March 21, 2012 - Lynn Gustafson is making the transition from crunching numbers for the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA) to overseeing the whole operation.
Lynn Gustafson was hired last week as the new director for the North Oakland Transportation Authority. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Last week, the NOTA board voted to hire Gustafson, a Waterford resident, as the agency's new director.
"I'm just honored that the board has given me this opportunity," said Gustafson, who's worked as NOTA's accountant on a contract-basis since 2002. "I look forward to serving NOTA as best I can."
Gustafson will be paid an annual salary of $50,000. She'll work 24 hours per week, continue to handle all of the grant applications and do all the accounting work for no additional pay. This arrangement will save NOTA $17,000 annually.
A total of 11 people applied for the director's position vacated in November when Pat Fitchena retired.
Having worked with three previous directors – Karen Koski, Dan Shriner and Fitchena – Gustafson indicated she already understands a lot about NOTA's operations and its history.
NOTA provides free transportation seven days a week to senior citizens, the mentally and physically handicapped, developmentally disabled folks, transit dependent individuals and participants in the welfare-to-work program.
Riders live in Oxford, Addison and Orion townships, which includes their respective villages. Rides are available from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Work-related rides only are available from 6-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"I think NOTA is unlike any other public transportation," Gustafson said. "When you talk to the riders, you can see how important the service really is to them. I think the communities are fortunate to have this service available to them."
Looking ahead, Gustafson said she has "a lot of ideas as far as what I'd like to see NOTA be in the future."
She's hoping to obtain more grant money in order to increase the size of NOTA's fleet, which presently consists of 17 mini-buses and vans.
"Our rides are expanding monthly," Gustafson explained. "Currently, we're at full capacity. We're using all of our vehicles. We try to keep at least one as a spare, but some days we have to use that one just to accommodate the rides."
Given NOTA's vehicles are "getting a little bit older" and the drivers are "putting a lot of miles on them," Gustafson indicated she would like to have "an extra couple of vehicles just to be there in case some break down."
"We'd hate to have to turn any rides down," she noted.
Gustafson would also like to obtain and implement some type of GPS system to provide mapping services for drivers and/or vehicle tracking services for dispatchers.
"Right now, the drivers have to print off (directions from) MapQuest to figure out where they're going," she said. "NOTA's dispatchers don't always necessarily know exactly where the vehicles are. They only know based on where they should be. If would be nice to see (where the vehicles are) on the computer, that way we could manage the fleet more effectively."
As always, Gustafson will continue to seek new grant opportunities to help fund NOTA.
Since 2004, NOTA's been awarded $6.2 million in grants. Grants make up 50 percent of NOTA's budget. The other 50 percent comes from local governments (25 percent) and Training & Treatment Innovations (25 percent).
TTI, which provides mental health services to people with psychiatric and/or developmental disabilities, has a facility in Oxford called Clubhouse Inspiration, located in the Oxford Mills shopping center.
For more information about NOTA, please call (248) 628-7900 or visit on-line at www.notaride.org.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.