Rob Atkinson is one of RTA’s finest Service Quality Inspectors and has been part of the RTA family for almost 18 years. Rob began as a driver at Harvard and then Triskett where he worked his way up to being an ambassador on the trolleys. Rob has a long line of family members who have worked for public transit, so he sure has a lot to live up to. He has family generations long before his time working for RTA and with his initials being “RTA”, you could say he was born into his career!
The line of Atkinsons working in public transportation started in the 1890’s with Rob’s great-great grandfather who drove a horse and buggy in Cleveland. His great-grandfather then worked as a driver on RTA’s original streetcar trolleys, and his grandfather was a bus operator and his uncle a Service Quality Coordinator for over 30 years! That is a lot of history to live up to.
A typical day as a Service Quality Inspector varies from day-to-day, Rob explains. He works hard to ensure safety and satisfaction for every rider that chooses to ride the system. One primary function is to ride with operators, advising them of detours, and provide information to better their routes. Rob said, “The biggest problem I might have at work is when an operator marks off for a day and I’m unaware. So, I planned on riding with the operator that day and was unable to do so since they were off.” Yet, there is plenty of support from his operations team.
One of Rob’s favorite aspects as Service Quality Inspector is simply being able to work outside. Prior to working at RTA, he was unaware how massive the system is and all of the hard work that goes into making sure the company runs smoothly. “It was really informative to see everything that is involved in RTA from buses, to rail, marketing, etc. I really had the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view and greater understanding on how we work together as an organization to provide this service to Cuyahoga County,” Rob described.
Leadership is a critical element of this job, as you need to be able to take charge and assist operators, even when under distress. Customer service skills, thoroughly knowing the system and how RTA operates, learning your position, developing relationships with mechanics, main office, and everyone at RTA are all keys to success in this position, and, really, any position at RTA.
Rob then got into details about how he acquired such skills. He credits on-the-job experience and his wonderful trainers, Mark Rodriguez, Tony Richardson, and Wanda Ware for teaching him how to be the best. He explains how they are a team that gets to bounce ideas off of each other. Service Quality consists of 5 inspectors, 6 supervisors and many coordinators.
Some things that still surprise him to this day are how many people use RTA for different purposes including entertainment, getting to campus or work, and ultimately a way of surviving. Rob plans on spending the rest of his career here at RTA and hopes his young nephew will follow in the Atkinson family footsteps!