North Yard Mechanics Stand Next to Palo Alto VA Bus
VTA Mechanics Support Fellow Veterans through VA Bus Maintenance
VTA Mechanics working on a VA bus

Many of the mechanics stationed at VTA’s North Yard maintenance facility have evolved their careers in public service over the years. Some, like Maintenance Superintendent Jay Petty, got their start in the armed forces. Now, he and his team (many of whom are also veterans) fix more than just public transit buses.

For more than five years, these mechanics have also been maintaining a small hybrid bus fleet for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System. The VA’s fleet serves as an interfacility shuttle service, operating over 1,000 roundtrip rides per week for Veterans traveling to medical services in the South Bay, East Bay, and on the Peninsula. While no longer on the battlefield, former service members at VTA are once again getting to help their fellow veterans through the work they do to keep the South Bay moving.

North Yard Maintenance Superintendent Jay Petty
North Yard Maintenance Superintendent, Jay Petty

The story behind this partnership began in May 2015, when the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) reached out to Petty about the potential for a maintenance partnership. (A little background – the GSA manages procurement and maintenance for federally operated vehicles, including the VA’s bus fleet). The GSA had just purchased its fleet of four BAE hybrid-powered 40-foot New Flyer buses with a one-year maintenance warranty, after which time any repairs would have become much more costly if performed by the manufacturer. Aside from BAE, no other maintenance facility in the Bay Area, at that time, had experience working on this type of bus… no one except VTA.

VTA purchased similar BAE-powered New Flyers in 2014, which apply essentially the same maintenance principles. Faced with the looming cost of keeping its vehicles in good working order, the GSA asked VTA for help.

“We were all in,” explained Petty. “Both our Chief Operating Officer (at the time, Michael Hursh) and I are veterans, so we jumped at the chance to help the VA.”

On June 2, 2016, the GSA and VTA officially entered into a non-profit preventative maintenance agreement. Today, the VA (and taxpayers) continue to benefit from paying for services at cost, while VTA’s mechanics gained a head start in learning how to perform various maintenance tasks on our own New Flyer hybrids.

“VTA purchased its BAE hybrids with a three-year warranty, rather than the one-year plan purchased for the VA’s fleet,” Petty recounted. Normally, VTA’s mechanics wouldn’t begin training for certain repairs until the warranty expiration approaches. With a small fleet of similar buses needing those projects done sooner, maintenance teams got a head start learning mechanical procedures on just a couple of vehicles before tackling dozens of VTA’s own BAE hybrid-powered buses.

“It saves a lot of time once we’re ready to ramp up maintenance on those hybrids after BAE’s warranty expires,” explained Petty. This allows the mechanics to get a more in-depth understanding of maintenance procedures and supplements training through VTA’s Training Department.

This partnership is more than just a cost-effective maintenance solution. It means something special to the mechanics, many of whom are veterans themselves. Petty spent 11 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours in the Gulf War for the 101st Airborne Division.

“It’s an honor to be able to do this for the VA,” said Petty. “We treat it as such because of the purpose that bus serves.”

VA Bus

We are proud of the Veterans in our VTA Family, including the following mechanics who help maintain the VA’s bus fleet at North Yard:

Jay Petty
US Army
Staff Sergeant

John D. Rolland
US Air Force

Skip Mallory
US Army

Marius Tapiador
US Navy
Petty Officer 1st Class "Retired"

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