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Distler Accepts Akron Transit Position 
Dawn DistlerDawn Distler, who championed innovation as the City’s Director of Transit and led Knoxville Area Transit to be named North America’s top small-sized transit system in 2017, is leaving to serve as the head of Akron, Ohio’s regional transit service.

For Distler, an Ohio native, it’s a homecoming. Becoming the Executive Director of the Metro Regional Transit Authority (METRO) reunites her with family and also with the company where she started as a bus operator and then served as operations manager.

The new job also is a promotion in responsibility. METRO, with more than 400 employees, 235 vehicles and $50.2 million annual budget, provides approximately 3 million more passenger trips a year than KAT.

“It’s bittersweet to be leaving Knoxville, but this truly, for me, is a once-in-a-lifetime dream job,” Distler said. “It’s been a great four years, mainly due to the outstanding team at KAT. You won’t find a better group of transit professionals anywhere.”

Mayor Madeline Rogero praised Distler’s vision, outreach to stakeholders and management skills.

“Dawn has been and always will be a tireless advocate for transit riders,” Mayor Rogero said. “She understands what’s needed to make transit more convenient and easier to use. She’s been masterful in systematically and strategically making upgrades citywide that have resulted in KAT and our residents being better connected and better served.”

Besides being awarded the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2017 Outstanding Public Transit System award and the 2018 APTA Gold Award for Safety, the City and KAT under Distler made milestone investments and improvements.

They include:

• Implementing a five-year plan that improved transit services for 16 of 23 routes – better frequency, later evening and increased Sunday service, and expanded customer counter service hours;

• Restructuring and rebranding the free trolley service, providing more frequent and later service at a zero net cost;

• Adding hybrid diesel buses with amenities such as USB ports for electronic charging, updated sleek seating, and LED destination signs; and

• Embracing technology – adding KAT to Google Transit and WalkScore.com, for example, as well as adding Wi-Fi on all fixed route buses and trolleys; KAT also redesigned its website to make it easier to navigate, and began communicating through text and email alerts with riders.

Before being named Knoxville’s Director of Transit in summer 2014, Distler had been general manager of operations and maintenance for Davidson Transit Organization in Nashville since 2010. Prior to that, she served as director of operations, managing a $7 million budget, 270 vehicles and, in fiscal year 2013, a total of 10.45 million rides.

Distler had started her transit career as a bus operator for 10 years with Metro Regional Transit Authority in Akron, Ohio, and rose to operations manager for ADA/paratransit services and assistant director of customer services.

Posted by tmcdonell On 14 September, 2018 at 5:08 PM