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IndyGo has a new face

If you've taken a ride on an IndyGo bus any time in the last six months, there's a possibility you sat next to the company's CEO — but you didn't know it. Since becoming CEO in August 2019, Inez Evans has worked to change the culture of the company and forge a better relationship with IndyGo riders.

She knows she has her work cut out for her on both fronts. The changes, she said, start by getting firsthand knowledge of the service IndyGo provides.

When Evans started riding the bus, neither the passengers nor the drivers knew she worked for IndyGo, let alone was CEO. Riding the bus gives Evans the opportunity to see how everyday operations run and hear valuable feedback from riders.

"It's important, because I need to be able to relate to the experiences that our other paying customers have," Evans said. "If the bus is late for me, then I know the bus is late for everyone else. I get the chance to hear complaints and comments on our system. If I don't know about it, I can't fix it."

Getting this firsthand experience with her product is something the 55-year-old Navy veteran picked up from her former boss, Nuria Fernandez, the general manager of Valley Transportation Authority of Santa Clara County in San Jose, California, where Evans worked before coming to Indianapolis.

"She rode the train every day," Evans said of Fernandez, "so I got that level of commitment from her. She used to tell me, 'You've got to get your street cred, Nez.' And you can only get that if you're riding the bus."

While riding the bus and walking around the transit station, the most common complaints Evans hears relate to the timeliness of the buses and the attitudes of the drivers. Evans takes the complaints seriously.

"I did what I call a listening session series from talking to operators and meeting them and getting their perspective," Evans said.

"There is always two sides to a story. Many of the operators said it's just the pressure of the day, but they have to be reminded that without our customers, we don't exist."

It's important for drivers and employees of IndyGo to feel valued, Evans added. Changing the culture includes listening to their concerns

down to changing the way the company manages the holiday party.

"I was told that, before, they only did the holiday party during business hours, and not everyone got food," Evans said. "Management only did things that were convenient for them."

This relationship with employees is something that Evans believes is important to maintain the foundation of the company. She makes a point to help serve lunch and eat with her staff, a practice that didn't happen before her tenure. Evans hopes these gestures will help her staff know where she's coming from, and that she understands what they're dealing with.

"I really try to let them know my story, that I just didn't pop up and become a CEO," Evans said. "I worked hard, I had to struggle. There was a point in my life when my exhusband wasn't paying child support, and I ended up losing my job. I was on welfare for six months. I hope they understand that I know what it's like to work hard, to strive, and to struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over your head."

After being laid off from a bank, Evans saw an advertisement for work at a transit agency. She heard it had great benefits and applied. She started working in transportation over 25 years ago as a customer service agent in Washington. Evans said working in transit began as a job but quickly became a passion.

She got her start in management after speaking with a supervisor about the lack of women and minority representation in the transportation industry. Throughout her career, Evans was always one of a few — one of a few African Americans, one of a few women and one of a few African American women.

"It's very sad that even today you can pretty much count the number of African American women running a transportation agency," she said.

From 2007 to 2011, Evans worked as director of Paratransit at Capital Metro in Austin, Texas. Paratransit is public transportation with fixed routes specifically for disabled individuals. As the mother of a disabled son, Evans knows firsthand the importance of reliable public transportation for those with physical disabilities.

Evans' passion, dedication and empathy for IndyGo riders are an asset as CEO of the public transportation authority as she faced several challenges when she arrived.

One such challenge is IndyGo's paratransit service, Open Door, is notorious for long wait times and ride times. In September 2019, WTHR reported Open Door, despite initiatives, had its worst performance in nine months, finding that buses arrived on schedule only 68% of the time that month. Troubles with route scheduling forced some riders to be stuck on the buses for up to six hours for a trip around town.

To address the problem, Evans consulted an expert on paratransit to do a comprehensive review of Open Door. Based on the study, IndyGo is making adjustments to its software system to make the routes more efficient. Evans is also working with disabled Indianapolis residents to get their input.

"We all deserve the best service possible," Evans said. "We can provide more service for people with disabilities ... We have a mobility and accessibility committee who meet at the IndyGo site so we can get input from our disabled community."

Another challenge is the Red Line, a bus rapid transit line, opened just one month after Evans began as CEO. Spanning 13 miles, the Red Line has raised, lit platforms and lanes exclusively for buses. IndyGo faced problems with the Red Line system almost from the beginning. Riders complained of long wait and ride times, and the offer of free rides for the first month was extended to Nov. 30 because the ticketing kiosks didn't work. Also, two problems arose in November: batteries in the electric buses failed to hold charges due to cold weather and poorly installed medians had to be replaced.

"I don't want to Monday quarterback the project," Evans said. "We would have liked to have had more time, but we made a commitment and a promise, and we did the best we could. We didn't have enough operators, which was a mathematical mistake. Another month would have been great, and I think we would have done the bids a little differently."

On Jan. 1, a crash involving an IndyGo bus resulted in the death of 54year old Cindy Evans. Her passenger, a young child, and a passenger on the bus were taken to the hospital, where they were declared to be in stable condition. The cause of the crash is still under investigation by IMPD.

In a statement, Evans said: "IndyGo will continue to work with IMPD and follow internal protocol as this accident is investigated. Safety is taken very seriously here and embedded in our culture from day one of any employee's employment. Our condolences are with the families of those involved and we encourage all drivers to be attentive while on the road."

While drugs and alcohol were not believed to be a factor in the accident, all IndyGo drivers involved in a crash are given a blood screen and subject to further investigation.

Despite these setbacks, Evans is optimistic for the future of IndyGo.

"I think the system is really good. I would give us a B-, and we're striving for an A," Evans said. The next project on her radar is the Purple Line, which will span from Indianapolis to Lawrence.

"We have to get through all of the processes and community stakeholders, and find somewhere to put a drop-in facility where the community can get better information from our team and contractors," Evans said. "We will also be building our training facility and get our apprenticeship program up and running. We want to stabilize our Open Door program to see what improvements we can continue to make. My lists are very long," Evans said with a laugh. "We have a lot of work to do, but we have a dedicated group of professionals here."

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

Randal Taylor appointed as next IMPD chief

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Randal Taylor as the next chief of police for Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) during a press conference Dec. 31.

Taylor replaced Bryan Roach, who became chief in 2017 and announced his retirement in December 2019.

Taylor did not try to sidestep the crime issues Indianapolis has been experiencing, including record-setting homicide numbers, and throughout his remarks he emphasized IMPD won't be able to stop or solve every crime.

"We can't police our way out of these things," Taylor said. "We have to change the minds and hearts of those who are willing to commit these crimes."

The city's crime rate has been on the rise for the past five years, a trend that has disproportionately affected the Black community. In 2019, 115 of the 152 murder victims in Indianapolis were Black.

"We have to be honest with the statistics," Taylor said. "Most of our murders have Black people as victims."

Taylor emphasized the need to enhance community partnerships to curb the city's violent crime rates and said being a "simple" man will hopefully benefit the department's operations and relationship with the community.

"We have to do better as a community to provide hope," Taylor said. "We need to figure out what we can give, and what is available."

Taylor, who has served since 2016 as part of IMPD's executive leadership team, began his career in law enforcement with the Champaign (Illinois) Police Department in 1987. He joined the Marion County Sheriff's Department in 1993.

Taylor has experience in investigations for IMPD's adult sex crimes and child abuse units and was appointed to commander of community affairs in 2012.

"As someone who's spent so much time in Indianapolis neighborhoods and communities," Hogsett said, "Chief Taylor understands the importance of the progress IMPD has made when it comes to diversity in our police force."

Taylor also named Chris Bailey as assistant chief of police. Bailey was formerly deputy chief of investigations for IMPD before retiring in July. Bailey was chief of the Asheville (North Carolina) Police Department but resigned in September and returned to IMPD.

In order to build trust and relationships, Taylor assured that he would continue to be a visible figure in the community, including being there for the families of murder victims.

Becoming visibly emotional at times, Taylor told the story of his father-in-law, who was murdered in Fort Wayne years ago.

"Trust me when I tell you I understand what families go through when these kinds of things happen here," he said.

Despite the admittedly tough road that is ahead of him as chief, Taylor said he remains optimistic about the changes he would like to see during his tenure, including more resources for detectives and expanding investigations into cold cases.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick. Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

DuJuan McCoy sets trends for Indianapolis TV stations

When DuJuan McCoy purchased two Indianapolis TV stations in 2019, he brought his career in the media business full circle, calling the shots to influence media in the city in which he was raised.

But McCoy also became a small part of history — because until his arrival, there were no African American TV station owners in any of the country's largest 25 markets, which includes Indianapolis.

McCoy bought WISH-TV and WNDY-TV in April 2019 from Texas-based Nextstar Media Group Inc. for $42.5 million. He formed Circle City Broadcasting LLC to purchase the stations.

McCoy, who graduated from Ben Davis High School and Butler University, grew up in Haughville, where he passively watched the news hardly ever saw Black news anchors.

But now that he's been an owner in the media business since 2007, McCoy, 52, said he hears a lot about diversity issues as he travels the country for work.

"What I hear in every panel in every market is multicultural folks are underrepresented in newsrooms, on air and from a storytelling standpoint," he said.

One of McCoy's early priorities at WISH-TV was to hire a journalist who focuses on multicultural communities. That happened in November 2019 and is part of a broader expansion that includes new equipment and more employees.

Katiera Winfrey, WISH-TV's multicultural reporter, said her position is important because the stories are out there whether anyone tells them or not. Being able to go find and tell those stories is different from past experiences in TV, she said.

"As a Black woman making my way through the news business, some of the stories I pitched, people wouldn't find them important," Winfrey said. "But when I would be out in the community, these are the stories the people wanted to hear."

McCoy said it was part of his responsibility as a Black man to help give coverage to those communities on TV.

"If I don't do it, who's gonna do it?" he said.

Jason Hunter, sales director at Radio One, said he wasn't surprised to see McCoy create that unique position in WISH-TV's newsroom.

Hunter was part of a leadership training with the National Association of Broadcasters a few years ago and remembered thinking of McCoy, who was the dean, as someone who preferred setting trends.

"Ten years down the line, people will be reading or hearing about things DuJuan has done in the industry, and other people will follow," Hunter said.

In a podcast interview with Indianapolis Business Journal, McCoy said he got into the media business after the Indianapolis Star wrote a human interest story about him while he was a senior at Butler.

The sales manager at WTTV called McCoy, said he read the article and then invited him to interview for a job in sales and marketing. McCoy hadn't considered being part of media until then.

Six months later, McCoy was hired as an account executive and hasn't left the business since.

McCoy bought seven small stations in Texas for $3 million in 2007 and sold them five years later for $21 million. In 2015 and 2016, he bought five stations — in Evansville, Indiana, and Lafayette, Louisiana — for $66 million, with backing from an investment firm, and sold them in early 2019 for $165 million.

"You never brag about making a profit," McCoy said, "but in business, you're keeping score, and that's how you keep score."

Those stations McCoy bought and sold were unprofitable when he acquired them. It's become his reputation to take those stations and turn them around, but McCoy rejected the notion that he's flipping TV stations like houses.

"Don't hate the player, hate the game," McCoy said, adding that he wouldn't change the game.

"I love everything about the game," he said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.