Category Archives: Rider Profile

Richard Curtis, Vietnam Vet & Omnitrans Rider

We caught up with Richard Curtis at a bus stop in front of the VA hospital in Loma Linda. He is an Omnitrans regular on Route 2. He rides the bus to his appointments at the Loma Linda VA hospital where he also volunteers as a 2nd Floor Concierge four days a week.

The tall quiet vet talked to us about the three tours he served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam where he was shot down three times. “I was a prisoner of war for about nine months in Cambodia, before I managed to escape. The guys that held us used drugs, and while they were high I managed to gain their confidence. I listened to them talk and learned how to speak Vietnamese. They wanted to just sit out the war and not have any problems. Basically if we didn’t give them problems, they wouldn’t give us any. I guess you could say I caught them slipping and took that opportunity to escape.

There were five of us, but we had to split up when they started looking for us. Three of us walked for three days until we were picked up by the Marines. The other two are still missing in action. Afterwards I was in bad shape. I was suffering from malaria and dysentery. I weighed like 119 pounds. I spent about 4 months in recuperation then flew back to Vietnam.”

“I come to the VA now because have problems with my vision. During the war, a rocket exploded in front of my chopper and it almost popped my eyes out. I was bleeding out my eyes and my nose. But the VA Hospital here gives outstanding care, and I come here often.”

Richard paused for a moment, nodding at a couple of the vets who were disembarking from the bus, then continued.

“To tell you the truth, I’d rather ride Omnitrans than ride a car. I really would. The drivers are always courteous and friendly on this route. There’s two buses that run the route back-to-back so it’s pretty efficient and I can always make my appointments on time. Sometimes I read, sometimes I shoot the bull with the other vets that are on the bus. I like Omnitrans.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Levi Lane, Navy Vet & Omnitrans Rider

Levi Lane served in the Navy on the USS Kitty Hawk as a Culinary Specialist. He’s been an Omnitrans rider for more than a year, and rides the Route 2 to the Veteran’s Center in Loma Linda five days a week, where he attends self-help group meetings. “I’d prefer to drive,” he said frankly, “but I can’t right now. So I bike or take Omnitrans wherever I have to go. It’s good to have the bus to fall back on whenever you need it.”

Levis is looking forward to the new sbX BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) service which is scheduled to begin in early 2014. It will cut his travel time in half, and he believes it will help eliminate bus overcrowding for those traveling the regular fixed route as well. As a cyclist, he’s also excited that the new sbX BRT line has interior bike racks which will make it more convenient to board and disembark. “I can’t wait!” he laughs.

When we spoke to him at the bus stop, Levi talked about how proud he was of his service as a vet, and the opportunity it gave him to help others. It’s a legacy he continues to pay forward today. “Several years ago, I suffered from depression and went to get help,” he said. “I saw there was a big need for people who could offer support, so I stuck around and began volunteering as resource counselor for adults suffering from mental illness and addiction. Helping others actually helped my own depression.”

Bob Sudal, former Mental Health Clinic Supervisor for San Bernardino County, believed in Levi and helped make it possible for him to continue his work. “Bob passed away a few months ago,” said Levi emotionally. “I really miss him. He believed in me. He sent me to school for free to get certified as a family and peer advocate. He helped others too—I wasn’t the only one.”

In 2007, Levi was awarded Honorable Mention for his work as a family and peer advocate by the County of San Bernardino. He is proud to have made a difference in the lives of so many people.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Outreach Center buys bus passes to change lives

“People do not know how a simple bus pass can make a difference at the right time and on the right day,” said Helen Hunt, Director of Missions for Temple Missionary Baptist Church in San Bernardino.

As  Women’s Outreach Director for the Temple Community Outreach Center for more than 20 years, Ms. Helen has seen firsthand how something as basic as a bus pass can mean a life-changing opportunity to a person in need.

It can help a senior citizen get to a doctor appointment so he can receive the help and treatment he needs. It ensures that a single mother can get to parenting classes that will provide her with the support and education to build a good life for her family. It provides a man who has been out of work for months with the means to make it to that all important job interview.

Although that $1.50  bus fare may sound insignificant to most of us, for many of the people served by the Center it’s everything in the world.

“People have come back to us and told us that the bus pass we bought for them made it possible for them to turn their lives around,” Ms. Helen said. “We can’t afford to hand them out to everyone. We use  them only for emergency situations where we know it meets an important need. But we have seen it make a big difference.”

The Temple Community Outreach Center primarily serves people in need within the San Bernardino , but no one is ever turned away. Omnitrans Director of Internal Audit Services, Dr. Samuel Gibbs, has served as a Trustee for the Center for the past four and a half years.

“The services the Center is able to provide for the community are so important,” said Dr. Gibbs. “People come to us for personal counseling, 12-step drug programs, food and clothing. We also have classes on topics like parenting, health, and job preparedness. These critical life skills help people get back on their feet so they can build better lives for themselves and their families. Recently we even held a health fair where we offered health screenings and free flu shots.”

Temple Community Outreach Center is located at 1777 Baseline Road in San Bernardino. For more information about the Center and how you can help, contact Ms. Helen at 909-383-9588.

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Public transit trial gains a new rider for Omnitrans

Being a one-car family when you have to juggle appointments, schools and job can be challenging, but ridesharing can definitely make things a bit easier. Silas Molina, an Eligibility Worker for the County of San Bernardino, lives in Mentone with his wife Anne and their four children. For the past 2 1/2 years he’s been carpooling to the office in the morning with a co-worker, and his family has been picking him up in the afternoon.

When his co-worker went out on vacation a couple of weeks ago, Silas was forced to look for an alternative means of transportation. “It was impossible for my wife to drop me off in the mornings because she had to get the kids to school. My only other option was to take the bus. So I started riding Omnitrans.”

The experience was nothing like what he had expected. “I was intimidated at first,” he admitted. “I expected tons of people and long travel times. But it worked out really well. It takes me exactly one hour to get to work every day, and the bus has always been on time. The trip is pleasant, and I can read, listen to music or even work on my computer.”

In fact, his experience has been so good that Silas has made the decision to continue to use Omnitrans for the ride home once his co-worker returns.

“My wife and I calculated the expense and realized that it cost us $6 a day just for her to pick me up from work,” Silas explained. “And it’s also more convenient for her to be able to stay home with the kids in the afternoon. The bus has been a positive experience for me, and the one-hour ride isn’t bad. I’ll generally listen to NPR or take a short nap. It’s a good way to decompress from work before going home to be with my family. And you can’t beat the savings!”

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Coupon Queen loves saving through Rideshare

While having a car is sometimes more convenient, the expenses involved in gas and upkeep are often overwhelming. As a result, it’s becoming more common for people to opt for public transit over expensive vehicle repairs when their cars have problems.

LaToia Jones, an eligibility worker for the County of San Bernardino, decided to let go of her old Ford Taurus when it broke down two years ago. She’s been ridesharing ever since, relying on a combination of riding the bus and carpooling with co-workers.

“I live out near Tyler Mall in Riverside, so I use both Riverside Transit and Omnitrans to get back and forth to work,” said LaToia. “I love Omnitrans because of the frequency. It generally runs every 15-30 minutes which makes it very easy to get where I need to go quickly.”

But it’s the savings that matters most to this county worker. “Driving the 91 was always ugly during rush hour and took forever,” said LaToia. “It used to cost me $80 to $100 a week in gas when I was driving. Now I pay that in a month. It’s a huge savings.”

Pinching pennies is a passion for this busy mom of two, who is always on the lookout for a great deal. “Couponing is a hobby with me, and I’ve gotten very good at finding free things online for my family and friends. Times are hard for everyone, so every little bit helps. I love saving money!”

Riding Omnitrans has not only been a boon to her budget, it’s also forged unexpected connections with regular passengers and coach operators along her route. One of the drivers shares her love of cooking and occasionally swaps recipes with her. “I told her I’d never had tamales before so she gave me the recipe to try. Once she even surprised me with a plate of cookies she’d baked for me,” LaToia said, smiling. “Things like that mean a lot.”

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Rider overcomes her fear of public transit

In 1988, Renee Compton became disabled due to a stroke and brain tumor that left her wheelchair bound. Unable to drive any longer, she grew increasingly isolated and depressed, seldom leaving her home.

Finally in 2002, she connected with Behavior Health in Rialto, and her world completely changed. “They encouraged me to use my office skills to help others by volunteering with the organization,” said Renee. “So I did. For the past ten years I’ve been teaching word processing and Microsoft computer programs to people. I love it. It makes me feel needed. And I enjoy helping people who want to learn.”

In order to get back and forth between her home and volunteer job, Renee had to take the bus, something she had been avoiding. “It was scary for me,” she admitted, “I was worried about having to deal with strange people. But I made myself get on board. And then I rode again the next day and the next. Now I ride the bus all the time. I even have my favorite drivers who are always very courteous and polite. Because my wheelchair doesn’t have straps, it takes a little longer to buckle in. But these particular drivers never become impatient with me and always take the time to help.”

Renee recently had the opportunity to ride on of the new Omnitrans Xcelsior buses on the Route 14.  She was excited by its spacious feel. “I thought the new bus was neat! It felt big and roomy, and the wider aisles make it easier for me to get the wheelchair on board. I’m looking forward to riding it again.”

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

From jungle to city, Omnitrans rider loves to travel

Omnitrans customer Jennie Aceves loves to travel, from daily trips around the city to exploring the world. Her favorite experience was a trip to Guatemala where she worked for a time as a missionary.

“I loved being able to hike through the jungle and swim in the lake with the fish,” said Jenny. “It was beautiful, and I liked the feeling of making a difference. I was in charge of the youth group and some of the elderly there and it was my job to make sure they were all served hot meals each day. Being in that environment makes you appreciate what you have, and I feel very blessed with the life I’ve been given.”

When her car broke down two years ago, Jennie decided it was just too expensive to buy and maintain another vehicle. She was comfortable with public transit and had been riding Omnitrans off and on since she was in high school simply because it was so convenient. Making the switch to being a full-time rider seemed the obvious choice. She would still be able to easily get to all her normal destinations and for much less than it used to cost her in gas!

“My favorite thing about Omnitrans is how easy it is to transfer. I almost never have to wait long between buses because of the way the schedules are set up. I can usually get to wherever destination I need within a half hour to an hour total travel time. It’s convenient for me.”

This week Jennie was one of the first passengers to ride one of the twenty new Xcelsior model buses that Omnitrans has added to its fleet. She was impressed. “The new bus was really nice,” said Jennie. “It felt very spacious and comfortable. And I like that Omnitrans is keeping up with the times to provide good, efficient transportation that is also healthy for the environment.”

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org