Going the Extra Mile: Matthew Allison – COTA

Going the Extra Mile: Matthew Allison

“To be safe and reliable is core and fundamental to everything that we do.” — Matthew Allison, Chief of Transit Operations

Matthew Allison began working with COTA when he was just 18 years old. Today, he is our Chief of Transit Operations and has been with the organization for 31 years. Allison has watched COTA grow and change throughout his tenure. In his current role, Allison oversees four distinct areas: transportation, mobility services, vehicle maintenance and operations engineering.

His work has a positive impact on COTA’s entire transit vehicle fleet, as well as our more than 850 operators, engineers and technicians who work behind-the-scenes to improve the safety and reliability of our mobility services.

“To be safe and reliable is core and fundamental to everything that we do. We think about it daily. We talk about it daily,” says Allison. “In operations, we’re looking at multiple approaches to improve the customer experience. We’re looking at being predictive instead of reactive with our vehicle maintenance. That involves data analytics, reviewing how our fleet is performing and then [predicting] where maintenance needs may occur to ensure that our fleet is extremely reliable. This is something that’s really unique from how maintenance was performed [in the past].”

COTA is unique in that the vast majority of transit vehicle maintenance is performed efficiently in-house. From daily sanitization to rebuilding an engine, COTA technicians manage all maintenance, while continually capturing data that casts light on how we can improve. In addition to data analysis, Allison says that qualitative input from operators and technicians is vital.

“We know that our front-line employees are the most educated people that we have, as far as understanding our systems and understanding our customers’ needs, because they are with the customers daily,” says Allison. “Also our front-line technicians. They come with great ideas for us on how we can improve.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the nation, Allison’s role took on a heightened sense of gravity. He immediately pooled insights from his teams, public health experts and industry thought leaders to identify best practices to improve vehicle safety for our customers and operators.

“We’ve implemented multiple measures for the sanitization of our fleet. We looked at what we were doing currently — sanitizing the fleet nightly and daily — and then we [asked] how can we improve?” Allison says, “We introduced an antimicrobial solution application to all of our transit vehicles. Every vehicle received this application, and this creates a defense against microbes on our fleet. [It] can work up to one year. We’ll be renewing that and continuing to study the efficacy and effectiveness of that treatment.”

This antimicrobial solution is one of many efforts COTA implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our transit vehicles. We deployed street teams that provide sanitization throughout the day. We purchased electro-static technology that deep-cleans transit vehicles in the event of a positive COVID-19 test. And, through a partnership with The Ohio State University, our team will be testing the efficacy and effectiveness of these sanitization practices.

“To me, it’s very personal. And I know it’s personal to our employees. Being a longtime employee at COTA, I’m extremely proud of where we are today,” says Allison. “I’ve been out on the front lines and seen our customers going to the doctor, going to get groceries, trying to get to their place of employment. To know that I’m an advocate for them — [that] our team in operations is an advocate for them and that all of COTA [advocates] for them — that’s powerful.”