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Posts in Category: Bus Maintenance

Bus Maintenance

Mid-life maintenance prolongs buses longevity 

Posted by johnkomarek | Thursday, August 30, 2018 11:09:00 AM

Technicians in Metro Transit's Overhaul Base perform mid-life maintenance on all buses so they look like new throughout their service life.

The Overhaul Base team, from Left to Right: Back Row, Ken Hislop, Jake Widgren, Bob Henrich, Paul Swanson. Middle Row: Mark Bohlke, David Pizza, Steve Book, Jim Biesemeier, Marty Hauge, Anthony Zessman (Supervisor). Front Row: Bob Lemay, Mike Prudhomme, Bob Poore.

After 7 years of service, most Metro Transit buses pay a visit to our hard working and dedicated staff at the Overhaul Base Body Shop, to receive a mid-life face-lift that’s part cosmetic and part structural.

The credit for our fleet appearance goes in part to technicians at the Overhaul Base who perform mid-life repaints. With our harsh Minnesota winters, buses show considerable corrosion and wear by mid-life.

“After several winters, it doesn’t take long to find signs of corrosion,” Body Shop Supervisor Anthony Zessman said.

To make the buses look like new, Body Shop technicians sand and repaint each bus, applying new decals to complete the look. More significant repairs are done as needed, both inside and outside the bus.

“The most rewarding part of our work is seeing a brand-new looking bus roll off the line,” Overhaul Base Manager Bill Beck said. "From that point on, you know the bus gets wear and tear.”

The commitment to refurbishing buses began more than two decades ago, when fleet appearance was a growing concern. Today, the Body Shop applies its touch to about 80 buses a year, supporting what many consider to be among the most well-maintained fleets in the country.

There’s a fair amount of work involved in keeping buses in top shape. On average, a bus getting a mid-life repaint will be in the Body Shop for about two weeks.

When a bus enters the Body Shop, technicians remove side panels, look for signs of corrosion and install more durable parts. After sanding and repairs, the bus moves to the paint shop, where it’s washed and taped to protect sections not receiving paint.

Technicians then apply a fresh coat of environmentally-friendly and graffiti-resistant paint, allow it to dry for a day then re-apply decals.

“After that, we’ve done our job to help prolong the life of that bus,” Zessman said. “Then it’s back to the garage, and we do it all over again.”

Body Shop technicians are also responsible for repairing buses that are involved in collisions and are frequently asked to assist with special projects.

Bus Bus Maintenance Equity

Prospective technicians welcomed, challenged to show ‘grit’ 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 06, 2017 5:41:00 AM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program at the Overhaul Base on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.Wearing an oil-stained florescent jacket, Ravie Sawh stood before a group of 50 job seekers and their supporters at Metro Transit's Overhaul Base last week.

The group was assembled to hear what their futures could look like as the newest participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program and, eventually, as full-time mechanic-technicians at the agency. 

“You’re going to have to start motivating yourself every day,” Sawh told the group. “But if you’re looking for a job where you’re never going to be bored, this is the place for you.”

Sawh was among the first individuals to participate in the MTT training program, which combines personal development, on-the-job training and support toward earning a two-year associates degree.

Two years after starting, he and a dozen others from that first group are working as full-time Bus Maintenance interns and looking forward to graduating from Hennepin Technical College next spring.

A second group of MTT participants being guided toward careers in Rail Maintenance are also working as full-time interns after starting classes at Hennepin Technical College this fall.

Now at Heywood Garage, Sawh has already cast his gaze well past graduation: He wants to retire from Metro Transit after 30 or more years of service.

The new MTT participants welcomed last week were encouraged to start envisioning a similar future for themselves, despite the difficult road ahead. Many of the participants have little or no mechanical experience and will have to juggle classes, second- and third-shift work, tutoring and other responsibilities to reach the finish line.

“We need people with grit, people who are going to stay with it,” said Wanda Kirkpatrick, the director of the Met Council's Office of Equal Opportunity. “But why are you going to do it? Because at the end of the day this is going to feed you, feed your family and make sure the place you live is the place you want to live.”

The Office of Equal Opportunity is leading the program with support from Bus Maintenance and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005. Several technicians will be tapped to serve as mentors.

Minneapolis-based non-profit Twin Cities R!SE is also a key partner. The participants’ first step is to finish 12 personal empowerment classes offered by the organization.

A group of 20 participants who finish those classes and meet other criteria will be invited to move forward to the program’s next phases, including custom training, a full-time paid internship and support toward earning an associates degree.

Successful participants starting this month will be eligible to apply for full-time technician roles in late 2020. Full-time technicians now start at around $27 an hour, a wage many at the Overhaul Base last week said would be life-changing.

Thomas Scott, who is overseeing the program on behalf of the Office of Equal Opportunity, said the prospect of a good-paying career should be just a part of the motivation. More than 250 people applied for the program.

“Remember how many people wanted this opportunity,” Scott told the group.

Brian Funk, Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus, said the program comes at an opportune time for the agency. Retirements and system expansion are creating more openings while fewer young people are pursuing skilled trades careers.

The program also supports the agency’s equity and diversity goals: Nearly 90 percent of the participants in the new group are people of color. There are nine women. 

“We know we need to do something different than drawing from traditional methods,” Funk said. “Thankfully, that’s why you’re here.”

   > Technicians in training celebrate early milestone

   > Technician training program gets national recognition

   > Aspiring Mechanic-Technicians build skills, confidence

   > Employment at the Council

Bus Bus Maintenance

Fareboxes stay the same, but new challenges arise 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, July 07, 2017 3:16:00 PM

Lead Revenue Mechanic Technician Tim Maloy has spent the past 20 years repairing and maintaining fareboxes, a job he says continues to pose new challenges every day. To improve reliability, Maloy has been on a campaign to replace the metal pieces that hold transfer cards so they are less prone to jam. Metro Transit has been using the same fareboxes for nearly a quarter-century.

But even after more than 20 years of keeping them in shape, Lead Revenue Mechanic Technician Tim Maloy says his job is as interesting as ever.

“It’s a little strange to be working with the same piece of equipment after all this time, but there are still days they beat you up,” he said from the Instruction Center, where he and several other farebox technicians work. “There’s never boredom.”

The intrigue comes in part from the fact that the fareboxes are largely mechanical pieces of equipment – carefully-calibrated sets of plastic gears, belts, sensors and circuit boards that pull in cash and coins deposited by cash-paying customers.

With so many moving parts, the margin for error is small. Lint, sunflower seeds and other small debris that comes from a customer’s pocket can easily jam the machines.

The puzzles technicians face aren’t easily  solved by reading a manual or running a quick diagnostic test, either.

“There are things you can look at, but you don’t really have a troubleshooting process,” said Trevor Scholtz, one of two-dozen farebox technicians. “All you can do is take it apart and eventually find out what’s wrong with it. And the only way to test is to put it all back together again.”

More recently, Maloy has been on a campaign to steadily replace the metal pieces that hold stacks of transfer cards in what’s known as a trim unit, which attaches to the coin and bill collecting machine. A slight offset in the old design would cause more than one ticket to get fed into the machine, frequently causing jams that required repair.

“That’s been my main goal, because that was what was contributing to the bulk of our road calls,” said Maloy, whose 37-year career also includes stints as a vault puller and in Central Counting.

The majority of the cassettes have now been replaced, and farebox-related road calls have been cut in half.

Just like any other mechanical failure on a bus, fareboxes that break down while in service can cause a bus to be replaced. Farebox technicians may also be called out to replace parts or make quick repairs during a layover. To prevent those kind of situations, each service garage has at least one farebox technician who spends their mornings repairing fareboxes before pull-out each morning.

Maloy and several other Farebox Technicians at the Instruction Center also focus heavily on preventative maintenance, disassembling, cleaning and rebuilding each machine every six months. Each rebuild takes up to four hours.

“It’s the only thing that keeps these things going this length of time,” Maloy said.

Technicians at the Instruction Center also maintain ticket vending machines that customers use to purchase fares at stations and vault equipment used to securely collect farebox collections when a bus pulls in.

Technicians do not maintain the fare care readers, but they did take the lead on a recent fleetwide replacement and will continue to outfit new buses with the latest technology. 

Like Maloy, several technicians have spent long careers working with fare collection technology, and are still excited about what they do.

Technician Lisle “Butch” Vickerman helped install the existing fareboxes 24 years ago, crawling under buses to detach older machines that accepted only coins and tokens, and weren’t able to count the change. These days, he spends his time repairing circuit boards.

“It’s still fun after all these years,” Vickerman said.

    > Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank

Bus Bus Maintenance

Technician training program gets national recognition 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, March 29, 2017 1:11:00 PM

Equal Opportunity Consultant Gary Courtney, left, and Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus, Brian Funk, accepted the Model Program award this week at the National Transit Institute’s Transit Trainers Workshop.The Metro Transit Technician Training Program was celebrated as an industry-leading workforce development program this week.

The recognition came in the form of a Model Program award from the National Transit Institute, a Rutgers University-based organization that develops, promotes and delivers training and education programs for the transit industry. The award was presented at the institute’s Transit Trainers’ Workshop, held in Nashville, Tenn.

The Metro Transit Technician Training Program (MTT) puts job seekers on a path to full-time roles as bus or rail technicians through a combination of job and skills training, a paid internship and support toward earning an associate degree. Participants are not required to have any prior experience. 

An initial group of MTT participants pursuing careers in bus maintenance are currently enrolled at Hennepin Technical College while working as interns in several service garages. A second group of participants pursuing careers in rail vehicle and systems maintenance will begin on-the-job training next week.

The training program was developed in partnership with the Amalgamated Transit Union-Local 1005, Twin Cities R!SE and Hennepin Technical College. Mechanic-Technicians have also served as mentors. Funding has come from the state and the Federal Transit Administration.

   > Learn more about career opportunities at Metro Transit

   > Metro Transit Awards and Recognition

Bus Bus Maintenance

Aspiring Mechanic-Technicians build skills, confidence 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, August 01, 2016 12:10:00 PM

Jason Johnson was newly-unemployed, discouraged and facing an uncertain future when he walked into Urban Ventures’ Minneapolis offices looking for help finding a new job.

His visit came at an opportune moment: that afternoon, representatives were there promoting a new program that would offer a path toward a full-time role as a Mechanic-Technician at Metro Transit.

It had been 20 years since Johnson graduated high school and worked as a mechanic with the U.S. Marines. He applied with little expectation it would amount to anything.

But more than a year later, he found himself standing alongside 18 other participants who had successfully completed the first phase of the inaugural program to celebrate how far they’d come.

“It’s a second chance at life I never expected to get,” he said after the program, held amid the sounds of power drills and other activity at Metro Transit's Overhaul Base. “It’s been such a huge boost – to my confidence, to my happiness. I have no idea where I’d be without this.”

The transformative experience is precisely what Metro Transit and partnering agencies hoped to provide in creating the Metro Transit Technician program last year. An industry first, the program combined empowerment training, tutoring and 300 hours shadowing current Mechanic-Technicians.           

Metro Transit, Twin Cities Rise!, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 and Hennepin Technical College collaborated on the effort. Funding came from the Federal Transit Administration.

With the first phase completed, participants will now begin a customized, two-year degree program at Hennepin Technical College while continuing to work full-time as Mechanic-Technician interns at Metro Transit.

The hope is that the additional training and education will lead participants to long careers at the agency, helping fill a worker shortage that is expected to grow as more Baby Boomers retire and fewer people enter the industry.

More than half of the 439 Mechanic-Technicians who work at Metro Transit are over the age of 50.

“The industry wasn’t supplying us the skilled workforce we needed, so what we’ve done here is essentially take it upon ourselves to build the workforce of the future,” said Gary Courtney, who managed the program on behalf of the Office of Equal Opportunity.

Several longtime Mechanic-Technicians who helped guide the participants said they were proud to have played a part in introducing the participants to a profession they love. Many of the participants had no prior mechanical experience.

Among those who provided guidance was East Metro Mechanic-Technician Nate Allen, who has been at Metro Transit for more than 32 years. As a mentor, Allen handed over his daily work orders, putting participants in a position where they had to ask him questions and get engaged in the work with him.

“I’ve really enjoyed this from beginning to end,” Allen said. “You could definitely see the improvement, which was very rewarding.”

The program is now being held up as a national model that could expand opportunity while helping transit agencies across the country address a growing need for skilled workers. Metro Transit has also received state funding to offer the program to another group of participants who will begin as early as this year.

For participants like Ronnie Walker, who came to the program unemployed, the focus is also on what lies ahead.

“Right then and there, I knew this was for me,” Walker said of the moment he learned about the program. “I just went with it and haven’t turned back. The focus is there.”

Metro Transit Technician Program completion ceremony

    > Learn more about becoming a Mechanic-Technician at Metro Transit

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