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Posts in Category: Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Xavier Knazze 

| Wednesday, November 13, 2019 10:41:00 AM

Operator Xauvier Knazze gets a lot of fan mail.

Every month, he receives multiple commendations from customers who are amazed by his big smile, cheerful demeanor and attention to safety.

“He is a positive, safe driver and a perfect ambassador for not only your company but the human spirit,” one Route 4 customer wrote this summer.

Knazze (who pronounces his name zah-vee-ay kuh-nah-zee) has had the opportunity to make a lot of impressions, too. In his eight years with Metro Transit, he’s driven nearly every single bus route and briefly served as a train operator.

His recipe for a positive on-board climate: sincerity, with a sprinkle of humor. Knazze has joked that customers who stand too close to the front of the bus should do 50 push-ups and flattered older riders by guessing they were much younger.

“When people are out and about, they have their guard up,” Knazze said. “I love to help people lose their edge and smile…When I can help lessen that weight with a smile, it helps not only them, but everyone on board.”

Despite his best efforts, conflicts can still arise. When they do, Knazze says the best remedy is to simply listen. When an upset customer confronted him, he defused the situation by carrying on a conversation.

“I did everything to protect myself, including calling police, but I kept talking to him,” Knazze said. “It finally came out that his mother died, and his brother wouldn’t help.”

Later that same week, the customer returned to apologize and thank Knazze. “Never take away the dignity of a customer,” Knazze said. “They’re people and deserve respect, even when there’s a problem.”

Conversing with customers is one of Knazze's favorite parts of the job. After serving as a school bus driver, he worked an office job where he had no view of the outdoors and limited interactions.

Now, Knazze wishes he’d started working at Metro Transit even sooner. “I think I should have come here right after high school,” he said.

We're Hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, come help us run our growing transit system! Learn more about what it takes to become a bus operator at metrotransit.org/drive.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Pao Xiong 

Posted by John Komarek | Wednesday, October 16, 2019 12:44:00 PM

After the Vietnam War ended, an eight-year-old Pao Xiong chose to immigrate from Laos to the United States.

“It was a courageous decision to take that jump by myself,” Xiong said. “The older community members were telling me, ‘Don’t go. You don’t know what’s over there.’”

Xiong said he had faith that in 1976 he was making the right decision. Today, as a part-time operator with a work-life balance that gives him time for family, he reaffirms that decision.

“Operating a bus wasn’t my first career choice. I used to be an electrical engineer and traveled a lot,” Xiong said. “But after many years, my wife and I decided that family needs to come first.”

In fact, it was his uncle who works for transit who told him about the opportunity. For Xiong, transit is literally family: he has two uncles and four first cousins here. However, it took him until 2008 to find not only family, but work-life balance with transit.

When he arrived in the states, his first stop was an Amish community in Morgantown, Ind. “It felt familiar because I came from a place with no electricity, but it was also difficult,” Xiong said. “I was the only Hmong person there.”

After two years, he moved to St. Paul, where he lived with an uncle and was happy to join a supportive Hmong community. “We’d look out for each other and push each other to excel,” Xiong said. “Not being a native-English speaker presents lots of hurdles.”  

He remembers the difficulties he had when he first used transit, as a rider on the old Route 8 – and problems non-native speakers can have understanding the schedules and the service. That’s a perspective he continues to bring to his job today.

“In my journey, I’ve been through a lot, and I know others have, too.” Xiong said. “So, I make sure to help my riders anyway I can.”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Pao Xiong
Country of Origin: Laos
Hired:  March 2008
Routes: 850, 760, 766 (Maple Grove Transit)
Garage: Ruter
Hobbies: Shredding Van Halen and other 80s rock tunes on the electric guitar
Family: Wife and eight kids, ages 8-25
Lives: Brooklyn Park
Best Advice: If you point a finger at someone else, remember you’re pointing three back at yourself! So, ask yourself what you can do to improve yourself first.

We're Hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, come help us run our growing transit system! Learn more about what it takes to become a bus operator at metrotransit.org/drive.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Nikolay Mshar 

| Thursday, September 19, 2019 12:28:00 PM

After moving from Belarus to the United States, Nikolay Mshar noticed a lot more people walking around with smiles. Soon, he started wearing one himself.

“In Belarus, I drove buses like I do here,” Mshar said. “The only difference is that here people smile more and are less rude. Culturally, people don’t smile there much.”

Mshar immigrated to the United States in 1992 and began at Metro Transit in 1998. With his prior experience, becoming a bus operator was an obvious career choice. He’s been good at it, too. In 2018, Mshar was recognized for 20 consecutive years of safe driving, a rare accomplishment.

But from the beginning Mshar saw the job as more than a paycheck. Becoming a Metro Transit bus operator, he said, helped him find his way in a new country.

“On a bus, you talk and interact with people,” Mshar said recently from South Garage. “This helped me become part of this country.”

While learning a new language was stressful, he was determined. With help from his wife and a job that immersed him with English-speaking customers, his abilities improved.

“I didn’t want to depend on someone like a translator,” Mshar said. “Those first five years, I soaked up language like a sponge.”

Today, Mshar lives in Shakopee with his wife. He’s raised three daughters in Minnesota and plans to spend the rest of his career with Metro Transit.

While his life has changed, interacting with customers remains his favorite part of being a bus operator.

“If you enjoy what you do, other people will enjoy what they’re doing, too,” Mshar said. “I enjoy driving the bus, and because of that my customers enjoy their ride.”

We're hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, apply to become a Metro Transit bus operator. All Metro Transit train operators begin as bus operators. Learn more about applying at metrotransit.org/drive.

 

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Lobsang Choephel 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 22, 2019 10:04:00 AM

Train Operator Lobsang Choephel.

Lobsang Choephel fell in love with driving in India, where he drove cabs and spent hours shuttling tourists to and from Delhi in a large coach bus.

So when he arrived in the United States, it wasn’t a surprise that he found himself back behind the wheel.

He worked as a school bus driver and spent nearly a decade transporting passengers and equipment for Abbot Hospital. In 2006, a friend suggested applying at Metro Transit.

After three years as a bus operator, Choephel received more advice. This time, his co-workers were encouraging him to become a train operator.

Choephel wasn’t sure about the idea but decided to give it a try. The first few years were admittedly tough but, after a decade on the Blue Line, Choephel now says he’s found his calling.

“I can’t describe how much I love it,” he said recently from the Blue Line’s Operations and Maintenance Facility. “I’m addicted.”

Choephel is grateful to have found a career he enjoys. And he’s thankful to have found it in Minnesota, too.

In the late 1950s, Choephel’s family immigrated from Tibet to India, where he was raised as a Buddhist Monk. In his early 20s, Choephel found himself searching for new opportunities.

After securing an American Visa, he traveled across the globe unsure but hopeful.

In Minnesota, he connected with fellow Tibetans who helped him find work and adjust to his new life.

Nearly 30 years after landing in the Twin Cities, Choephel and his wife are raising two children and can’t imagine a better life.

“When I won the immigration lottery it was as if I won the actual lottery,” Choephel said. “That was my Powerball.”

We're hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, apply to become a Metro Transit bus operator. All Metro Transit train operators begin as bus operators. Learn more about applying at metrotransit.org/drive.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Angela Wilson 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, July 29, 2019 1:44:00 PM

Angela Wilson moved from Chicago to Minnesota in search of opportunity. She found it at Metro Transit.

“I didn’t know I was going to end up here this long!” Wilson said. “It allowed me to grow with the agency.”

As an operator, Wilson spent 17 years on Route 5, Metro Transit’s busiest route. She’s also spent time on routes 4 and 515.

Recently, she was among a select group of bus operators recognized for going 20 or 25 straight years without a responsible collision. To celebrate the achievement, an interior card with Wilson’s photo will appear on buses for the next year.

While she’s an accomplished operator, Wilson now primarily serves as a dispatcher, assigning operators to trips that originate at Bloomington’s South Garage.

At first, Wilson said she was worried about moving from behind the wheel to spending most of her day at a computer.

As an operator, she enjoyed befriending customers like Ms. Kathy, a 78-year-old woman who boarded at the corner of north Fremont and 33rd avenues at 7:33 a.m. every day

“She’d hug me every time she got on and off the bus and always gave me a card on my birthday,” Wilson said. “So, for her birthday, I got her balloons!”

While she doesn’t interact with customers as much as she used to, Wilson’s friendly demeanor is just as present in her new role as a dispatcher.

“I’m a talker and I like meeting different people,” she said. “Just like on the bus, I greet everyone who comes in. Those relationships help me find drivers to fill trips.”

Before becoming a bus operator, Wilson supported her three children by working at fast food restaurants and big box stores.

The father of her two daughters passed unexpectedly in his forties and her mother’s declining health required more of her attention. Instead of holding multiple jobs, her cousin urged her to apply at Metro Transit. 

“I started part-time and still worked fast food,” Wilson recalled. “When I figured out I only needed this job, I gave my notice.”

As the years roll on, she’s starting to think about retirement and is thankful she was able to build a career at Metro Transit. “This job has put me where I want to be financially,” she said.

Operator at a Glance

Hired: November 1998
Garage: South
Routes: 4, 5 and 515
Hobbies: Spending all my time with my family
Family: 3 daughters, 7 grandchildren, and my mom
Lives: Crystal
Best advice: "Just treat people as you want to be treated."

Celebrating Metro Transit's safe operators

Be on the lookout for these interior cards (the advertisements inside the bus) featuring several of Metro Transit's consecutive year safe operators! These bus operators were recognized at Metro Transit’s 2019 operator awards.

Clockwise from top left: Kent Knutson, South; Carrie Boekhoff, Nicollet; Marshall Freeman, East Metro; John DeCarlo, South.

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