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Not your typical rodeo

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Atomic City Transit drivers honored at annual Bus Rodeo

By Jennifer Garcia

There’s more to being a transit operator than just driving. As three of the Atomic City Transit drivers will tell you, daily experiences on Los Alamos County’s roads serve as valuable teaching tools.

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Last month Ramon Trujillo won first place honors in the New Mexico Passenger Transportation Association’s Bus Rodeo competition held in Albuquerque. The Bus Rodeo is part of the annual NMPTA conference and  “allows drivers to test their skills against other drivers in the state and consists of a written test, an obstacle course and a safety skills demonstration,” according to a county press release.

In addition to Trujillo’s first place win, ACT took home more bragging rights, as driver Jonathan Henly placed second in the van competition, while Lloyd Ami placed third in the bus competition.

Employees have even more to be proud of because ACT was also honored by the New Mexico Department of Transportation as the 2009 New Mexico Section 5311 Rural Transit System of the Year. The award is presented annually to a system receiving Rural and Small Urban Areas (5311) Formula Funding, which demonstrates overall achievement and excellence serving the general public in communities with populations of less than 50,000.

While this was not Trujillo’s first rodeo, it was a first for Ami, who said he was surprised that he placed third. “It was fun, it was something new. I would go again next year,” he said.

Trujillo said that competing in the rodeo allows ACT drivers to meet other drivers from around the state. “The best thing is that we get to talk to other drivers that do the same thing we do. You share experiences whether we win or not,” he said.

Henly also said that the event is fun and he hopes that newer ACT drivers will get involved in the event next year. “The practice course gets your confidence up,” he said.

As a result of Trujillo’s first place finish, he has earned an all-expenses-paid trip and the opportunity to compete in the National Community Transportation Rodeo to be held on May 23 in Long Beach, Calif.

Transportation Division Manager Nancy Talley had nothing but praise for the ACT drivers and said she was honored to have received the award for transit system of the year.

“We have an amazing staff that’s made it possible,” she said. “They go over and above and have made the system what it is today.”

This is not the first time that Atomic City Transit has won awards, however. They have received two national Ad Wheel awards as well as an award from the Federal Transit Administration for the highest percentage increase in ridership.

Talley said that according to the Citizen’s Survey for FY 09 , which was conducted by the county, 43 percent of the residents surveyed said they ride the ACT at least once a month. She also said that the national average ridership for a community is 3-6 percent.

“The drivers have excellent customer service and they’re really enjoyable to work with. It’s an honor to win the award, since we’ve been in operation less than three years,” Talley said. “It’s the direct result of the staff and community and their belief in the transit system and getting on board.”