It’s been about two months since Inessa Vitko joined C-TRAN as Chief Operations Officer. She brings more than a decade of experience in transit, and previously worked on a range of projects and initiatives for TriMet. We caught up with Inessa recently for a brief Q-and-A.
Having been here for a little while, what are your first impressions of C-TRAN and Vancouver?
My little brother lives in Vancouver, so it’s always been a special place for me. I’m from southern Oregon, and he lived here with his mom when we were growing up, so it always was exciting to come to Vancouver. … People always think of Portland as the big city, but I didn’t have any connection to Portland. I had a connection to Vancouver. It makes Vancouver special to me on a personal level. And now, there’s so much growth going on here; there’s all these really cool things happening. You see the downtown Waterfront development, you see the transit-oriented development project at Fisher’s, a second BRT line, all of it makes me really excited. As for C-TRAN, I had some opinions of C-TRAN before jumping the river. Over the years at TriMet, I worked with a few people here, specifically within the Operations and Planning teams, and the people I worked with all were really wonderful people. I had a great time working with them. So I was coming in with a really positive foundation of what I thought was going on here. And what I thought is what’s going on here: a ton of people who really love what they do. They love being here, they love the work that they do. … It feels like home to me already.
How has your perspective on transit in the region changed working here after your time at TriMet?
The challenges at a large agency exist at a smaller agency. We face the same challenges in public transportation, I think, across the board no matter your size. How you manage those may vary, but we are in this together and need to continue to support each other. One of the things that has come up for me – and it seems obvious – is that without C-TRAN, public transportation doesn’t exist between Portland and Vancouver. TriMet doesn’t serve Vancouver, but we serve Portland. It was an interesting “a-ha” for me, because I realize what an economic impact our service has on the overall Portland region. I had to see it through my C-TRAN lens. We carry so many people into downtown Portland. Imagine if those were all cars, or if those people didn’t work in Portland. We’re the fourth-largest transit agency in Oregon, but we’re in Washington. We’re a huge support for the quality of life in the region.
What’s a typical day in the life of C-TRAN’s Chief Operations Officer?
I don’t know if I have had a typical day yet. Since I’m still new there’s a lot of learning every day – studying the system, meeting new people, finding the paper clip stash. Although I have more than 12 years of transit experience, the nuances and culture are different, and I am really focused on soaking it all in. Like most executive or management positions there are meetings almost every day. A lot of people dread meetings, but I think they’re a really important part of building complete solutions. We need each other and our different expertise to make good choices. As far as day-to-day things, I love interacting with my operators and staff. I’ve tried to really express the fact that I have an open-door policy. They have taken me up on the offer, and it has resulted in some great, candid conversations. Right now it’s a lot of fun.
What are your hobbies?
Traveling is probably the biggest thing I do. I make time every month to get somewhere, even if it’s just taking a Friday off and going over to Leavenworth or Astoria for a weekend. I like to take big trips once or twice a year. I like to run, and I like to combine the two. In 2012 I ran the Rome marathon, and turned it into a two-week vacation in Italy. (A word of advice: Don’t try to climb the Colosseum steps the day after you do a marathon.) I’ve done marathons in D.C., San Diego and Canada, too. I like to go places where there’s a lot of culture, and sunshine.
Thai, specifically pad see ew, chicken larb or spicy eggplant with sticky rice
What’s the last movie you saw?
And the last book you read?
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
I guess I could share some deep insight, but I will stick with light-hearted: I am scared of birds, but I love penguins!