Josh Baker named new DASH general manager

Josh Baker named new DASH general manager

By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)

The Alexandria Transit Company recently announced that Josh Baker will succeed Sandy Modell as CEO and general manager of ATC and DASH, the city’s bus service.

Baker will begin his new role February 6. He is currently general manager of the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company in Lynchburg, Va., an agency with an average ridership of 3 million people per year.

“The ATC board is extremely pleased to have found an innovative and skilled transit leader from another Virginia transit system that is structured similarly to DASH,” ATC board chairman Paul Abramson said in a statement. “Josh has accomplished a number of successes in Lynchburg and elsewhere in the commonwealth.

“We are looking forward to having Josh join the DASH team and build on the success of the system, and take DASH
to its next level of excellence.”

Baker began his transit career as a bus operator while at college at Virginia Tech, then worked his way up through the industry. He has served as the general manager of the GLTC for the past two years. Prior to GLTC, Baker helped launch and lead a new transit system in Radford, Va.

He has been involved in public transportation for more than 17 years, a career in which he said he has experienced various facets, including maintenance, marketing and operations. Baker has big shoes to fill given Modell’s 28 years of service as DASH’s first general manager, but he said the chance was too good to pass up.

“Alexandria and DASH have a stellar reputation,” Baker said in an interview last week. “There’s no question it’s one of the top and most respected transit companies in the country, and has always been known for being innovative and forward-thinking and having a great workforce…To be able to jump into an organization with such great things going on, and then to potentially be able to be the first person in 28 years to have an opportunity to look at the next stage of the organization, it was an opportunity, and an exciting one at that.”

Baker said his main focus once he takes his new position in early February will be first to learn all about the system from the inside, then figure out if it works as efficiently as it should. With annual ridership of 4 million, 10 routes across the city, a fleet of 85 buses, hybrid vehicles and the King Street Trolley, Baker said he wants to ensure it serves Alexandria’s needs.

“My priority is going to be to focus on the successes of DASH, to learn and understand them, to know what the priorities of the organization are and how they relate to the community as a whole, and what are the needs of the community and are those two things in sync,” he said. “Is the community getting what they need from the system and if so, great, how can we continue to foster that? And then maybe what unmet needs are there, and how can we make sure that it continues to be a successful organization?”

As a leader, Baker said he focuses on keeping things simple. That’s a mantra Modell said upon her retirement had been key to ensuring DASH buses are clean, safe and punctual. Baker added that the company’s emphasis on customer service is one that he will continue to promote.

“My core values as they relate to transportation services are a focus on two things: the customer, our customer service, our customer experience; and our safety record,” he said. “Making sure that we are providing the best possible service, the highest quality service, in the safest way.”

But there remain challenges, especially in a region with many overlapping transit operators and the embattled Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Metrobus routes through the city in addition to its Metrorail service at four Metro stations.

Last year, DASH stepped in to provide additional service when Alexandria was directly impacted by WMATA’s SafeTrack program, and Baker said it is crucial for the two agencies — and others — to cooperate for the good of the region.

“I’m not the GM of WMATA, I don’t have decision-making authority over how Metro is managing the SafeTrack process, for example,” he said. “But I can be there with them to try to help make sure that whatever we do helps to make sure that they’re successful, and in turn we’re successful in supporting our community.”

As for the future of the system, Baker said it must make sure it is responsive to the growth of the city and how its needs have changed. With projects like the West End Transitway planned for future years to connect the Van Dorn Street and Pentagon Metro stations, as well as other redevelopment projects and the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station, Baker said DASH must be nimble.

“In general, from the outside looking in, I see the city as one that’s very well-planned and managed,” he said. “But even with your best efforts and with all those, it’s possible that things have been missed. So my hope is to from the outside looking in, coming into it, be able to have an outsider’s view and say, ‘Well, is this working? Why?’ Hearing that it’s working because it’s working is not exactly the answer. Sometimes that causes people to say, ‘Oh, maybe it’s not. I hadn’t considered that.'”