Using TransTrack to Demystify NTD Reporting
A Brief Interview with San Joaquin RTD CEO, Gloria Salazar, and Why She Uses TransTrack
Chief Executive Officer at San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Gloria Salazar, is a problem solver and a transit veteran who believes in the power of using data and business analytics to continually optimize her organization. She constantly strives to do her best and give her riders the best service, every single day.
Gloria also announced her retirement after more than 30 years of transit experience. Gloria agreed to meet with TransTrack for an interview and suggestions for staying ahead of the curve in transit.
Like many of us, Gloria entered the transportation industry through an alternative avenue.
Gloria: "I started in transit more than 30 years ago now, and I came in on the Finance and Administration side as a staff person. I’ve worked for RTD for almost 20 years now. Wow, time flies by. I’ve worked for almost 30 years without taking a break. I love what I do and the people I work with. But every beginning has an end, and it’s time to pass the baton to the next leader who will take RTD to the next level of excellence in technology, performance, and sustainability."
Gloria’s career in public transit fostered a love for helping her community grow. She was also able to continually use new technology and business intelligence platforms to assess patterns.
Gloria: You can be as creative and innovative as you can be. It’s a very exciting time to work in transportation, particularly in the current environment [given the COVID-19 Pandemic]. There is more available technology now that can provide analytical tools to help businesses make better data-driven decisions.
Everyone is forced to think differently, and we must be more aware and take into account the changes in the travel patterns and habits of our customers to better serve them.
Gloria enjoys not only the challenge that transportation presents but also the sense of unity that comes with the community of transportation itself.
Gloria: Transit is collaborative. We share experiences and a lot of our problems are addressed and resolved through our local, state, and national transit associations. You don’t have to do it on your own. There are voices in the numbers of these associations. I urge all members to take advantage of this opportunity and participate in their collaborative efforts.
We are fortunate in California with our associations and the fact that they strongly advocate for funding our infrastructure and service so that we can offer much more reliable and safe service to our customers. It is a great and unique characteristic of this industry that I love. There is no limit to what you can accomplish because you have the entire industry to support you.
Salazar strives to assist her community by challenging the agency to think of new ways it can reach its riders. This has been especially arduous since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are working from home and may not return to the office. Schools are also changing. Students are often undergoing a joint education program where they attend virtually, with fewer in-person classes.
Gloria: We need to gather the data on the characteristics of the community we serve and be nimble to the changing needs of our customers if we want to stay relevant. One example, if people are going to in-person school less now than before, what type of service do we need to provide so that they will leave their car behind and take public transit? I want to keep asking these questions so that we can find a way to serve our riders more effectively.
Coming from a financial background, Gloria is a proponent of TransTrack products. She especially champions the finance module and how that has saved her team time and effort.
Gloria: I like the business intelligence feature of TransTrack that organizes data from different sources and converts them to meaningful performance indicators. Coming from Finance, I really like the Cost Allocation component and TransTrack's Finance module the most. It is particularly important in terms of managing compliance, contracting decisions, and appropriate cost recovery.
The one thing TransTrack continues to provide is the cost of service, particularly by category and that is very important for our funding. We need to match our revenues against our service expenses. By using TransTrack we can see where we need to focus on based on the measurement of ridership, revenues, and costs. TransTrack’s analytics provides us with the information we need to ensure we meet our funding requirements.
Gloria is also a proponent of testing her agency against their current benchmarks as well as providing consistency. She ensures that there is consistency in her team by validating the data sets.
Gloria: I think it’s good that we get consistency in TransTrack. We get consistently derived numbers that allow us to benchmark against ourselves before we benchmark against other comparable organizations.
For anyone looking for advice, Gloria has some outstanding tips. In today's high-speed society, it doesn’t make sense for just one person to be charged with manually collecting the NTD information. It should be cross-departmental and easy to use.
Gloria: Take the mystery off NTD preparation and have some consistency in your agency reporting. TransTrack allows for cross-collaboration across all departments, so you can collectively see where you need to make improvements.
It is hard when you only have one person manually gathering data and configuring the reporting, versus having TransTrack do them quickly and accurately. Shy away from the practice of just having one person collect and configure the data and embrace the process of automation. In this day and age, more available systems have an open architecture, and TransTrack is one that can connect to any source system.
For anyone who hasn’t used TransTrack products in the past, don’t worry. Gloria has a few pieces of advice.
Gloria: You need to have a digital overlay that will organize all your information so that staff does not have to perform this tedious process. TransTrack configures the product based on the organizational setup and specific needs. We at RTD are unique in how we organize our numbers and reports. Transtrack provides meaningful information that is unique to our operation and funding structure. This helps us not waste a lot of staff time in replicating spreadsheets.
TransTrack organizes our numbers using our self-designed formatting so that the reports are meaningful to us that we can clearly tell the story behind our numbers.
What is Gloria most looking forward to once she finally retires? She plans to do all of the things we promised ourselves we would but never get around to it.
Gloria: I’m looking forward to doing all the domestic things I always said I would do but never got around them because I’ve always worked. For over 30 years, I’ve worked nonstop, or with just a few days off in between. I’m looking forward to spending more time at home and focusing on other hobbies, and of course, more time with family.
The TransTrack team would like to thank RTD for being a client. We also wish Gloria a happy retirement. For more information on the TransTrack system, please visit our website here.
-TransTrack Solutions Group-
TransTrack Solutions Group (TTSG) is home to the TransTrack Manager, a scalable enterprise data management system, serving more than 50 agencies for over 20 years. TTSG prides itself on hiring transit professionals to serve other transit professionals. TTSG can and has managed NTD ridership reporting from all sources. For more information, visit our website at https://www.transtracksystems.net/
Gloria Salazar, Chief Executive Officer at San Joaquin RTD
Kelly Coughlin-Tran, Director of Marketing & New Initiatives at TransTrack Solutions Group