Charles Frazier was assistant director of Palm Tran Inc., the transit system for Palm Beach County, Florida, when he was hired to lead Rock Region Metro, central Arkansas’ transit system, in the summer of 2018. Rock Region provides more than 2.3 million trips annually.
Frazier earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance and information systems from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He started his professional career as an English language consultant developing school curricula for the Japanese Education Consulate in Fukuoka.
Was a pandemic something Rock Region Metro planned for? How have you adjusted your operations?
Metro has a continuity of operations plan, which addresses emergency procedures during and after fires, tornadoes, widespread electrical outages, etc.; it was amended to focus on public health during this pandemic.
Our plan prioritizes essential paratransit transportation service for dialysis patients and those undergoing other medical treatments, which cannot be missed under any circumstance. We have implemented a plethora of extra sanitation practices, including additional janitorial services for all vehicles and Metro properties, limiting passengers per vehicle and boarding buses from the back to encourage social distancing, and requiring that all drivers and riders cover their noses and mouths while riding.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed you to his task force for reopening the state. What are the goals, and what approach will it take?
As Arkansas’ largest public transit agency, we will inevitably play a role in re-establishing the state’s economic health. The goal is to guide our major industries into a phase of reopening in a way that grows public confidence and reenergizes our economy. The task force is divided into three strategic subcommittees, codified by industry sector, each focused on identifying best practices for reopening with a keen focus on safeguarding public health.
How have your employees responded? What management tools have you used for teamwork?
Metro employees know how much our local employers need their employees to be at work every single day, and how important it is for central Arkansans to get to grocery stores and critical health care appointments. Our executive leadership team begins and ends each workday with standing operations meetings to address any new issues. We quickly consider situations and come to consensus on ways to improve.
Do you anticipate any permanent changes in operations?
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Metro had begun a yearlong network redesign project called R.I.D.E. (Route Innovation, Development and Evaluation) 2020. The recommendations for route adjustments that this project brought to light will now need to be implemented even sooner. We need to quickly shift resources as ridership demands change throughout central Arkansas.
Sometimes our mistakes are the best teachers. Which professional mistake taught you the biggest lesson?
Early in my career I learned a meaningful lesson: I don’t know what I don’t know. I acknowledged that I do not and cannot know everything about every situation. As such, I ask a lot of questions to make sure that I have a good understanding about a situation before making a decision. I also take time to consider opposing viewpoints, fleshing out potential problems. It is when I don’t follow this process that mistakes can happen.