Cruising with Michigan City Transit Director Robin Barzoni-Tillman

Cruising with Michigan City Transit Director Robin Barzoni-Tillman
By: Kayla Belec Last Updated: September 19, 2018

Commuters, have you ever stopped to consider the logistics of how you get from Point A to Point B every day? As Director of Transit for Michigan City, Robin Barzoni-Tillman’s entire day consists of those logistics. She oversees each route, each route’s schedule, each driver, and each rider’s sense of well-being and safety. In short, Tillman makes it possible for Michigan City commuters to get from Point A to Point B.

Tillman has held her title for about four years now. One of the reasons she’s so good at her job is because, prior to being promoted to Director of Transit, she worked as a bus driver for the city for several years.

“I have the knowledge from the driver’s perspective,” Tillman said. “I think that’s a plus, especially in creating the routes and providing the best service possible.”

In addition to her experience as a driver, Tillman has previous experience as a supervisor and manager; she performed those roles in the local baking industry. The knowledge from both a leadership and an operational standpoint make her perfectly suited to the role, which certainly comes with its challenges and responsibilities. Tillman supervises 16 employees in an intricate rotating work schedule and manages six routes of bus services, as well as two complimentary impaired transit services. She is also responsible for assessments and evaluations of ADA passengers for their eligibility determination. She manages federal and state grants and is responsible for the procurement of vehicles and all accompanying equipment and contracts, not to mention keeping track of federal regulations and local ordinances.

Tillman savors the challenge, though.

“I really enjoy it, stepping into the management role gave me greater challenges,” she said. “I enjoy the operational aspects, designing the fixed route services and the coordination of the stops and the connections, logistically. I find it very challenging, but I do enjoy that.”

While she is confident in her job performance, Tillman admits she can be “quite passive” about taking credit for it, tending to fall on the shy side of giving herself any kudos. Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer confirmed this and was eager to give Tillman some well-deserved praise.

“Robin has great leadership qualities,” Meer said. “One of the things I see that she really prioritizes is safety, not only for the drivers, but safety for the customers and the riders in the Michigan City transit system.”

Meer described instances where Tillman had gone above and beyond her basic duties.

“At the 4th of July parade this year, it was 90-something degrees out, and just in case people overheated, Robin helped make sure we had a couple of buses standing by with their air conditioners on and ice water ready,” Meer said. “She’s very accommodating and very cooperative with all my departments in a team effort. Here in Michigan City, we all really value her leadership in that respect.”

Soon, projects like the South Shore double tracking project and the opening of the new Franciscan Health Michigan City hospital will impact the transit service, but Tillman is ready for the challenge. She has already successfully navigated and influenced the Transit Triangle route, a bus service that takes commuters between Michigan City, La Porte, and Purdue Northwest. Now, Tillman is troubleshooting and developing routes as these new projects move forward, always eager to help make Michigan City a great place to live, work, and play.

“I have great pride in Michigan City,” Tillman said. “I’m originally from [Los Angeles], and when I relocated here, I never thought I would stay more than five years. Then I looked up, and here we are 26 years later! It’s a beautiful city. The amenities that we provide here, you’d be hard pressed to find in any other city, including our bus service. I think you’d be very hard pressed to find anything comparable in other communities.”

When she’s not working, Tillman can be found cooking for her family (most of whom followed her footsteps and relocated to Michigan City!)

“They [my family] say I cook with so much love. I think they just compliment me to keep me cooking!” Tillman laughed.

While we’d never want her to quit doing such a wonderful job for the city, our compliments to Tillman on a job well done are sincere. Next time you need to get from Point A to Point B, send a silent ‘Thank You’ to people like her!