DASH Yard Coordinator Erik Alvarenga received the Virginia Transit Association's Unsung Hero Award at the association's 2021 annual conference in Tysons Corner, Virginia on Sept. 29. The award recognizes a transit agency employee who has distinguished themselves in the past year as an exceptional team member through their leadership, teamwork, dependability, professionalism, adaptability or other outstanding qualities.
Alvarenga went above and beyond his job responsibilities to assist DASH’s operations team in implementing COVID-19 mitigation policies onboard DASH buses to protect employees and passengers from the virus. He distinguished himself in 2020 by taking on numerous tasks outside of his job description that enabled DASH to execute critical new policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 onboard its more than 100 buses and thereby proved himself as an integral and exemplary member of DASH’s operations team.
As a yard coordinator, Alvarenga’s regular duties include assisting in parking, moving, arranging and maintaining The Alexandria Transit Company’s growing fleet. Yard coordinators often assist with crafting and maintaining schedules and rosters. These responsibilities enable DASH to provide the reliable, safe and frequent public transit service that its passengers expect and rely upon despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Alvarenga readily volunteered to take on new responsibilities in addition to these vital tasks to meet the challenges of COVID-19. Some of the agency’s most visible COVID-19 mitigation policies onboard buses included posting signage as well as restocking supplies of disposable masks and cleaning supplies on buses. The signs and posters Alvarenga helped display on DASH’s buses disseminated critical information to passengers, including DASH policies and recommendations of health officials to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The masks that Alvarenga restocked on buses were a critical element of the agency’s mask requirement policy, which predated the federal mask mandate of February 2021. Having masks available onboard buses for passenger use allowed passengers to make their essential trips onboard DASH without delaying their trip to obtain a mask. Finally, the cleaning supplies that Alvarenga helped maintain and distribute allowed operators to disinfect their work areas between return trips to DASH’s facility. All of these additional tasks, which fell well outside of Alvarenga’s regular job responsibilities, enabled DASH to execute policies that protected its employees and passengers.
“Erik often exceeds expectations and works independently to provide operators the daily support they need to get them through the day and keep passengers moving. In addition to that, he took on all these little tasks that form a critical part of how we protect our employees and passengers from COVID-19,” said Kevin Hernandez, Director of Operations.
Moreover, Alvarenga performed these tasks with passion, dependability, professionalism and a deep commitment to helping his fellow operations team members.
“He is very passionate and motivated to help his team. He also goes above and beyond to learn the ins and outs of the fleet, even though it’s not necessary for his job. If you ask him a question about a bus, he’ll be able to tell you not only that, but also the history or other information about that particular part or function,” Hernandez added.
Alvarenga’s willingness to help does not end with COVID-19 mitigation policies. He also volunteered to pilot a new digital pre-trip inspection program. If implemented, the program would allow operators to perform paperless pre-trip inspections and streamline a critical part of the agency’s daily safety protocols.