How to Run a County-Sized Transportation System and Still Have Fun!


Sandy Miller always had knack for navigating. When she was a child, her family would go on camping trips and her dad–an army veteran—taught her how to read a map. In high school, she understood coordinates and long before the invention of the GPS, she was the friend who mapped out the route to various dog shows that she still loves to attend with her prized canines.

So, when Sandy was promoted from Driver to Transportation/Safety Coordinator in 2016 and was tasked to organize the tangled web of transportation routes, she knew she was up for the challenge.

Her method of creating the new van routes was precise. First, she posted a massive map of Lancaster County on the wall, next she placed thumb tacks where each participant lived and finally, she mapped out the most efficient routes.  Ever the navigator, she drove each route to test the exact time.

Today she continues to navigate —not only in maps—but also in many other areas from overseeing the van drivers, helping participants in and out of the vehicles, communicating with parents for call offs, adjusting the routes, leading the safety team, and keeping the 28 Lighthouse vehicles in tip top shape.

Sandy’s day starts long before daylight. Her alarm goes off at 4:00am and she arrives at Lighthouse at 4:57am. “Barry beats me here— he was an ex-marine,” she says. The other drivers arrive soon afterwards.

By 5:15am, the drivers disperse across the entire county to pick up the participants—as far North as Blainsport, west as the river town of Marietta, east as Morgantown and as far south as Little Britain (minutes away from the Maryland border).  Over 90 participants rely on Lighthouse transportation each week.

Much like clockwork, each participant has a set time for pick-up. “We have a five-minute wait.  If you’re not out in five minutes, we leave,” Sandy states adamantly. For the vans who reach far distances, drivers know that they must race against the clock when picking up their 10 participants. Thanks to Sandy’s organizational skills, the vans consistently arrive at Lighthouse by 8:30am. In the afternoon, they arrive at 2:15pm to take the participants home.

Of course, there are situations when things go amiss. There are times when there is a traffic jam on Route 30, other times a call off from a participant (or driver) or worse yet…the arrival of snow. In front of her office door is a sign stating, “Let it snow…somewhere else, please.”  In addition to mastering the van routes, Sandy also serves as the Safety Coordinator and helps to make the decision about closing on snow days. When it comes to safety, Sandy admits to being “hands-on.”

“I treat my van drivers like I want to be treated… I won’t throw my drivers in a situation that I wouldn’t want to get into.”

In her role, Sandy is the contact for the parents of the participants when they call off. “I’m constantly getting text messages from parents”, she says.

Much like a boy scout, Sandy is prepared if van-drivers call off. In each van, both the driver and the aid are trained in driving so there is a backup driver. Also, all the van drivers are cross trained in multiple routes so that they can fill in when someone is on vacation.

Sandy reflects on the team of van drivers: “My team is great. They’re flexible. They work with you. I can’t say enough about this team that I have…they make it easy.” Sandy describes with fondness how the drivers create a fun, family-like atmosphere.

In addition to overseeing the van drivers, Sandy maintains all of Lighthouse’s 28 vehicles —including the fleet of cars which are used during the day for Community Participation Services and Employment Services. Sandy keeps meticulous records of the oil changes, inspections, and repairs.

Sandy runs the transportation department like a well-oiled machine. Since Sandy has been the Transportation Coordinator, the vans and cars have been consistently maintained and the participants are able to make it to work at Lighthouse—even on the days when a driver calls off.

She reflects on the importance of being a driver: “We are the first people our participants see in the morning.  You gotta have fun…that’s what it’s about…enjoy the participants.”

Emily Bauman, Marketing & Communications Assistant

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