LANCASTER – The Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) continues to improve its operations amidst the recent news of charges filed against two former AVTA administrators. News of the public corruption charges comes just weeks after AVTA accepted the California Transit Association’s 2012 Transit Excellence Award. AVTA was honored with this prestigious award for its efforts to turn around the faltering transit system.
In October 2010, allegations of misappropriated funds and other improprieties prompted a series of audits by the Federal Transit Administration which identified more than 75 issues with the transit system’s procedures. Since then, AVTA has addressed the audit findings and is now operating in compliance with FTA requirements.
“It’s amazing how far we have come in just two short years,” expressed Executive Director Julie Austin. “Our most recent financial audit is our true success story. We had no findings and were given a clean bill of health from an outside auditing firm in November.”
AVTA is now working to improve its service levels. Responding to service needs identified by County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, the North County TRANSporter was added in August to connect the Antelope Valley to the Santa Clarita Valley during non-commute hours. Currently, AVTA is proposing to add a new route to Pearblossom and adjust other routes to better meet ridership levels. Additional service to the fairgrounds and A.V. Mall are also under consideration along with route improvements for university students.
AVTA has also just completed an $11 million construction project to expand transit facilities, including the addition of a new boardroom that will double as a community room.
“We have worked tirelessly as an organization and Board to put AVTA back on its feet,” stated AVTA Board Chairman Norm Hickling. “We have moved past the depth of the crisis and can now focus on providing excellent customer service. We realize the upcoming court hearing will put AVTA back in the news but we want the public to know we are a much stronger organization than we were two years ago.”
AVTA Executive Director Julie Austin was brought in on an interim basis after the resignations of AVTA’s former leadership. Austin has more than 25 years of transit experience and has been a major catalyst behind AVTA’s rebound.
“Our hope is for a quick resolution of this matter so that we can finally put it behind us,” stated Austin. “Today our transit system is award winning and I am very proud of the dedication and commitment of the AVTA Board and staff. We look forward to a day when only our accomplishments make news headlines.” Austin will be speaking before the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) CEO Conference in February to share the AVTA story.
Creating a long term strategic plan and developing a strong vision for AVTA has been a paramount goal for Austin who brought in an outside consultant to help improve communication among the Board of Directors and Transit Advisory Commission.
“I have never witnessed such an extreme turn around in my 20 years of experience facilitating strategic planning workshops,” stated Peter Stark, principal of Peter Barron Stark Companies. “Today, AVTA has a vision of success and I am excited to see where the next two years takes the board and staff. There is a tremendous amount of positive energy moving AVTA forward.”
(Information via press release from the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.)