Tag Archives: OOY

KC Metro’s finest, part VI

There are few Metro press releases I look forward to more than the Operator of the Year announcement (OK, there are few Metro press releases I look forward to other than the Operator of the Year announcement. But still.) That is why I was surprised when, this afternoon, one of my coworkers casually mentioned the latest recipient as if he were old news. Folks, I am late (with this, as with everything these days), but in case you haven’t already heard…

2012 Operator of the Year

The 2012 OOY is Robert Duncan, a(nother) Seattle OG and 30-year Metro veteran. Mr. Duncan is apparently a “smooth operator” (though not the smooth operator) who drives the 311.

“Robert joins Metro’s elite group of top drivers – the best of the best,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “He knows the system inside and out, and customers appreciate and depend on his reliability and helpfulness.”

Duncan is a Redmond resident who works at Metro’s East Base in Bellevue. He was born in Seattle and attended Roosevelt High School, North Seattle Community College and the Washington Police Academy. He first joined Metro in 1977, and drove part- and full-time routes in three stints spanning about 30 years. He recently earned a 28-year safe driving award.
These days, Duncan drives Route 311 part-time. That means his “decades of experience and knowledge are still on the road, and that’s a big benefit to customers,” said Metro Transit Operations Manager Jim O’Rourke.

Commendations and kudos from customers and colleagues say Duncan is a “smooth operator” who “does a great job” and “is a plus for Metro.”

To be a good bus operator, you have to be a people person, said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “Robert exemplifies Metro’s 2,700 drivers – he’s a driver who loves his job and cares about our customers.

Congratulations (and thank you!), Mr. Duncan.

KC Metro’s finest

Congratulations to Bruce Kennedy, KC Metro’s 2011* Operator of the Year. Bruce, who drives the 346, is a 36-year Metro veteran with “a near-perfect safety record, excellent reliability, and a professional attention to quality service.” (You can read the entire announcement here.)

2011 OOY

I’ve only ridden the 346 once–to Ingraham High School’s 2007 graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, the driver I had for that trip did not exhibit the same concern for safety as our reigning OOY.

Unfortunately, the young men with the Sidekick weren’t the only folks making use of handheld devices. Our 346 driver spiced up the ride by driving one-handed while chatting on his cellie.

Thanks for keeping it professional, Bruce.

*Yes, 2011. Recipients are chosen based on their service in the previous year.

Another bus “father” is OOY

Federico “Pops” Banzuela is KC Metro’s 2010 Operator of the Year.

“Fred” Banzuela

Key information: Mr. Banzeula is a report operator, which means he drives different routes every day. Also, he’s a father figure of sorts to the less experienced drivers at Central Base.

His supervisors say Banzuela also has an unofficial assignment as “Pops” to the rest of the drivers. He’s a source of information and advice for the rookies who aren’t yet comfortable addressing their supervisors or chiefs. The staff rely on him to help keep the peace, be supportive, and to give good advice.

Of course, there’s only one Busfather*, but I have no doubt that “bus pops” will represent. Here’s his full bio:

Banzuela was born and raised in the Philippines, and came to the United States in 1970 to study. In 1971, he enrolled in the Army and served on active duty until 1978. In 1980, he began driving for Metro as a full-time transit operator and continued his education at Seattle Central Community College, eventually receiving an Associates Arts degree in Social and Human Services. He resumed his military career with the Washington National Guard’s 303rd Armor Brigade in 1997. From 2004-2005, his unit was sent to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired from the Army in 2006.

Banzuela, a Rainier Beach resident, works as a report driver at Metro’s Central Base, which means he fills in wherever he is needed – no matter which route it may be. He has only had one accident in his 31 years with Metro.

“As a report operator, Fred often gets his assignment at the last moment and is required to know every route out of Central Base,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “He works tirelessly and without complaint, starting work as early as 4 a.m. and sometimes not getting done until after 7 p.m. That requires a great deal of skill, particularly when you consider Fred’s outstanding safety record.”

His supervisors say Banzuela also has an unofficial assignment as “Pops” to the rest of the drivers. He’s a source of information and advice for the rookies who aren’t yet comfortable addressing their supervisors or chiefs. The staff rely on him to help keep the peace, be supportive, and to give good advice.

“Whenever we have new drivers who are trying to learn how to deal with the stresses of the job, we’ll tell them: ‘Go hang out with Fred for a while and he’ll teach you the ropes,’” said Central Base Chief John Lewis. “He is dedicated to his family – both his own at home and his Metro family at work.”

*Busfather happens to be the only OOY I’ve met in person while he still held the title. And have I mentioned that (since our initial meeting) I’ve run into the man around my neighborhood fairly regularly? We’ve even ridden the 27 together!

Nameless shero?

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:

Fabulous bus maintainer, Rich Green
Exceptional bus driver with no name

I assume this was an oversight that was simply too expensive to fix. So, for those who are wondering: It’s Ineke DeBoer.

KC Metro’s finest

Ineke DeBoer, 2008 Operator of the YearCongratulations 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.

Want to know more about King County’s new favorite bus driver? Read the full article, or watch a video of the ceremony.

Speaking of winners…

Metro selected co-OOYs for 2007.

Boehmer and Chappelle: 2007 Operators of the Year (photo credit: King County)

Every year, the best King County Metro Transit bus drivers are asked to select the single best operator from their own group. This year, they couldn’t do it. Instead, they doubled up on the excellence and voted for two of their peers to receive Metro’s top award.

Metro drivers Richard Boehmer and Nate Chappelle were surprised to hear they were sharing “Operator of the Year” honors.

Between them, Richard Boehmer and Nate Chappelle have 59 years of service behind the wheel for Metro, including 50 years of accident-free driving and dozens of commendations from customers. …


Boehmer has been driving for Metro since 1979. … He currently drives Route 222 serving Bellevue.

Chappelle has worked for Metro since 1978, and currently drives on all of the trolley routes.

If you dig bus drivers as much as I do, you’ll want to read the whole article.

I never take the 222, so I doubt I’ll have the pleasure of riding with Mr. Boehmer. Trolleys, on the other hand, I take almost daily. Surprisingly, Mr. Chappelle doesn’t look familiar, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open from now on.

And since everybody’s doing it:

Two winners this year
Both work hard, help passengers
Do they share a ring?

June Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to a man who’s been getting folks there for 38 years, the driver of all drivers, Mr. John “Busfather” Fabre. Some of you might remember Busfather from his Operator of the Year award ceremony back in May of 2006. Here’s a little bit from Metro about why he won:

“John has received multiple commendations from passengers, always the sign of an exceptional bus driver,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “In this case, the commendations have a common theme – that John is extraordinarily kind, courteous and helpful towards his passengers.”

After a long career driving every vehicle (and darn near every route*) that Metro operates, John has decided to hang up his uniform. Last Friday was his last day driving. Here are some photos from his retirement celebration, held at Ryerson Base this afternoon:

Busfather shrine
Cake for Busfather's retirement

Busfather got his name from his Operator of the Year “championship” ring (which folks were actually kissing at his award ceremony), and from his I’m-cool-but-don’t-cross-me vibe.**(This is a very good quality in a person responsible for maintaining order and for keeping things running on time.)

Our hero (third from left) showing off his ring with some fellow OOYs:

Metro Operators of the Year

John drove the 2 waay back when I rode it to school in the 80s (yes, I’m pretty sure he was my driver a few times), but in recent years, he’s driven routes I don’t ride very often. Lucky for me, he lives down the street from our little bus family, so I see him around the neighborhood once in a while. He’s always cool and friendly, taking the time to shoot the breeze and share a few tidbits of Metro news.

Thank you, John, for your kindness, your commitment to excellence, and, especially, for spending 38 years of your life getting folks like me where they were going. Enjoy your well-earned rest.

* * * * * * *

*John has promised to e-mail me a list of all the routes he has driven in his career. As soon as I receive it, I’ll post it here.
UPDATE (6/3)
Here is John’s list:

74,99,ST570, monorail. [Metro used to operate it.]

…these routes have changed over the years. Just a few that I remember:
The #8 was the old Ravenna
The #6 was the Stoneway.
The #12 was the 12 E cherry and 12 26th Ave. So.
The #22 was the Roosevelt
The #48 went from Rainier and Martin L. King Jr. Way to 45th and Brooklyn. It was a short route compared to now.

He also sent some great photos–much better than my bus-chick-come-lately pics. I’ll post a few of them if I ever get a moment.

**Then again, a fair number of people at his OOY ceremony and at today’s party asked if I was his daughter (even I admit that we do kind of favor), so it seems that one could interpret it in another way.

“He’ll get you there”: Bus Chick meets the Busfather

Today I got to attend Metro’s Operator of the Year ceremony. Since childhood, I’ve been seeing the pictures of winners in the ad slots inside buses, but I’ve never actually met an Operator of the Year, or (that I know of, anyway) had the privilege of riding on a bus that was driven by one.

To be selected as Operator of the Year is a huge honor. Winners are chosen by their peers (all of the operators of the month from the past year) and are celebrated (and roasted) at a fairly big ceremony, complete with blown-up photographs and specially printed napkins.

Operator of the Year John Fabre (aka the Busfather)

This year’s winner, John Fabre, is an OG Seattleite and has been driving buses in the city since 1970, back when Metro was still Seattle Transit. He currently drives route 99, also known as the Waterfront Streetcar, but he’s driven every type of vehicle that Metro operates–including (back when it was still under Metro’s jurisdiction) the Monorail.

John Fabre and Ron Sims
The Busfather and the County Kingpin

John’s family (including his grown son*, who flew in from the East Coast) attended the ceremony, and so did the county exec, lots of Metro muckity mucks, and most of the previous operators of the year. Each of the different Metro departments gave John a gift (from Maintenance, a clean bus every day, from Facilities, a prime parking space with a special sign, etc.). He even got a ring, and (I kid you not) several people kissed it.

Bus Chick and the Busfather
Bus Chick (that’s me!) and the Busfather

I got to meet John after the ceremony (didn’t kiss the ring, though). Today was also the first time I actually got to go inside a Metro base. (I can’t tell you what I saw, or the Busfather might send someone to rough me up.) Did I mention there were three kinds of cake? Except for the abundance of balloons (which I happen to have an irrational fear of), it was this bus chick’s fantasy party. I hope they put me on “the list” next year.

* This post was corrected on December 4th. I originally wrote that John had two sons.