. Kantrud is employed by Denver-based Triunity Engineering & Management.

In related news, Washington participated in a post-Veterans Day roundtable at the Pentagon specifically focused on strengthening hiring practices for former service members.

Honoring Employees
Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Director Greg Winterbottom and CEO Darrell Johnson present OCTA coach operator and military veteran Hector Edeza with a pin recognizing his service in the military and with the agency during a special ceremony honoring veterans employed at the agency. A color guard from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at nearby Camp Pendleton presented colors during the ceremony. OCTA employs 115 veterans—nearly 10 percent of its workforce—and it has been recognized by military organizations as a military-friendly employer. “Our veterans bring strong experience, dedication, and values that make them such an important part of the OCTA family. We are proud to take some time on Veterans Day to say thank you for your service,” said Johnson.

Contracting Opportunities; Building Connections
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) recently announced two new programs to support veterans.

The agency’s Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise (DVBE) program expands contracting opportunities for disabled veterans and establishes a 3 percent contracting goal for all non-federally funded competitively negotiated contracts for construction, goods, or services over $100,000.

“One of the most important things we can do for our veterans is make sure they have employment opportunities when they return home, and Metro’s new DVBE Program will boost veteran hiring in California,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. Metro board chair and Navy reservist. LA Metro also is working with veterans’ advocates to identify disabled veteran-owned businesses qualified for the program.

The agency also developed, a website that helps veterans find transportation services that connect them to work, education, healthcare, and other services. The agency developed the site with FTA and the Los Angeles County Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies (LA SAFE) through the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) federal program.

Valuing Vets on Staff
VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio presented its veteran employees with a pin to commemorate their military service—a group that represents nearly 25 percent of the agency’s total workforce.

“One of the things that makes this country great is the willingness of our citizens to serve in the military,” said VIA President/CEO Jeffery Arndt. “We are proud to support veterans in our ranks, and we see the worth in hiring people who have been in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. The discipline and integrity they learn while in the service carries over into their careers here, making them valued members of our workforce.”

Partnering with the VA
Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsyl­vania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) marked Veterans Day by announcing a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that will help veterans find jobs at the agency.

Approximately 10 percent of SEPTA’s new hires for 2014 have been veterans, an increase from about 8 percent in 2013.
In addition to the new partnership, SEPTA works with several area non-profit organizations to connect veterans with jobs, it actively recruits former service members at job fairs and other events, and the agency is registered on the VA Job Bank.

Showing the Flag
Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) Customer Service Representative Anthony Gonzalez, a U.S. Army veteran, assists fellow veteran customer Dennis Driscoll. “You guys really made my day,” Driscoll said. In addition, employees of the Lansing, MI, agency wore flag lapel pins to salute veterans. “The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1039, which represents approximately 250 CATA operators and maintenance employees, suggested we recognize the many sacrifices veterans make to ensure our country’s freedom. This is our peaceful demonstration to express our support and gratitude for service members everywhere,” said Sandy Draggoo, CATA CEO/executive director.

Laying a Wreath
Amy O’Campo, a data technician with the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) in San Carlos, CA, was invited to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery, a special invitation that included a visit to the White House for breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden.

O’Campo’s invitation recognizes her work as president of the San Mateo County Blue Star Moms and a vice president of the national organization, a volunteer group that provides care packages for active troops and assistance to veterans, including those in VA hospitals. O’Campo’s volunteer work was inspired by her son’s military service.

Recruiting Vets
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), Tampa, FL, participated in a local initiative to hire veterans for its workforce, of which about 15 percent are veterans.

“HART and its employees salute our nation’s veterans and thank them for their service,” said Katharine Eagan, chief executive officer. “We are recognizing the veterans within HART who have served across various branches of the armed forces and who work diligently to execute the agency’s mission.”
The agency also recognized several veterans on staff and offered free rides to all military personnel on Veterans Day.

At a special event preceding its November board meeting, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA, unveiled a special full-wrap bus—designed in-house by RTD employees—to honor veterans and it kicked-off the RTD Patriot Pass Program, which offers free 31-day bus passes to residents who are veterans or active service members. Speakers included Michael Restuccia, chair, RTD Board of Directors, and Donna DeMartino, general manager and chief executive officer.
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