Valerie Volk – County Connection

County Connection General Manager Steps Down

New Leadership Already in Place as Ramacier Departs

County Connection General Manager Rick Ramacier, who announced his intent to step down in August, will end his tenure at the public transit agency on December 31. Ramacier joined County Connection in 1992 as the Accessible Services Manager and has served as General Manager since 1998, where he leads the agency of over 240 employees with an annual budget of $45.3 million dollars.

Throughout his years of service, Ramacier has led County Connection to make major improvements in the quality of its public transit services, including the conversion to a hybrid electric fleet, becoming one of the first California transit operators to introduce inductive in-route wireless charging of battery electric buses; the introduction of an innovative all electric bus service; the coordination of regional paratransit services in Contra Costa County; and playing a leadership role in developing the successful Measure J expenditure plan, approved by the voters, which increased transit services throughout Contra Costa.

“Rick has this ability to see change before others do, and to move things and people forward,” said David E. Hudson, City of San Ramon Mayor and County Connection Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. “As a result, we are in a great position to get ahead in terms of technology and the future of public transit. Rick’s real legacy is that for us, come January, it will be business as usual, because Rick has laid the foundation with a base that we can take from here and continue to build and improve County Connection services.”

In addition to the long-term safety record and financial stability of the agency, Ramacier is particularly proud of the strong, diverse, and highly respected management team he has built over the years.

“As an organization, County Connection is heading in the right direction,” said Ramacier. “If there was anything to celebrate during the COVID ordeal, it was how our professional, diverse, and inclusive culture made it possible to pivot in innovative and crucial ways during the pandemic.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency dramatically re-purposed its ADA paratransit service from one service ADA eligible passengers to ones that served multiple Contra Costa County health needs such as: Meals on Wheels meal deliveries; school lunches to low income students sheltering at home doing school online; transporting low income, senior, and homeless people infected with COVID-19; and delivering food and supplies from the Contra Costa Food Bank to needy families who could not leave their homes during the pandemic.

A prominent public transit leader for the Bay Area, the State of California and the Nation, Ramacier is also stepping down in December as Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bay Area Partnership Board, as Chair of the Clipper Executive Board, as Association Board Member and Chair of the State Legislative Committee of the California Transit Association, and as Chair of the State Legislative Committee of the California Association For Coordinated Transportation (CalACT). Ramacier is also Past Chair of the Accessibility Committee of the American Public Transportation Association, Past Chair of the Board of Directors of CalACT among other leadership roles.

“As a long-time member and two-term Chair of the California Transit Association’s State Legislative Committee, Rick was directly involved in the largest state policy matters impacting public transit for two decades,” said Michael Pimentel, Executive Director of the California Transit Association. “Spanning Senate Bill 1 implementation, Transportation Development Act reform, the California Air Resources Board’s Innovative Clean Transit regulation, and our industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rick’s leadership and aptitude for consensus building ensured that the Association was always prepared to represent the interests of communities across our state and to deliver results that substantially improved public transportation for all Californians.”

During the pandemic, in which public transit saw steep declines in ridership, Ramacier was a key member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force working with transit operators, labor, and elected officials, which resulted in the Task Force adopting vital rider and worker COVID safety protocols, as well as crafting a future pathway for transit recovery in the Bay Area.

“Rick is one of those silent leaders with the ability to bring very diverse interests together and build a consensus that is focused on the user of the system,” said MTC Commissioner and Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering, Chair of the Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force. “His leadership and ability to bring the small and large operators together to develop a seamless system that encourages the use of public transit has been a major contribution to the Bay Area Region.”

Ramacier leaves County Connection in a solid financial position with stable labor relations, and its bus and paratransit services poised to regain ridership and ready to take on the next generation of growth and mobility options. He leaves the leadership of County Connection in the capable hands of those he has mentored and guided through the years to assume management positions within the agency with current Assistant General Manager Bill Churchill taking the reins as General Manager on January 1.

“None of our successes would have been possible over the years without all the great women and men who work at County Connection, from the newest transit operator up through the current Assistant General Manager. Through these fine folks I have received the opinions and the stories necessary to make good decisions. They never failed to make me look good. I will be forever grateful for each and everyone of them.”

For more on Ramacier’s departing thoughts, see his December blog: A Fond Farewell, Final Message as General Manager. https://countyconnection.com/a-fond-farewell/

A Fond Farewell

GM Blog – Dec 2021

Final Message as General Manager

As I announced earlier this year, I am leaving my post as the GM/CEO of County Connection. My last day on the job will be December 31, 2021. At the completion of that day, I will have been in the lead chair here at County Connection for 24 complete years (my first day was on January 1, 1998). Over these past 24 years, we have seen a lot of changes in public transit, especially as it relates to the use of technology and how we partner. In this message, I won’t dwell on the incredible developments in technology and transportation in the past 24 years, but suffice it to say they have been complete game-changers.

As for the many partnerships we have built, these are well documented. However, let me take this opportunity to thank organizations like the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Without these ever growing partnerships, we would not have been nearly as successful in providing the quality of service we have been able to provide over this last quarter century.

But what stands out most for me, over these past 24 years, is that I have had the great fortune to head an agency that (in non-COVID times) provides daily transportation to about 5,000 to 7,000 residents of central Contra Costa County that otherwise would not have been able to make their trip. In my professional life, nothing has given me greater satisfaction than that.

Service to those who need it most has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. In letting me serve as the GM of County Connection, I have been provided a tremendous opportunity to do just that. For this, I feel incredibly lucky. But, I certainly did not accomplish this alone!

County Connection has some of the very best bus operators in the world. Time and time again, they do the job of serving the public, often under difficult circumstances. This is best exemplified by the jobs they did during the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel so honored to be associated with such wonderful women and men. I am humbled that they let me be their “leader”.

Of course, our bus drivers cannot do their jobs without good, clean, safe, and reliable buses. So, we also have some of the best bus mechanics in the world. Our maintenance metrics have been outstanding throughout my entire time here. In particular, the work they did throughout the pandemic to keep our buses going and safe kept me in awe. I am humbled and grateful.

While government administration often gets kicked around as unnecessary, I can tell you that the administrative staff at County Connection is top notch and does all of the work necessary behind the scenes to ensure that we have the buses, the great mechanics, and the great bus operators. Without our outstanding administrators, we simply could not provide the service we do.

And finally, we have our excellent executive management team. They are a diverse group of women and men who are the real leaders of our organization. One of them will be taking the GM reigns on January 1, 2022. Bill Churchill came into County Connection in 1997 to manage service planning and begin the long process of modernizing our many technology systems. After fully computerizing us and introducing us to cell phones, etc., he moved over to our nerve center, which is our transportation department. He assumed the lead role overseeing the bus dispatch center, the road supervisors, the bus operator training functions, and our bus operators. He also became our main point of contact for the bus operator’s union. Eventually, he became my Assistant General Manager.

For the last three years, he has also been shadowing me, preparing for the role of GM. No one in my view has been more ready to take the lead at County Connection than Bill Churchill.

Bill will be leading a mature, diverse, and highly qualified team at the executive level. He and his team are well positioned to lead County Connection through what promises to be a period of great change. They are ready to lead an agency that can:

  • transition from where the fleet is diesel powered to a fleet that is emission free (i.e. battery electric and/or hydrogen fuel cell);
  • embrace and participate with partners on building a more seamless and coordinated regional transit system;
  • actively reimagine its role as a vital public service through the lens of a post pandemic world that must address issues of equity; and
  • provide a safe and challenging place to work for a diverse workforce that offers competitive compensation and the opportunity to grow.

Finally, Bill Churchill is well positioned to build the kind of public support County Connection will need to thrive into the heart of this century.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the County Connection Board of Directors. The Board is made up of appointments made by the city councils and the county board of supervisors. During my 24-year tenure, we have had only quality representatives on our Board. To a person, they have all understood their communities, their transit needs, and have been solid advocates for their constituents. They have been extremely supportive of staff in ensuring that we have the tools to do our jobs right.

As I have been exposed to countless other transit systems over my career, I have come to really understand and appreciate the quality of our Board throughout the years and what it has meant to the success of this organization.

So, as I end my time here at County Connection, I am very confident you all will continue to thrive and provide great and important public service. And, I thank each and every one of you for your incredible work, support, and commitment to the mission. Thank you so much.

To everyone, especially to our riders, best wishes in the New Year. Here’s to a brighter 2022!

County Connection’s Ramacier Stepping Down By Year’s End

Assistant General Manager of Administration Bill Churchill to become new GM

County Connection General Manager Rick Ramacier has announced his intent to step down by the end of December following 32 years with the agency, 24 of which he served as GM. Bill Churchill, identified early on as a strong leader for the agency, will be promoted to GM upon Ramacier’s retirement as part of the agency’s succession planning and leadership training. Churchill is currently serving as Assistant GM of Administration and has more than 23 years with County Connection.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we thank Rick for his years of outstanding service and significant contributions,” said Keith L. Haydon, Jr., City of Clayton and County Connection Board Chair. “His unwavering dedication to County Connection, along with his ability to build a
strong leadership team, will leave County Connection resilient and well positioned for the future.”

“I have been honored to lead County Connection and proud to be a part of the many ways in which our services improve people’s lives, and most recently positively impacting more than 2,200 essential service riders every day,” said Rick Ramacier, County Connection General Manager. “Having worked closely with Bill for many years, I am highly confident that under his leadership, the team at County Connection will continue to innovate and provide a variety of mobility choices for our customers. His appointment demonstrates the strength of our succession planning and talent pipeline, and I look forward to working with him during the
transition.”

Ramacier will remain as GM until his departure date in December.

Exclusive Alamo Creek Shuttle

FEATURES OF ALAMO CREEK SHUTTLE

• Free to anyone traveling to and from the Danville Park ‘n Ride and Walnut Creek BART.
• Shuttle may stop at other locations within the 1.5 mile corridor along Camino Tassajara and 1-680
• Scheduled pickup at your door.
• Call 925-943-1829 for reservations 7 days a week.

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County Connection Welcomes the State’s Reopening Plan

Physical distancing requirements on County Connection will be lifted Wednesday, June 16.

CONCORD, Calif. – County Connection is transitioning from six-foot onboard physical distancing requirements to normal capacity requirements starting Wednesday, June 16th. On June 15th, California is expected to fully reopen, and capacity and distancing restrictions will be lifted for most businesses and activities. The county tier system based on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy will no longer be in effect.

According to the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Beyond the Blueprint public transit is no longer required to impose physical distancing requirements. However, per the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) face masks will continue to be required for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the United States, including at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems through September 13th. Additional extensions to be determined.

“Over the last 15 months County Connection has followed all local, state and federal guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are proud of all our essential workers and their contributions to keep our economy going, allowing us to reach this reopening milestone”, said Keith Haydon, County Connection Board Chair. County Connection will continue to follow many protocols established during the COVID-19 pandemic including providing personal protective equipment, maintaining operator shields, nightly anti-viral fogging and cleaning and advanced HVAC system air filters across our fleet.

Starting October 9: Possible Power Outages in Contra Costa County

PG&E is monitoring a severe wind event this week that could impact nearly 30 counties across Northern and Central California and has issued a fire weather watch for vast portions of Northern California.  PG&E has informed various cities in Contra Costa County that the utility may proactively turn off power for safety as part of it’s Public Safety Power Shutoff.

Should this shut off occur, street lights could be affected and cause route delays.  County Connection’s services will continue to operate, but could experience delays.  Contact customer service at 925-676-7500 for updates.

For Paratransit Trips

If this power outage goes into effect, it may affect your Paratransit trips.

·         Please expect longer than usual hold times, drivers may not be able to reach dispatch to make same day changes to your trips.

·         There may be significant delays to your trips.

·         Passengers are encouraged to postpone non-essential trips for a later date.

·         You are encouraged to keep your cell phone fully charged at all times.

·         Any medical equipment requiring battery or electricity must be fully charged.

·         Drivers will not be able to make detours to your trip as a result of power outages.

·         Communicate with your dialysis unit or medical doctor on their current schedule

Paratransit Information for Passengers

Exciting new changes beginning July 1, 2019!

The County Connection Board of Directors has approved exciting changes to improve the experience for our passengers.

Enhancements include:

  • A variety of vehicles ranging from wheelchair accessible vans to minivans. All vehicles will be easily identified as County Connection LINK vehicles.
  • Drivers and dispatchers will have improved GPS and mapping tools.
  • Drivers will receive enhanced customer service training.
  • Over the next 90 days, we will be testing and launching a new passenger app that will provide passengers with access to trip information, such as current vehicle location and status of pick up, as well as future trips and ride history.

Call Center

Our call center agents, who will also be going through enhanced customer service training, will continue to be of assistance to you by dialing (925) 938-7433. Please check our website www.countyconnection.com/paratransit for future updates and information as we launch the new mobile app.

You will still have the option to book your ride through the call center as you do today.

Some reminders and tips:

  • Have the exact fare. Drivers do not make change.
  • Call 925-938-RIDE (938-7433) to schedule a LINK trip.  
  • You may book reservations up to 7 days advance, but no later than 5:00 p.m. the day before.

If you have any questions about your rides or service, please call the LINK reservations line at (925) 938-7433. If you have any questions or concerns about the information provided on this webpage, please contact us at LINKcomments@countyconnection.com or (925) 680-2098.

Please check this page for future updates and information.

Paratransit Information for Centers and Facilities

New Technology for Trip Generating Facilities

Over the next ninety days we will be testing and launching a ride management system for our trip generating partners/facilities called Facility Transit Manager. Facility Transit Manager is easily accessed through a web link. This system enables you to provide increased customer service for our shared customers.  Facility team members will be able to view scheduled rides and track the estimated time of arrival for vehicles transporting your clients. A County Connection team member will be available to help with setting up the system at your location and will reach out to you soon with more information.

If you have any questions or concerns about the information provided on this webpage, please contact us at LINKcomments@countyconnection.com or (925) 680-2098. 

Please check this page for future updates and information.