Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Sneak Peak of the New Undercrossing in Orange

On my way to work this morning, I stepped off the Metrolink train and was excited to see construction crews putting the final touches on a new pedestrian undercrossing at the Depot in old town Orange.

Irma Hernandez of the city of Orange waved me down and was kind enough to give me a sneak peak of the city's newest transportation amenity tucked in the heart of Orange's historic center.

A unique feature of the pedestrian safety project is an art installation by Laguna Beach artist Marsh Scott called, "Orange in Motion.” Placed along the walls of the undercrossing, two panels pay homage to the city's past with a motif of oranges, leaves and blossoms made of stainless steel interwoven by stainless-steel ribbons imprinted with historic community milestones.

Hernandez also shared with me some other exciting news. The location of the former Cask 'n Cleaver steakhouse -- once a popular spot for rail passengers to grab a drink and a bite to eat before heading home -- will soon have a new tenant, Ruby's Diner.

The mega popular 1940s eatery based in Newport Beach plans to grill up and serve their juicy mini hamburgers called "sliders" at a community celebration to officially dedicate the new undercrossing from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27.

All are welcome to enjoy the many family-friendly activities planned for the celebration at the train station, 194 N. Atchison St. off Chapman Avenue near the Orange Plaza.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

CEO Will Kempton Hits the O.C. Ground Running

OCTA's new CEO takes a bus ride on his second day to work and compliments the courteous coach operator, the clean bus and the smooth ride.

OCTA's new CEO, Will Kempton, introduced his open-door policy to employees on his first day with a question-and-answer session at the OCTA headquarters.

Employees soon discovered that the new CEO is ready to take the reins and accelerate transportation projects for Orange County, including the high‑speed rail project.

"I am impressed with this organization, the board and its employees," said Kempton during an information session with employees Monday, Aug. 3. "I come to OCTA with my eyes wide open, this agency has a great can-do attitude. The board members are terrific. They are engaged and involved. I am excited about the opportunity to serve in Orange County."

Upon leaving his position at Caltrans, Kempton promised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger he would deliver a high-speed rail groundbreaking in Orange County before the governor leaves office. Other goals Kempton hopes to accomplish while leading OCTA include building better partnerships with other agencies, increasing efficiency and promoting outstanding customer service.

When Kempton took the bus from Anaheim to the OCTA headquarters on Tuesday morning, Aug. 4, the 4-mile commute took a mere seven minutes. Kempton hopes to buy a home close to a bus route or train station so he can utilize public transportation everyday to and from work. He also took the bus on Thursday, Aug. 6, with an Orange County Register reporter and photographer.

"How can you know what the customers are feeling if you are not out there using the system as well," Kempton said. "Taking the train or bus to work is a great way to get to know our customers and improve our service."

Kempton, an avid jogger for 32 years, shared his walk-around management approach with employees, part of his new leadership style. The former Caltrans director wants OCTA to be a workplace of choice with great customer service.

With an initial three-year contract, Kempton looks forward to serving OCTA and working with the board to deliver transportation solutions for Orange County.

A 7-Minute Ride with New Transportation Chief

Will Kempton, OCTA's CEO, and Gilbert Patterson, a 20-year coach operator, discuss protecting transit funding and making OCTA buses a viable option for the public.

Gilbert Patterson was driving his regular bus route No. 83 that starts in Anaheim and ends in Laguna Hills.

The coach operator spotted two people dressed in business suits at a bus stop on Katella Avenue near the Disney resort in Anaheim Tuesday morning, Aug. 4. One had a computer bag and held a pocket-size video camera. The other had a briefcase and asked if he was on the right bus for the OCTA headquarters.

"Yes, I'll drop you off right in the front," the coach operator of 20 years politely replied, not knowing he was transporting OCTA's new CEO on his first bus ride to work in Orange County.

Will Kempton, 62, the former Caltrans director, took his seat among the other passengers, including a nurse, a service worker and a computer programmer.

Kempton, who has never lived in Southern California, browsed through a map to familiarize himself with his new home. He thumbed through different areas of the county until he heard the coach operator ask, "Are you really the new CEO?"

"Yes, I am."

Kempton and Patterson talked about the quality of the bus, the devastating impact of the national economic recession and state budget crisis on OCTA's bus system and how to make transit more of a travel option for members of the public.

"We've got great drivers with excellent customer focus," Patterson said. "I think you'll like it here."

Kempton replied, "I want to get out to the bases and meet you guys."

"Yes, I'm out of the Garden Grove base," Patterson said.

"Now, did I hear that you've been on the job for 20 years?" Kempton asked. "You look too young to be here for 20 years."

With a chuckle, the 42-year-old resident of southwestern Riverside County responded, "Well, you're too kind."

In just seven minutes, the four-mile bus ride from Anaheim to Orange was over.

And Kempton's second day on the job began with Patterson's parting words for his new CEO: "Welcome aboard."