Cincinnati’s Transit Trio

Crews, Evans and Hock are kings in The Queen City

By Glenn Swain

Cincinnati’s dynamic transit trio, from left: Lou Ann Hock, Terry Garcia Crews and Inez Evans.

Cincinnati Metro may be the most unique transit agency in the U.S., in that its top three management positions are filled by women who have more than 50 years of combined transit and private sector industry experience.

Cincinnati’s transit trio consists of CEO and General Manager Terry Garcia Crews, Chief Operations Officer Inez Evans and Chief Financial Officer Lou Ann Hock. Crews previously served as general manager and CEO of LexTran in Lexington, KY and as assistant general manager for SunTran in Tucson, AZ. Evans served as the director of paratransit at Star Tran, Inc., a service provider to Capital Metropolitan Transportation, Austin, TX, and as general manager at Veolia Transportation, San Jose, CA. Meanwhile, Hock is responsible for Metro’s $88.9 million annual operating budget, capital program, grants administration, fuel hedging, and investments.

“Here are three women all very capable of handling the positions they are in, and we’re all very comfortable with each other,” says Hock. “We all bounce ideas off each other, which is a bonus for the agency. We have transit industry experience that intertwines, and we all bring a private sector background. Instead of running this like a public agency, we’re looking at running this as a business.”

Crew points to the private sector experience all three bring to the agency.

“We’ve been able to achieve tangible results in a very short period of time,” she says. “We have a strategic plan that has six areas of organizational focus and we are results driven. That plan is married into the employee performance review process. Most important is revenue enhancement, which is critical as we see federal dollars shrinking.”

Evans says Crews invites them to become involved in the process, finding it a refreshing change to be a part of an agency that embraces that philosophy.

While the trio is aware of the uniqueness of an agency run by women, they don’t consider themselves trendsetters or possessing more leadership abilities than men.

“Leadership is skill-set based, not gender based,” says Crews.  “We just happen to have the three top positions filled by women. I think we are unique and it could be seen as being trend setting, but I think we are women who are driven to make a difference for our employees and this community.”

Being a woman in the traditionally male-dominated world of transit has its challenges, but also its advantages. All three have learned throughout their careers the importance of complimenting the differences between men and women in the workplace and to listen to all perspectives.

Even so, Evans believes women tend to be more open to creativity and out-of-the-box thinkers.

“Having that skill set has allowed me to look outside of the norm to be more efficient,” Evans says.

Often the balance of work and family life is more of a concern for women in transit rather than men. Throughout their careers the Cincinnati transit trio have gotten their families involved in the transit business, which helped husbands and children to understand the pressures and responsibilities of being a leader in the industry.

“It’s important that your family understands the dynamics of what we do,” Crews says. “It’s when you get that phone call at 2 a.m., when you’ve had a fatality, or it is Mother’s Day and an issue comes up. Your son hands you your Blackberry and says, ‘Mom, its dispatch.’ They understand and there is a respect as you bring them into the process.”

“It’s difficult to balance family and work,” says Evans, who often had to move for job advancement. “My family was a transit family. They knew how to work in the dispatch office. My children are now grown and gone. I didn’t realize the effect that the moving had had on them. They’re saying they never want to move again.”

While Cincinnati’s transit trio may not consider themselves trendsetters, by the lofty positions they hold they are role models for other women coming up through the transit ranks. All agree that women interested in transit careers need to learn every aspect of the business.

“There really is no college someone can attend that will prepare them for transit,” Hock says. “I started as a school bus driver and worked my way up through the positions. You learn the business from the ground up and you grow with the organization.”

“When I first started in transit I was a customer service representative, and I got behind the wheel a few times and decided bus driving was not for me,” Evans says. “But when I speak to a bus driver I can understand what they go through. I’ve answered calls on the reservation line and I’ve done preventive maintenance with the mechanics. I can understand the language they are speaking and the challenges.”

When Crews came to Cincinnati Metro in November 2010 she decided to get back to basics and, she says, “do transit the right way.” Those basics include more than just improving quality service, monitoring employee performance and the monetary bottom line. Crews is often seen walking down the sidewalk waving at operators and other employees to personally connect with them.

“I never want to be a CEO where the title has gone to my head and become unapproachable,” she says. “It’s not Terry’s show, it’s everyone’s show.” BR