A Conversation with Steven Beck, General Manager of Concho Valley Transit
We are excited to start a new semi-regular feature here on the RATP Dev blog called “A Conversation with …” In this column, we hope to highlight the people who are the heart and soul of our company and the public transit industry.
We kick off the series with an interview with Steven Beck, the new General Manager of the Concho Valley Transit District (he started in this position on May 14th of this year). Steve has a Master of Science in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration, and often relies on his degree to identify recreational areas that his riders can access through public transit in his community.
Concho Valley Transit serves the City of San Angelo, TX, the 12 surrounding counties, the Goodfellow Airforce Base, and Angelo State University. The agency provides fixed route, ADA paratransit, rural demand response and Medicaid trips. It employs 62 drivers, three dispatchers, four road/dispatcher supervisors, and has staff that handles financing and marketing.
RATP Dev: How did you get your start in the transit industry?
Steve Beck: I actually started in the transit industry in 2007. I was finishing up grad school and I was bored. I saw a posting that said bus drivers were needed at my university and I thought, you know what, I’m going to sign up to be a driver. I drove school buses and transit buses and loved it. Two years later, a supervisor position opened, and I applied. As they say, the rest was history.
RATP Dev: You were recently named Honorary Commander at Goodfellow Air Force Base. What does that entail?
S.B.: It’s an honor to be an honorary commander especially since I’m the new guy in town. Basically, I provide a relationship between the city, the transit agency, and the base. I try to create a sense of camaraderie. For example, on October 22nd, I’ll be attending the U.S. Air Force band presentation. All the honorary commanders will be there for a meet-and-greet to showcase the relationship between the community and the base.
RATP Dev: How does having an Air Force Base in your area inform the way you do your job?
S.B.: You are actually part of something that is bigger than your local community. You are always striving for excellence and trying to figure out what you can do to help the base. Serving Goodfellow is a bit more complex than serving the public at times. In public transportation, buses run on a schedule, but once you go onto an air force base, security makes things a little more complex and schedules are thrown out the window. We always make sure to use drivers who have passed a security clearance for the air force base route so there aren’t any delays. We also offer a reduced fare to the military and work with the base to inform them of route schedules.
RATP Dev: So what makes Concho Valley unique?
S.B.: I am responsible for 16,000 square miles in west Texas. Our transit division covers 12 counties; it is geographically huge. At any agency, it can be hard to find drivers. But in a large rural area like Concho Valley, staffing can really be a challenge. Some of the towns in our area only have populations of 200 or 300 people so finding drivers can be difficult – but we’ve managed to find a great core team.
RATP Dev: What is the most important skill you need to do your job?
S.B.: Multifaceted Customer Relations. I have to be able to keep my client, Concho Valley, happy; I have to keep the public happy; and I have to keep my employees happy. It’s a unique balancing act.
RATP Dev: How do you do that?
S.B.: Open and honest communication. I keep track of even the smallest details. If a bus has an issue, for example, I’ll follow our traditional process and send out a text message to the appropriate employees as a backup communication. For my employees, I always keep the lines of communication open. I don’t just tell them what we are doing, I also tell them why, so they all understand, can ask questions, and we’re all on the same page!
RATP Dev: What is your favorite part of your job?
S.B.: Being around buses. Growing up, I always had a fascination about school buses, and my parents, to this day, every Christmas, give me a new school bus to put on a shelf where I collect them. I like being around buses because I like being able to make a difference in my community. So many people don’t have their own transportation -- they may have a disability, or other circumstances – and seeing them be able to get on a bus and go, is an awesome feeling.
RATP Dev: What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing a career in public transit?
S.B.: Be a driver for a few months – 6 months to a year. Being a driver gives you insight into what happens on a day-to-day basis. Having been a driver, I can relate to the drivers and be a better manager.
RATP Dev: What’s the funniest things that has ever happened to you on the job?
S.B.: Driving a bus, I’ve been proposed to…but that’s another whole story!
RATP Dev: Did you accept?
S.B.: No. I did not!
RATP Dev: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
S.B.: Recognizing employees for their hard work. As General Manager, there is nothing I like more than recognizing an employee as driver of the month or honoring someone who is retiring.