In case you’d forgotten (or, like me, blocked it out), Metro fares are going up a(nother) quarter in 2011. Starting in January, a one-zone, peak-hour fare will cost $2.50. You can find the details here.
Congratulations to Marvin White (aka “Superman”), Metro’s 2009* Operator of the Year. I missed the big surprise ceremony (again), and that’s unfortunate; I would have liked to have had an opportunity to meet him.
Here’s what the folks at Metro had to say about the 31-year veteran, who currently drives the 271:
Bus riders on many Eastside routes think White is the Superman of Metro drivers. They describe him as kind, courteous, skilled, and gifted with an ability to stay on schedule “…despite I-405 traffic.”
“Marvin is one of those operators who knows many of his passengers by name, even though he picks a new route to drive three times a year,” said Metro’s Manager of Operations Jim O’Rourke. “When he goes on vacation, his passengers actually send us emails to tell us they miss him.”
White does manage to sneak in a little free time away from his driving duties. He’s an avid bicyclist and an accomplished musician. He’s played in several Metro-employee bands during his years with the agency.
But he can’t stay away for long – his customers won’t stand for it.
Here’s a sampling of comments from Metro passengers about White:
• “He always has something good to say to everybody, and he greets at least one-third of the passengers on his bus by name every time they get on or off.”
• “When he is not driving the route, the passengers just sit and avoid eye contact. As long as Marvin is at the wheel, everyone is jovial and filled with camaraderie.”
• “If Metro could clone Marvin White, you would double your bus riders in a hurry!”
A multi-modal type who cares about people and sparks bus-wide discussions? Time for a trip on the 271!
*Yes, I know it’s the middle of 2010, but it’s how Metro does it:
Since 1978, the drivers themselves have selected the best of their peers to hold the title of Metro Transit’s Operator of the Year. In order to receive the award, a driver must be chosen as Operator of the Month from one of the seven transit bases. At the end of the year, the Operator of the Year is selected by a vote of all fellow Operators of the Month. The annual ceremony is usually held the following summer.
On a recent Wednesday, I got to talking with the man in line in front of me at the grocery store. He was an older man, probably a good decade older than my father, and he showed a lot of interest in Busling. His eyes lingered long after the initial “Look at the baby!”, and he asked lots of questions–the kind asked by people who are missing the days when their own were still tiny. So, to keep the conversation from being completely one-sided, I asked the man if he had children.
“Yes, two grandchildren,” he said, “a boy and a girl.” He paused a moment, then added, “My son was murdered on a Metro bus in 1987.”
He told me a few of the details–that it was a robbery, that his son had been counting his recently cashed paycheck in the back and then had refused to surrender the money to the gunman who demanded it. That it was the first ever murder on a Metro bus.
We talked a bit longer–about his grandchildren (who live in Portland but visit him often), and about how he wished his son had used better judgment on that April afternoon 23 years ago–and then went our separate ways.
Our encounter didn’t last longer than five minutes, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. About all the hours and days and years that kind man had spent loving his child, watching him learn to smile and laugh and roll over and crawl; discovering his preferences, his quirks, his weaknesses, his gifts; attending games and graduations; giving advice about important tests and first dates.
I felt compelled to honor his loss by learning all I could about his son–not about the way he was killed, but about who he was, what he cared about, and who would miss him. Here’s what I know:
His name was Larry Curtis Walker. He was 30 when he was killed, an employee at The Plush Pippin at Southcenter. According to his boss, David Jensen, he was wonderful to work with.
“Larry sparkled with integrity and loyalty,” he said in a PI interview a couple of weeks after the murder. “[He was] the best employee I’ve ever had.”
Larry left behind two children, a son and a daughter. His son was six when he died. His daughter, from what I could gather, was younger. Many people knew and cared about Larry, including parents, students, and staff at his son’s school. They started a memorial fund (administered by David Jensen) for his children.
And he had a father who loved him dearly.
On Saturday, Bus Nerd and I spent an evening out alone (thanks, Dawn and Juanya!) and decided to check out a restaurant we’d been meaning to try on Queen Anne. On the 4 ride home, we sat directly across from the latest Operator of the Year/Vehicle Maintenance Employee of the Year photos, and Bus Nerd pointed out that the blurb next to the OOY’s photo doesn’t include her name. Check it:
I assume this was an oversight that was simply too expensive to fix. So, for those who are wondering: It’s Ineke DeBoer.
As much as we all enjoyed guessing which routes were running (and where) during last year’s big snowstorm(s)…
Metro’s developed a new plan to improve predictability and communication during severe winter weather. From a KC Metro press release:
This season, customers will be able use the Internet to quickly see which buses in the Metro system are on snow route based on “geographic area.” Just as congestion is measured by color on congestion flow maps, the use of green, yellow or red on Metro’s new online snow map will give riders a snapshot of bus operations in each of seven geographic areas of the county. Green will indicate buses are operating on normal routes, yellow will signify minor reroutes (primarily in higher elevation areas), and red will alert customers that buses in the entire geographic area are on snow route or are being significantly impacted by snow.
If a major snowstorm spanning several days strikes, Metro will activate a newly designed Emergency Service Network for its fleet. When the network is activated, Metro’s regular routes will be replaced with 70 pre-identified “priority” snow routes across the county designed to be reliable in severe weather conditions. Metro will make every attempt to keep service operating on these routes as long as transportation service providers are able to keep roads passable.
…Customers are also being encouraged to sign up online for enhanced Metro Transit Alerts being launched today that will deliver email or text messages about widespread service disruptions or weather events impacting their individual bus route.
Hallelujah. (I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for targeted alerts.) And about those impassable roads…
Based on lessons learned last winter, Metro has revised and simplified snow routes and has closely coordinated with other public works and transportation agencies to make sure bus routes are identified as priorities for plowing and sanding. Agency leaders also negotiated a separate agreement with the city of Seattle to exchange staff during weather emergencies for improved coordination and to help the city plow streets, if necessary, in an effort to keep buses moving.
I can’t say I’m eager to test the new system this winter, but–should the unthinkable happen (again)–here’s hoping for clear sidewalks, so folks can actually make it to the routes that are running.
I have to say, as much as I loathe change (and as much as I will surely miss hopping the 48 for all my southbound needs), the New Bus Order actually seems to be working in my favor. Some examples of the goodness:
• The 8 now runs in my neighborhood on weekends. Folks, I have been dreaming of this day for most of my car-free life (six-and-a-half years and counting), and I cannot believe it’s actually happened. Capitol Hill (specifically, the north end of 15th Ave) will be seeing at lot more of me on Saturday afternoons.
• The 27 now connects with the 17 instead of the 25. I love this for several reasons, the most important of which is that my brother Jeremy recently moved to Ballard, and Metro now provides what amounts to a door-to-door ride from my place to his. (Much beloved) brother aside, I have a lot more reasons to go to Ballard than I do to go to Laurelhurst.* And honestly, the connection just seems to make more sense. While the 27/17 combo eliminates an already necessary transfer between the Central District and Ballard, the 27/25 combo is slower and less direct than the two-bus options (48+75 and 48+30) between the CD and Laurelhurst.**
• Now that the 14 stops at Mount Baker Station, I have four ways to connect with Link: 27 to DSTT, 4 to DSTT, 48 to Mount Baker Station, and 14 to Mount Baker Station. I don’t go to the airport all that often, but when I do, I’ll have more control of when I come and go.
I’m sure I’ll discover more things to like (and not) as I ride more.
Your turn. How have Metro’s latest changes affected you?
* No offense to all my former school buddies who lived there back in the day–I do miss our excursions to the Mr. Peepers-era U Village–or to the very alt-commute friendly Children’s Hospital.
** Really, though, there’s no fast way to get from where I live to Laurelhurst, despite the fact that it’s not all that far.
Big (big!) bus changes take effect tomorrow. It’s a rather odd mix of light rail-related service reductions and tweaks (48 no longer runs south of McClellan*; south end of the 8 route operates on weekends (!); 14, 48, and other south-end routes now stop at the Mount Baker light rail station) and Transit Now implementations (2 and 13 have added a few daily trips).
You can find the details here.
I am still confused about one thing: The page that lists the changes doesn’t include the 194. Does that mean it will continue to operate to the airport until the Link line is completed? I’m definitely not complaining (though, to be fair, we tried the Tukwlila Station shuttle–with Chicklet and luggage–and it was pretty painless)–just wondering.
In the summer, I add an item to my long list of reasons to avoid the 4: Trolleys don’t have AC. Apparently, neither do most of Metro’s “wireless” coaches.
I’ve spent the last decade believing that all of Metro’s diesel buses were equipped with air conditioning. I’ve spent the last couple of months believing that all of my drivers were either mean; abiding by some official recession fuel-savings policy; or really, really cold natured. What I learned today, my friends, is that only 30% of Metro’s fleet is air conditioned. (Wonder if a perk of being OOY is driving a bus with AC?)
I’ve ridden on about five air conditioned buses (out of a zillion) since mid-June, and I’m starting to get a little cranky. I’m not mad at Metro for not investing in buses with AC*; we don’t (or at least, we didn’t) need it much in Seattle. I’m just hot.** Hot walking to buses. Hot waiting for buses. Hot riding on buses. Hot walking from buses. And, like almost everyone else in the city, hot at home.
Thank God for the library.
* I am, however, a bit curious about where else these older coaches were sold. Alaska perhaps?
**For those who are interested, the agency has a few (rather obvious) beat-the-heat tips on its website.
Congratulations to Ineke DeBoer, Metro’s 2008 Operator of the Year. (Yes, I know I’m late with this.) Ineke may be the newest OOY, but she isn’t so new to driving buses. She’s a 30-year Metro veteran (currently driving the 31 and 68) with an excellent safety record and a personnel file full of commendations.
DeBoer, a native of the Netherlands, has been a full-time driver for Metro since 1979. She immigrated to the United States as a young bride, but sadly was widowed at age 21. She first found work as an interpreter for an airline based at Sea-Tac, and then joined Metro a few years later.
“Ineke speaks four languages, but most of all she communicates care and compassion in delivering her passengers safely to their destinations every day,” said Metro Operations Manager Jim O’Rourke. “Her safety record is great, and customers regularly take the time to call or send an email to tell us how much they enjoy her being their driver.”
DeBoer’s warm heart is well known in the community, too. She has been active in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization for many years, and in 2002 was honored as “Big Sister of the Year” for the Pacific Coast region. She and her second husband, Metro Operator Richard Jensen, have an active family of children and grandchildren. They are known for their warm and friendly home, where any kid is always welcome.
A two driver family? Very interesting. Guess there are all kinds of bus couples.
• Metro gave a preview of the new Rapid Ride buses on Tuesday.
Sexy, no? The interiors aren’t bad, either.
And the agency had some more good news*:
…acting FTA Administrator Matt Welbes announced his agency is immediately releasing $13.8 million dollars to help fund the acquisition of new articulated hybrid-electric coaches and other system improvements to support Metro’s first RapidRide line. The funding will help pay for 16 new buses, various station and shelter enhancements and real-time information systems for the “A Line” serving the cities of Tukwila, Sea Tac, Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way beginning in 2010.
This is a good thing, since KC Metro is beyond broke at this point–and in the process of trying to figure out which existing service to cut.
•If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, watch the Streetfilm, “The Search for the Zozo.” I won’t even try to explain it. I’ll just say that it’s a bit different from the usual Streetfilms fare, and, if you’re in the mood for silly (Who isn’t these days?) it’s worth the watch.
• Pierce Transit driver Brentt Mackie won first place in the American Public Transportation Association’s annual Bus Roadeo. (Yes, people, there is really such a thing.)
From an APTA press release:
Lakewood, WA – For the second time in three years, Pierce Transit Bus Operator Brentt Mackie has been awarded the First Place trophy in the 40-foot Transit Coach Division at the 2009 International Bus Roadeo that just concluded in Seattle.
The Roadeo competition requires drivers to maneuver their vehicles through an intricate maze of graded exercises that includes serpentine turns, passenger stops, and reverse turns that duplicate the demanding requirements of everyday driving. The final exercise is high-speed braking where operators maneuver through a row of ten 55-gallon barrels spaced only inches wider than the bus.
Whoa. I want to be on his bus.
This year, the festivities were held here in the 2-0-sickness. Seattle Transit Blog has the scoop on the other Washington State winners.
• Seattle police are cracking down on drivers who don’t stop at crosswalks.
Seattle police are sending more pedestrian decoys onto city crosswalks, to nab drivers who blow through without stopping.
Seattle tends to rank among the safest U.S. cities for pedestrians. Nonetheless, 468 car-pedestrian collisions were reported to police last year, said Gray. She is project manager for the city’s new Pedestrian Master Plan, soon to be released, which calls for more enforcement.
(Source: Seattle Times)
This issue was also one of the topics on KUOW’s The Conversation on Tuesday.
* I don’t have a link to the online version of this press release, but I will post it as soon as I do.