09/01/14 — Interim director questions routes

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Interim director questions routes

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on September 1, 2014 1:46 PM

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New GATEWAY interim director Alfred Fontana speaks about possible changes to the transit system.

Alfred Fontana attended his first GATEWAY board of directors meeting Thursday after taking the reins as interim director and offered several suggestions for improving the system.

Fontana has been the interim director for slightly more than a week, and discussed with the board what he had been doing his first week on the job.

His first suggestion was the rebranding of GATEWAY, and the board formed a committee to tackle the job.

"All of the board feels the same way in that we need to come up with a new image for GATEWAY," board member and county commissioner Joe Daughtery said.

After a brief discussion, the rebranding committee was formed to include Jerry Grimes and Brent Heath from the GATEWAY board. Vice Chairman Joe Gurley said an offer to be on the committee will be extended to Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. director Julie Metz, county spokesperson Barbara Arntsen and members of the city tourism office.

Fontana said he had reviewed GATEWAY's route map and schedule, and was not satisfied with what he saw.

"After looking at it, it seems that unless you live right at the point where the bus stop is, you would be very confused as to where you were going," Fontana said. "If I were an outsider coming into town and tried taking the bus, I would have a hard time understanding the routes and times. I think we need to do a better job with our route map."

Fontana told the board that he had taken a hands-on approach in familiarizing himself with the bus riding experience, and spent a morning during his first week on the job riding the Berkeley Mall route bus and talking to riders about how they felt about the bus system.

"I was pleased with the ridership I saw on that route," he said. "I spoke with riders and they said they liked the system overall."

But there are still changes that need to be made, he said. One of those changes is in how drivers clock in and are tracked at work.

"Right now, drivers report to work by a punch clock," Fontana said. "To prevent paying more than necessary and get a more accurate time, beginning Monday drivers won't be able to clock in until they receive their manifest, gas card and keys from the dispatcher."

He recommended handling issues with tracking drivers by installing mobile data terminals in each bus. Mobile data terminals consist of tablets loaded with CTS software that track the whereabouts of a driver, as well as requiring them to punch an "arrival" or "departure" button on the tablet screen to automatically and accurately log how long a driver spends at each location.

The drawback to installing this system is that it would remove one job in the GATEWAY system where the person in that position manually enters the driver's self-reported data. But, the board members said, the benefits of the system outweigh the drawbacks.

It would cost $50,000 to install the system and train all employees on how to use it. Fontana recommended paying for the system by applying for it during the next capital grant cycle, which starts on July 1, 2015, or said the company is willing to finance it in monthly payments of several hundred dollars, which would take approximately three years to pay for the software.

The board decided to allow Fontana to move forward with a cost and time analysis of implementing the program, and will discuss this program more at the next meeting.

Fontana also said he recognized a need for firm ridership rules to be posted in each bus, and that he would spend the coming weeks forming those rules and would then bring them before the board for review before implementing them.

Before finishing his director's update, Fontana also told the board that GATEWAY has a grant to purchase two new buses. The grant provides funding to purchase one 25-foot bus, and one 30-foot bus. He took it upon himself to review several different options for new buses in the coming weeks, and recommended to the board that GATEWAY should piggyback off of the state's contract to make the purchases as cost-effective as possible.

Bruce Gates, who was chairman of the GATEWAY board while Lynn Lamberth was director, said he felt Ms. Lamberth resigned because of the direction GATEWAY has gone after the recent turnover of five of seven board members, but said that he "was not willing to get into all of that."

Ms. Lamberth resigned in a one-sentence resignation letter stating that differences with the board prevented her from continuing to fill the director position, despite of a salary increase to $79,000 per year.

Gates said he was "not at liberty to discuss" the details of what issues Ms. Lamberth had with specific board members.

Fontana has signed on to be the interim director of GATEWAY until the end of the year.