At any given moment there are 300-400 buses and 13 or more rail cars in the field for Greater Cleveland RTA and hundreds of operators serving thousands of riders in sprawling Cuyahoga County.
Things can happen out there, and when they do the first call often goes to the Integrated Communications Center (ICC) at the Main Office in downtown Cleveland.
“We’re the first ones our operators call when they have a problem,” Tony Richardson, the Acting Director of Service Quality, tells us.
Service Quality is based in the ICC. Once the trains are out on the rails and the buses are out on the streets it is the responsibility of Service Quality and the ICC to ensure that they are running safely and on time.
Service Quality has approximately 65 employees with 27 of them based in the ICC downtown and the rest located at Main Rail Facility, Central Bus Facility, and in the field throughout the county.
“Our first concern is always the safety of our operators and riders,” Tony says. “After that, it’s about resolving the issue so our services remain on schedule.”
Bus Coordinators answer any calls from bus operators on the road. Operators can call in with a variety of questions or issues but some common examples include:
• A bus that needs to be immediately rerouted due to a sudden road closure.
• A request for a Mobile Repair Truck to respond on-location for a broken down bus.
• Sending Transit Police to any incidents, such as medical emergencies or accidents.
After coordinating a response to problems like these, the ICC must quickly work to restore service and prevent further delays. Sometimes this requires the use of a “pocket coach,” or replacement bus. These are strategically located around the region and are capable of being placed into service on short notice if a bus breaks down.
Kim Jackson has been a bus coordinator in the ICC for over 10 years and says it has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
“I truly love my job,” she says. “I have the opportunity to help our frontline workers and help our community.”
Last year, the ICC assisted in a Safe Place incident that resulted in a lost 87-year-old woman being safely reunited with her daughter. More recently, ICC assisted a GCRTA operator who witnessed a motor vehicle accident and rendered aid.
It’s not just bus operators that call into the ICC. Rail operators, too, call in with any issues or questions they have in the field.
“We offer our rail car operators the same support we offer our bus operators,” Ricardo, a Rail Control Supervisor, says. “We keep the trains moving safely and on-time.”
The ICC has the ability to track in real-time the location of any rail cars in service. This allows the ICC to monitor any potential issues on the rails -- such as trains arriving late to a station -- and work quickly to correct the problem.
Another big component of a Rail Control Center Supervisor’s job is ensuring regulations are followed. Rail transportation is regulated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
“You have to know their regulations,” Ricardo Wiggins says. “Things like distance between rail cars, track conditions, those are all things operators rely on us to monitor.”
In addition to monitoring rail cars the ICC also controls the electricity that powers the cars. This is done in Central Communications, or CenCom. This is crucial to rail operations as any track work requires CenCom to cut power in order to ensure the safety of workers. CenCom Specialists also answer phone calls that come into ICC from non-operators - inlcuding dispatching calls to other departments for repairs such as Electronic Repair and Facilities Maintenance.
It’s all challenging work, but fulfilling.
Mark Rodriguez has been Office Manager in the ICC for four years.
“It’s high energy. Always something different; it keeps you on your toes,” he says.
Service Quality currently has several open positions they are looking to fill.
“If you love a challenge, you’re an effective communicator, and you can multitask you will thrive in an environment like the ICC,” he says. “It’s a great group of people here, and it’s a really unique and dynamic office.”
For a list of openings with Service Quality in the ICC visit RideRTA.com/careers.