Driving transformation within Northern Ontario’s rail and motor coach transportation network is Corina Moore. Since her appointment at Ontario Northland in 2005, Corina has been a champion of change and innovation, making it a priority to retain the organization’s rich history. As the current President & CEO, she is in charge of leading Ontario Northland through the industry’s evolving landscape.Corina takes an authentic approach to leadership, and, along with a skilled team who is ready to stand behind her, is leaving a big impact in the industry. We had the chance to speak with her about her career at Ontario Northland, get her thoughts on how technology is changing the bus and rail industry, and hear her perspective on what the future holds for the organization.
Q&A With Corina
Q: You’ve been at Ontario Northland for over a decade. How did you get to be in the driver’s seat?
I have a motto, 'never turn down an opportunity in life'. Fortunately, I have had a number of these opportunities present themselves to me throughout my career. Before I stepped into the role of Chief Executive Officer at Ontario Northland, I held several other positions, including the role of Chief Operating Officer. During that time, the organization was going through divestiture and the company was put up for sale. That is when our board of directors asked if I was interested in leading the transformation of Ontario Northland. It was an easy decision for me to accept what I saw as a tremendous opportunity.
I love my job. I’m passionate about what our employees accomplish every day, and I’m always excited to go to work and provide service to the people of Northern Ontario.
I also have to give credit to my family. They all support me so much, and the best part about having a young family is that they have a way of refocusing me as soon as I walk in the door. Whether it’s a game of ‘mini-sticks’ or ping-pong, cheering them on at the hockey rink, or getting caught up on the latest happenings of a teenager, they share and we laugh together. It’s such a good thing for my heart and my mind. You have to go to a different place even if it’s for a few hours each day. My children truly guide my thinking. They are smart little minds and I attribute much of the leadership skills I have gained over the years, to my role of being a mother.
Q: As CEO, what exactly do you do?
Ontario Northland is an organization that has been around for 118 years. The importance of this role is taking the really great part of our rich history and renewing it so that it's relevant to today's passengers, evolving not only our technology but also our relationship with our customers. It's about rallying around our new vision without forgetting our past.
We provide services across the province and connect rural communities to larger cities. It’s unbelievable to witness how transportation plays such a pivotal role in society. For some, our transportation network provides the only means of getting to medical appointments, to post-secondary, or to visit the places or people that are important to them. When our bus stops at a college or university, it encourages people to go to that institution. In that sense, it's an economic generator. People end up having families and building their lives around these hubs.
Q: How do you promote diversity inclusion?
Like most rail companies, Ontario Northland was not very diverse when I first started. However, it has never been about hitting some sort of quota, rather, building a talented team. At the end of the day, we're all people, and if you have all the right people around the table, it makes for creative brainstorming of ideas and is ultimately a competitive advantage.
I've always made it a priority to ensure that women know they will be supported at Ontario Northland; that coming from different backgrounds, age groups, and cultures is important at our organization.
I also try and incorporate this topic into all the speaking engagements I do to bring the conversation to the upcoming generation. We go into grade eight and high schools and show the students that they can pursue any career they set their sights on. Highlighting 'women in trades' is a great way to demonstrate to young people how Ontario Northland has women in traditionally male-dominated roles. For example, we have women electricians, rail conductors, railcar mechanics - this balance is positive for all of us.
Diversity at the table is important. I hope that at every level of the company we can inspire each other to be the best that we can be. Incredible things can happen in that kind of environment.
Q: What do you find most rewarding / challenging about your role?
We've made sure that a century-old organization keeps evolving to meet the needs of the people we serve while retaining its history. We've devised a strong foundation to enable better ideas and services. In doing so, we've reduced our operating costs by approximately 20% and expanded our services, all the while delivering a better customer experience. Our employees are unbelievably passionate, and when we're all moving in the same direction, we're able to achieve a lot together.
Ontario Northland is at the forefront of the rail and motor coach industry in Northern Ontario. However, five years ago, we would never have been able to expand like we are today. Now, there is so much support from the government, and with this, we’ve been able to grow to new levels. We're at the point where we are hiring fifth-generation employees from families that we have helped support, and who have supported us over the years.
It doesn't get much better than knowing this organization is going to be around in the future, for the benefit of the people and businesses in Northern Ontario.
Q: What is your vision for motor coach travel 5 years from today?
Firstly, there needs to be more of an understanding of what motor coach travel is about. It’s safe, reliable, comfortable, and a relaxing place to be. Our buses are clean, the drivers are wonderful, and you get free WiFi.
The good news is that the legacy perspective is changing. I now hear, "I can't believe how clean and comfortable your buses are and how the drivers are so friendly."
One of the things I say to people is, "try it once. You will be amazed at your experience. Whether it's to see the unique geography in Ontario, watch Netflix on your way to university, complete your work en route to a meeting, or to relax in comfort on your ride to a medical appointment, it's a wonderful way to travel."
We're one of the only motor coach operators to offer a fully accessible washroom to passengers. There are also audiovisual announcements onboard. I personally avoid flying unless I absolutely have to, because I find it just doesn’t offer the same levels of convenience and my flights are almost always cancelled or delayed. On the bus, I can work and I don’t have to worry about driving in bad weather. It’s also much more environmentally friendly.
Over the next five years, you will continue to see enhancements from Ontario Northland and across the industry; primarily to enhance how we support passengers. We expect to see an on-demand service and a fully integrated and seamless transportation network across the province, where bus and rail coexist in a very complimentary way.
For Ontario Northland, this will include support for all medical and educational institutions. Part of what we do in rural Ontario is making sure seniors can get to medical appointments and students can get to school. You are going to have a new respect for how we can connect rural centres and how bus travel becomes the new norm. People living in rural parts of the country can enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle while getting access to the services they require.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important transportation-related disruptive technology that has taken place recently?
New AV and drones, ridesharing - all of those things have or will have a major impact on transportation.
For Ontario Northland, it has been reservation-based ticketing. The impact that implementing the system had on our business is night and day. Five years ago, we were issuing paper tickets where we didn't have any real-time data on who was travelling when and where they were going.
Now with reservation-based ticketing, we know customer behaviours - we have data that can provide detailed reports. We can provide superior customer service because we know where people are getting on and where we need to add more buses so no passengers are ever stranded. We also reduced our costs with better operational insights, and are more environmentally friendly being paperless.
Technology has been the foundational pillar of our transformation. The ticketing system has given us data at our fingertips, so we can make better decisions to realign our business with our customers. Currently, this involves offering them dynamic pricing. Next, we’re moving to on-demand services. We’re always thinking of ways to better connect rural Ontario to all the major services.
Our advancements in technology and strong data is one of the key reasons we have been able to expand our services and provide so much more value to the people of Northern Ontario.
Q: What’s the best part of the next thing you’re doing (personally or professionally)?
You get the right people around the table and great things happen. Doors open in terms of the transportation services we’re offering. Every time we go down a path, another opportunity opens up and we grab it. Exploring new avenues helps us to evolve.
Passengers and strong data guide us and ensure we make wise business decisions. We always have the passenger at the heart of everything we do. Looking at this, we ask ourselves, "how can we do more for them, how can we make their lives better?"
It makes us proud to know that our experience and skillset are being recognized by the Province of Ontario. We are being asked to provide business cases to guide government decision making, including expanded transportation options that include intercommunity bus and passenger rail. Ensuring the best travel options are available to people in rural Ontario is something that we are passionate about.
I'm excited about what's around the corner and want to make sure that Ontario Northland is around for a very long time. My kids are constantly learning new things that motivate them, and I feel the same about the work I'm doing. I'm fortunate to come into work every day and do what I love.
We’d like to thank Corina for sharing her thoughts with us. In particular, we’re pleased to see that Ontario Northland is maximizing its growth potential by utilizing a reservation-based ticketing system. Operational and customer service decisions based on data taken from industry-specific software is supporting their goals of better serving their customers and evolving the business.
Keep a lookout for the next interview session from our In the Driver’s Seat series. If you’d like to receive the content straight to your inbox, sign up for the Gazette today.