Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) announces the retirement of ATC CEO/General Manager Sandy Modell, at the end of this year. Modell began her transit career in college driving a bus part-time in Harrisonburg, Virginia unknowing that would be the start of a 38 year career in the transit industry. She moved up rapidly in that agency once she graduated college and did everything from dispatching to operations supervision, planning and scheduling, grant writing, and negotiating a contract with James Madison University to expand the bus system to better meet the needs of the students, while providing the students free transportation under a contract with the University. This contract remains in effect 32 years later.
Modell was hired by the City of Alexandria in 1984 to help with the start-up of its new local bus system, DASH. Modell assisted the new bus system with its service planning and scheduling, marketing, and coordination with the regional Metrobus system. She negotiated the first transfer arrangements between DASH and Metro. And, she garnered support of the system from the community, who questioned at the time the need for Alexandria to have its own local bus system. Modell also convinced the ATC Board that DASH was the best name for the new system. Five years later, the Board hired Modell to take over the helm of the fledging bus system. At that time, Modell was one of only three women transit general managers in the county. Within a short period of time, after taking over the leadership of the system, she created opportunities for the system to grow and expanded services beyond the original four routes, and in saving money for the City, by taking over a number of local Metrobus routes that could be operated more responsively and at a lower cost. She will be leaving behind a legacy of being the City’s transit expert, building significant employee engagement and high morale, a solid customer satisfaction rate, strong community and business partnerships, and an extremely successful and award winning transit system that has been recognized for its outstanding services and programs regionally, statewide, and across the country.
Modell also leaves the agency she led for 28 of those 38 years with a number of accomplishments during her tenure as DASH general manager including:
- Record ridership – DASH ridership increased from just over a million riders to over four million riders during her tenure
- Increased service miles by over one million miles annually, expanding DASH service throughout the City
- Improved efficiencies and effectiveness, operating one of the highest operating ratios, passengers per hour, and miles between road calls in the region and the industry
- Increased the size of the DASH fleet from 19 buses to 85 buses
- Introduced eco-friendly hybrid electric buses that now make up over 50% of the fleet
- Took over the operation of the popular King Street Trolley with hybrid trolley buses, increasing ridership over 50 percent
- Opened up new doors for recruiting and hiring women in the transit industry and promoting women from within the organization, receiving the Commission on Women’s’ Salute to Women Award for Business and Career Development
- Helped to craft $35 million in VDOT capital projects funding, flexing road money to transit, for the new William B. Hurd Transit Facility, allowing DASH to be poised for growth
- Served as project manager on the construction of the new DASH facility, which was the City’s first design build project, and received LEED Gold certification
- Served as chair of the Virginia Transit Liability Pool (VTLP) and helped to create the statewide insurance pool for Virginia transit systems, which has operated successfully for the past 30 years
- Created an employee and customer focused organization rated one of the top City services in Alexandria
“I have always said that if you treat your employees like kings and queens, they will go out and treat the customers the same,” Modell said. “I am extremely proud of my accomplishments at DASH and all that has been created under my leadership. It is a bittersweet moment in my life. This is my baby and we are a big family. It will be very hard to leave. I plan on continuing to lead DASH until my replacement is hired and will work with them to maintain continuity and provide them with a base of knowledge on what has made DASH the success it is both from a caring workplace to a high quality, community-oriented service. I will always be part of the DASH family and will continue to help the system and the City wherever I can in the future.”
Paul Abramson, Chairman of the ATC Board acknowledges that DASH and the City of Alexandria have been extremely fortunate to have had Modell at the helm for so many years. “She has been a driving force in moving the system forward, expanding its services throughout the City, and building community and political support. It is a tribute to Sandy that DASH provides the highest level of service, safety and affordability to our customers, and she has created an environment and culture within the organization that is not found in many workplaces. She will be hard to replace.”
Modell has had two passions in her adult life. One, of course, has been DASH, and the other is dogs. Modell will be opening the first and only canine academy and learning center in Alexandria after she leaves DASH. “I will do many of the same things that I have done at DASH to make the Wholistic Hound Academy a great success. Build community and business partnerships and treat my employees and customers like kings and queens to keep them motivated, happy, and coming back for more.”
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