Geoff Straw became a Unitrans driver in 1985, the general manager in 2004 and is now moving on to become the executive director of regional transit in San Luis Obispo.
Beginning on Jan. 30, Straw will be working in San Luis Obsipo, also a college town. He said he feels very confident in the staff he is leaving behind and is ready to take on the new opportunity.
Mentoring student employees as bus drivers and improving the bus fleet of Unitrans, Straw has made an invaluable impact on the UC Davis transit system, according to ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat.
“Whoever fills Straw’s position has huge shoes to fill. Unitrans is very well run because of him. In transit, he is respected nationally and because of him we will be able to continue in the future. We have the next 10 to 15 years planned,” Thongsavat said.
When Straw was a student at UC Davis, he became involved in Unitrans when he applied with his roommate to drive buses. Growing up in San Francisco, he was very familiar with the bus system, and was excited to actually drive a bus.
In 2004, he rejoined the Unitrans staff, hired by Mark Champagne, Straw’s direct supervisor.
“There were three reasons we hired him. He was a UC Davis graduate, so he had actually worked for Unitrans. He worked at Utah State, which is a similar town to Davis, and also with a consulting company in Tahoe. He had good reports with people skills,” Champagne said.
Straw’s legacy on Unitrans will continue to live on. His major improvements to the entire system have impacted those who work closely with him, according to Scott Weintraub, one of Straw’s two assistant general managers.
“The [impacts] come in two ways. Physical things, such as the Silo terminal remodel, which has been in the works for over decade, was seen through by Geoff,” Weintraub said. “He also began work on the Memorial Union terminal. He has modernized the bus fleet and replaced older buses. The mentoring with employees and students in ASUCD will help them find careers in the future.”
Straw has kept the current bus fleet at no more than three years old.
“I have done a lot for funding, getting 35 new buses. We do not have to worry about breaking down and have implemented the West Village service, weekend service, and O line. However, what I am most proud of is the mentoring of students,” Straw said.
Last Friday, a going-away party was held for Straw; 150 students and employees attended.
“We had 150 people that turned out to wish Geoff the best, and say goodbye to bus number 1014. This bus is going to a museum in England because it couldn’t run according to air quality standards,” Weintraub said.
Bus number 1014, one of two original London Unitrans buses, was sold to ASUCD in 1967. It is now going home to be on display in a London museum, according to Adam Palmere, Straw’s other assistant general manager.
Selling bus #1014 was one of Straw’s going-away presents, along with a shop jacket. Not only does he run Unitrans, but on the weekends he works as a mechanic, so the shop jacket was very special, according to Weintraub.
ASUCD and the business office are currently recruiting nationally for a new general manager. Until a new general manager is hired, Palmere will be serving as interim general manager.
DANIELLE HUDDLESTUN can be reached at email@example.com.