By Matt Wilson, @WilsonSTComms
Picture-perfect weather greeted the nearly 500 people who came to SamTrans’ South San Francisco maintenance facility on April 8 to cheer on more than 30 bus operators and maintenance employees who competed for a chance to represent SamTrans at an international roadeo in Tampa, Florida in May.
Ariel Hale took first place in the bus operator category. Hale outperformed his peers on the road course, which consisted of 11 challenges focused on piloting a bus with extreme precision. This is the second SamTrans Roadeo where Hale has come away with the top score.
Hale and his colleagues piloted a SamTrans bus around obstacles like cones, backed into tight spaces by using unbelievably tight turns, and maneuvered massive wheels between closely placed tennis balls. As someone who can barely maneuver his dinky Ford Escort into his parking spot at home, I was routinely impressed by the skill of each driver I was lucky enough to watch.
In the bus mechanic competition, the team of Juan “Jonny” Villanueva, Anthony Singh, Gursimran “Sim” Bendi brought home the top score. David Olmeda, Chief Operating Officer of Bus Administration, noted that the team consisted of employees who have only been with SamTrans for a couple years.
“They are so proud and so happy to be here participating. They just want everyone to know that there is a new kid on the block and that they are going to set the standard,” Olmeda said during the award ceremony.
The winners will go to Florida to compete in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) International Bus Roadeo.
The competition also saw instructors, maintenance employees and a few special guests compete behind the wheel in the road course. SamTrans Board Members Charles Stone, Peter Ratto and Zoe Kersteen-Tucker took a trip‑albeit very slowly and gingerly‑through the course. District Deputy General Manager/CEO Carter Mau tried his hand at it as well. Former longtime District employee, Mark Simon, returned as a road course announcer.
Event judges volunteered from within SamTrans and from other local organizations and transit agencies like Golden Gate Transit.
Ratto, who also served as an event judge, made mention after the event about how impressed he was with the skill and precision of the employees , and noted that seeing the driver’s and maintenance workers in action gives him a greater appreciation of what they do.
Kersteen-Tucker made mention of the difficulty of piloting a bus as a novice.
“You gotta have a lot of precision and your eyes have to be going 360 (degrees) all the time. I have so much respect for what the drivers do through the whole operation,” she said.
A Roadeo was not held in 2017, so plenty of SamTrans employees and their families got to experience the event for the first time.
“Being that this was my first Roadeo as a
member of the SamTrans team, I thought it was well coordinated, and offered the District’s employees an additional opportunity to shine, while allowing for their families to have a better understanding of how they contribute to making our service its best,” said David
Harbour, Deputy Director of Bus Maintenance. “My thanks to the Bus Maintenance and Training staff for stepping up for supporting the event, and my congratulations to all of the Maintenance Teams and Operators that made the day such a great experience. I truly look forward to next year. “
Families and friends in attendance were entertained with music, carnival games, a raffle, a catered barbecue lunch, airbrush face painting, and the chance to climb inside some vintage buses from the Pacific Bus Museum.
Check out the highlights in this short video on YouTube.
Internal communications specialist, Elaine Tran, contributed to this report.