By Mary McFarland Brooks
Jarvis Keys, transit office, inspects a new Traxs bus for lights, blinkers, mileage, fuel efficiency, securing devices for wheelchairs, lift operation and overall maintenance. Photo by Mary McFarland Brooks
Ben Franklin said, “If you want something done ask a busy person to do it.” Jarvis Keys, transit office, was asked to assist with the Enhanced Mobility of seniors and individuals with disabilities program in 2013 when it morphed from a previous system that dated back to 1975. It is identified as the 5310 program locally and was established by the Federal Transit Authority as a capital assistance effort to help communities provide transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.
The program is structured to address transportation needs where public transit is inadequate or inappropriate. Community private, non-profit organizations are encouraged to partner for the purpose of purchasing a bus and to maximize the efficiency of the service so regional transit insufficiencies in transportation are eliminated.
Keys gradually took over management of the 21 Twin Cities’ metro area non-profits that purchased buses. Some of these non-profits have multiple sites and vehicles. One of the requirements of the program is that site visits are done annually, which requires Keys to visit 31 localities. In addition to site visits each of the 126 vehicles requires quarterly reports and inspections.
Keys’ role during the site visits is to confirm that licensing, insurance and service documentation is current and correct. Because program participants are located from White Bear Lake to Farmington and many spots in between, Keys spends a fair amount of windshield time traveling for site inspections.
Due to the complexity of the 5310 program that now involves Title VI requirements, asset management, new coordination, ridership and operating requirements, Keys organized quarterly gatherings of all the non-profits in the 5310 program. The meetings encourage mentoring and provide the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals committed to transporting underserved communities.
Under Keys’ watch, a new database system, Black Cat, was initiated. The system manages the 75 sub-recipient organizations statewide, along with data about the more than 300 vehicles on duty. One requirement of each site is that program information is entered into Black Cat promptly and that each site is current with its service design. The data capture, service designs and other issues are discussed at the six outreach workshops held statewide annually for the 5310 program and the quarterly metro workshops.
“Jarvis has done a good job in redefining and helping non-profits in the Metro Area in regard to how they do their transportation,” said John Groothuis, 5310 program coordinator. Much of the support that Keys offers comes by way of sharing methods that work in other regions of the metro and in providing advice and support.
Keys is impressed with the quality of the transit service and the dedication of the non-profits to their clients.
“Their most compelling mission is to serve people and each non-profit has a commitment to transporting their clients and is passionate about the assistance they offer,” he said.
Keys is a visible part of the MnDOT world as he leads agency-wide wellness programs, sings in the MnDOT choir and organizes brown bag lunch and learns. In his spare time he coaches youth football.
Describe your role in the 5310 program?
I am the Metro-area manager of the 5310 program. I inspect all of the metro area vehicles and help facilitate day-to-day operations. Because 35 to 45 of the buses are replaced annually and one to two new non-profits become part of the program each year, the landscape is always changing.
Has your job changed since you started with the 5310 program three years ago?
My job has changed in a sense that I now have more responsibilities with the program. For example, in regard to each non-profit’s service plan, there are new systems, times and locations for each of the service levels that are offered in a community.
What has been the best part of working with the 5310 program?
The best part is working with the clients and drivers. I am a people person and really appreciate the interaction I have with the drivers and transit managers.
What are some of the current challenges of the 5310 program?
One of the current challenges is scheduling the inspections. The inspections are mainly performed during the period from April through September. Trying to schedule around vacations and holidays can be somewhat difficult; however we always make it work.
How have you seen the program change since you have been involved?
I have implemented some things that have made the process more efficient. For example, we send a list of items that are needed at inspection before we visit the non-profit. This has been very effective as the directors are prepared and it provides for a more efficient site visit. It is important that the transit providers can get back to what they do best, which is providing transit for their clients.
You have been at MnDOT for many years, what was your most unique experience working with MnDOT?
The most unique experience has been working with people all over greater Minnesota. In my earlier years I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around the state and meet good people that want to make their community better. Transit and getting folks to jobs and other activities is critical to the community and collectively to the state.
What did you do before you came to MnDOT?
Before I came to MnDOT I worked seven years at a grain elevator in Savage, Minn. driving a locomotive, probing wheat trucks and working on barges. Lots of fun--hard work, but fun.
If you could, what one thing would you change about your job?
Not a thing, I really like working at MnDOT. It’s a great place to work with a lot of good people.
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