Brown, who is buying a new house in the city’s Laney-Walker redevelopment project, is fresh off a job as a transportation services manager for George Washington University. He said he’s ready to put down roots in Augusta as the new general manager for McDonald Transit.
The Augusta Commission voted last month to award the city’s transit contract to Fort Worth, Texas-based McDonald to replace Mobility Transit, with which the city remains in litigation.
Brown said he wasn’t up to speed on details of the city’s struggles with Mobility and didn’t need to be. He said his role for the past two weeks has been to conduct “the quickest transition in history” while ensuring no interruption in service.
Transportation is a lifelong pursuit for Brown, a Kannapolis, N.C., native who interned with the North Carolina Department of Transportation before college, then joined the staff of Charlotte Area Transit as a manager-in-training and associate planner after graduation. He helped extend a park-and-ride bus service from Charlotte to several surrounding counties, he said.
He describes seeing a mother waiting with her child for a bus during his morning drive to work.
“As I ride home, I see that same woman with her child,” he said. “Transportation is a long day, so we have to be dependable and safe.”
Bus safety is a priority, particularly in the age of headphones that prevent pedestrians from hearing an approaching bus, Brown said. Also important is the safety of bus transfers, and he hopes to work with the sheriff’s office to increase security around the Broad Street transfer station.
While some commissioners and citizen groups are pushing to expand Augusta’s system into south and west Augusta, Brown said that would take time. For now, he’ll spend the next few months evaluating ridership and other data to set a “benchmark” for assessing the program’s potential for growth, he said.
Brown has driven, repaired and dispatched buses and spent time “dressed down,” checking out Augusta’s system before introducing himself to staff. The good news: “The transportation was clean, the drivers were professional; they were safe drivers,” he said.
That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Brown is ready to take the system “from the Flintstones era to the Jetsons … We’re trendsetters here,” he said.
His management style is “listen first” and he’s prepared to listen to anyone who has thoughts about the service – employees, riders, the city’s reformed transit advisory board. He plans to use Twitter to answer complaints and questions.
He grew up with a sister who relied on paratransit services, so he’s ready to make sure that part of the system is going strong.
He’s also into outreach, and hopes to start a rider newsletter, “Stuff the Bus” charity programs and even an APT beauty pageant, Brown said.