A Conversation with the CATS Transit Operations Training Manager

Published on March 28, 2024

Chanda Wright sitting at desk.

Brandon Hunter Professional headshot.png

by Brandon T Hunter
Communications Division

A Conversation with the CATS Transit Operations Training Manager

In the heart of the Charlotte transit network, there is an extraordinary story that is being written, a narrative that merges the realms of education and public transit into innovation and leadership. This is the story of Chanda Wright, whose career path from a dedicated science teacher to the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) transit operations training manager charts a course through uncharted areas, reflecting a deep-seated commitment to growth, learning and community service. 

After college Wright nurtured the minds of middle and high school students, guiding them through the mysteries of life, biology and earth sciences. Yet, she wanted a new horizon, a desire to embrace challenges beyond the familiar walls of education. It was an opportunity to discovery the dynamic world of transit operations. 

Wright's transition into transit was not just a career change but something that tested her resolve, adaptability and commitment to lifelong learning. She describes her career shift as an enlightening experience. 

"The transition to transit was not just a change of career,” Wright said. “It was a chance for me to continue learning how to adapt and grow, reminding us that the willingness to learn allows us to transcend traditional boundaries."  

As she navigated her way from a rail operator to a training specialist, and eventually to her current role as the transit operations training manager, Wright transformed obstacles into opportunities, leveraging her educational expertise to foster an environment of excellence and innovation in everyone that goes through transit operations training. 

In the high-stakes field of rail operation, Wright encountered a new language, a vocabulary of tracks, signals and safety protocols. Yet, it was the familiar rhythms of the classroom – teach, show, do – that became her compass. Her background guided her through the complexities of transit training. This methodology, rooted in the principles of education, underscored the importance of learning, proving that the heart of effective training lies in the ability to adapt and translate knowledge across different contexts. 

As the manager of CATS training programs, Wright's responsibilities extend beyond just teaching the information.  

"We don't just focus on training operators to navigate routes,” Wright said. “We empower them to become integral parts of a system that moves cities, communities and futures."  

She is a visionary, tasked with the development of curriculum that not only meet operational standards but also inspire and empower new generations of transit professionals. Her approach is a testament to the power of education as a transformative force, one that shapes not just individuals but the very makeup of the transit industry. 

Sustainability and environmental stewardship are at the core of CATS operations, and Wright ensures that her and her team stay educated about industry changes. She is sure to highlight the importance of sustainability.  

"Sustainability in transit isn't just a professional mandate,” Wright said. “It's a moral imperative that guides our journey toward a greener, more resilient future."  

The transition towards more sustainable transit practices is not just a check mark, but a moral imperative, underscoring the critical role of the transit industry in shaping a greener, more resilient future. 

Wright's story is an illustration of the limitless possibilities that unfold when we dare to venture beyond our comfort zone, embracing the unknown with courage and an open heart. It serves as a compelling call to action for individuals from diverse backgrounds to explore the opportunities within the transit industry, armed with the knowledge that their unique perspectives and skills can drive meaningful change. 

Reflecting on her journey, Wright states, "My journey from the classroom to transit leadership is a testament to the power of perseverance, adaptability, and the enduring impact of education on every facet of life."  

Her journey is a celebration of the transformative power of education, a force that transcends traditional boundaries, while enriching lives and communities. Through her leadership, Wright is not just navigating the complexities of urban transit but developing a future where education and public service meet, creating a legacy of impact and innovation. 

As our conversation came to a close, Wright shared a final thought that summarizes her passion for both her work and the potential for others to find their path within the transit industry.  

"For anyone doubting their ability to operate a train or a bus, remember that transit is about more than just moving the community in a vehicle. There are many careers within transit,” Wright said. “And if you're apprehensive about operating a bus or train, understand that there is a dedicated transit operations training team ready to support you throughout your training. Our goal is not just to teach you how to navigate routes but to ensure you are equipped, confident and ready to make a meaningful impact on our community through your role in transit."  

This powerful statement from Wright not only highlights the range of opportunities within the transit industry but also underscores her unwavering commitment to nurturing the next generation of transit professionals. 

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