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SEPTA Hosts 34th Annual PPTA Roadeo & Summer Meeting

By John Golden
Public Information Manager

History and transit intersected last month as SEPTA, a first-time host, welcomed nearly 170 attendees, representing 25 transit agencies and 19 counties, for the 2018 Pennsylvania Public Transportation Summer Meeting and Roadeo.

Drivers and other transportation professionals, along with their guests, attended the three-day event, held from July 20 to July 23 in Philadelphia. They attended meetings and events designed to educate and connect transportation advocates and stakeholders.

"SEPTA is proud to be a member of Pennsylvania Public Transit Association and a first-time host to this spectacular event. We salute the PPTA Board, membership and staff for all they do to support the mission and the goals of the organization and our industry," said SEPTA General Manager, Jeff Knueppel.

The weekend-long event was jam-packed with activities and learning opportunities including driver assistance and securement training, practical assessments, as well as, a private, behind-the-scenes tour of Historic Philadelphia. A special dinner was held at Independence Visitor Center, which included a game of bocce.

But the "mane" event was the Bus Roadeo-now in its 34th year. Held at SEPTA's Cornwells Heights Station in Bensalem, Bucks County, Pennsylvania's best bus and paratransit drivers ponied up to their vehicles and vied for monetary prizes and bragging rights.

Drivers from 14 different agencies competed in the two main categories of fixed route and paratransit. First-place winner was SEPTA's own venerable Zenon John Rinylo from Southern District. Second place went to another SEPTA all-star-Victor Tarver from Callowhill District, followed by Amtran's Joe Beach, from Altoona, in third place. For paratransit drivers, first-place went to Sean Tompkins from County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS), followed by second-place winner Andy Kirka of Blue Bell, Pa.-based TransNet/Valley Transit, and rounding out third place was Denise Babbitt from Easton Coach Company (Norristown Division).

All winners received plaques and cash prizes, with first-place winners receiving $500, second-place with $250, and third place winners took home $100.

Twenty-two operators were critiqued by 42 judges for a possible perfect score of 700 in the following six categories:

Time-the drivers have seven to 10 minutes to complete the course and start losing 10 points for every second over seven minutes.

Obstacles: There are 11 obstacles on the course and drivers are judged on right-hand reverse; left-hand reverse; stopping distance; serpentine; diminishing clearance (V-shaped channel lined with barrels while maintaining a minimum speed of 20 MPH); and others.

Safety Habits: proper use of turn signals; sounding horn before backing up; use of flashers while backing up; proper use of mirrors, etc.

Smoothness of Operation: Smooth braking, acceleration and turns; ADA announcements, etc.

Personal Appearance: The operator is well-groomed and dressed in a professional manner with full regulation uniform, cleaned and pressed.

Pre-trip Inspection: Mirror checks; tire and wheel inspection; safety defects identified (Eight equipment-related defects and one security hazard are planted on or in a bus.)

"As chairman of PPTA, I'm proud of the men and women who competed in the Roadeo. Pennsylvania has strong public transportation infrastructure and our vehicle operators safely transport over one million riders every day," said Tim Geibel, general manager, Crawford Area Transportation Authority and Venango County Transit. "SEPTA was a great host and facilitated a successful conference for our association," he added.

Special guests of the Roadeo included PennDOT's secretary of transportation, Leslie Richards and Pennsylvania's deputy secretary for multimodal transportation, Jennie Granger. Richards got in on the action when she, with guidance from SEPTA's chief surface transportation officer, Mike Liberi, drove a 40-foot New Flyer Excelsior hybrid bus around the course.

Stay tuned for information about the 2019 PPTA Roadeo and Summer Meeting, which will be held in Williamsport, August 2-5, 2019.

Congratulations to all of the winners and participants. And a special thank you to all the volunteers and coordinators that helped make this weekend a wheel-ality.

Winners of the 2018 Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association 34th Annual Bus Roadeo are flanked by SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel and PPTA Chairman Tim Geibel.

PPTA Conference attendees gather for a group photo after a special tour of Congress Hall in Philadelphia's Historic District.

PA Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards sits behind the wheel of a SEPTA New Flyer hybrid bus with Chief Surface Transportation Officer Mike Liberi.

SEPTA PPTA registration volunteers from left: Ebony Edwards; Kenyon Benson; Deborah Robinson-Bennett; Pam Sarne-McCormack; Rochelle Culbreath; Joe Connolly; Charlene Lewis; and Dave Tuturice.

Control Center Deputy Chief, Aleta Evans, explains to conference attendees how SEPTA monitors all of its different modes of transportation.