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Posts in Category: 2018


Joe Koran 

Licensed Maintenance Electrician, #5232
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, September 6, 2018 1:26:00 PM

John Koran

Shortly after finishing vocational school, Joe Koran took a drafting job with the Metropolitan Transit Commission and was told he had at least six years’ worth of work in front of him. Six months later, Koran had accomplished everything on his to-do list. But he wasn’t interested in finding a new employer – especially if it meant he’d have to keep wearing a suit and tie. The solution: turn his interest in working on cars into a new career in Bus Maintenance. Koran would spend the next 40 years as a technician, dividing his time between bus and building maintenance. 

Koran’s first stop in Bus Maintenance was at the old Northside Garage, where he worked overnights as a cleaner. He spent time as a cleaner and fueler at the Nicollet, Ruter and old Snelling garages, and was among the first technicians to move to the new Overhaul Base. At the Overhaul Base, Koran worked in the body shop and rotated through several other assignments, becoming an increasingly well-rounded and skilled technician who could fix not just buses but all sorts of equipment. 

To keep himself interested, Koran kept an eye out for new opportunities. The desire to try new things led Koran to move into building maintenance, where he became involved in everything from creating custom office furniture to striping parking spaces. While in building maintenance, Koran earned his electrician’s license as Metro Transit’s first apprentice electrician. As an electrician, he updated lighting fixtures, rewired buildings and took on a host of other responsibilities that brought him to customer and support facilities across the region. He also made a point of anticipating repair needs and addressing them before being asked. “I’d be driving down the street, see a shelter with a broken light or conduit, and make sure to get it fixed,” he said. “You really had to be a self-starter – that’s the biggest part of this job.”

Throughout his career, Koran enjoyed spending time with and getting to know his co-workers, playing for several years on work-based softball teams and riding with members of the Motorcycle Touring Club (MTC). Looking back on his career, Koran said those experiences and the ability to move around stand out as the best parts of his time at Metro Transit. “I met a lot of people and was able to change jobs almost at will,” he said. “That really helped me avoid the ho-hum some people get after a while in a job.”

Koran retired in September 2018 with 40 years of service. In retirement, he planned to spend more time on carpentry projects, boating and fishing and biking. 


Neal Camper 

Transit Control Center Supervisor
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, August 30, 2018 3:40:00 PM

Neal Camper

Neal Camper’s father-in-law worked as a Twin City Lines operator. So when Camper found himself looking for work, he was encouraged to check the Sunday newspaper to see if the Metropolitan Transit Commission was hiring. As it happens, they were. He put on a suit and tie, interviewed and was hired. And so began a career in transit that would ultimately last more than 34 years.

Camper’s first stop was at the Martin J. Ruter Garage, where he was among the first part-time bus operators. Within months, he had the opportunity to go full time. Over his 13 years as an operator, Camper worked out of the South, Nicollet and old Snelling garages. Working the extraboard, he came to learn nearly every route in the system. “That was something I was really proud of because I could answer any question customers had,” he said. Camper was also proud of the unique role he played in Minneapolis’ annual Aquatennial festivities. For several years, he was hand-picked to transport the Aquatennial queen candidates in a specially-decorated bus.

As he gained experience, Camper also became a role model for newer operators. He served as a part-time instructor and was among Metro Transit’s first group of full-time instructors. Camper spent seven years in this role, working with his peers to introduce new operators to the position. He was also among a small group who could test new hires seeking Commercial Drivers Licenses.

In 2004, as Metro Transit was opening its first light rail line, Camper saw another opportunity to try something different. He was among the first to operate Blue Line trains, putting in 160 hours of testing, as he prepared to become a Rail Supervisor. After a year in the Rail Control Center, he moved to the Transit Control Center (TCC) where he would spend the final 14 years of his career.

As a TCC supervisor, Camper spent his days problem-solving, assisting bus operators who called in looking for help, dispatching police officers and doing whatever else was needed to keep service running smoothly. Camper liked that his days always brought new challenges and appreciated working alongside people who supported one another. “I was always blown away by the way people would teach me things,” he said. “I learned something new ever day.” One of his most memorable experience was the day the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed. Working as a police dispatcher, Camper had to make sure all of Metro Transit’s police officers and buses were accounted for and help establish a command center where response efforts could be coordinated. “I’m sitting there doing my regular routine and then to get that call – it was an interesting day for sure,” Camper said.

Camper retired in September 2018 with plans to relocate to Tucson, Ariz., where he hoped to spend time volunteering. A father of two, Camper also looked forward to spending time with friend and family and traveling.


Brad Cummings 

Rail Safety Officer
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, August 16, 2018 4:09:00 PM

Brad cummings

In 1985, Brad Cummings was about to graduate from St. Thomas, where he was studying social work. Working part-time jobs and facing a difficult job market, he came to a realization. “I said, ‘I don’t mind driving to work, it’s what happens after I get there that I don’t like. So maybe I should find a job as a driver.’” And that’s what he did. Cummings, who had some experience as a school bus driver, applied for a job in transit. Shortly after, he began his career as a part-time bus operator at the old Snelling Garage, the first of several stops in a career that ultimately lasted more than 33 years.

When he began as an operator, Cummings was asked to make a two-year commitment. At the time, he didn’t think he’d stay much longer than that. Instead, he spent the next 18 years as an operator, working at every garage except for Ruter. He enjoyed the work, but found himself entertaining thoughts about finding a different line of work. “When I quit having funny stories to tell, that was a sign,” he said.

Those thoughts came at the same time Metro Transit was preparing to start up the state’s first light rail service. He set his sights on a new goal of becoming a train operator and was among the first to take on that challenge when the Blue Line opened in 2004. “It was fun, but I was nervous,” Cummings remembered. “I was asking myself, ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’” Cummings confidence quickly grew, though, leading to an 18-month stint as a train operator.

One of the reasons Cummings was attracted to light rail was the belief that, because it was new, he would have access to more opportunity. And he was right. After serving as a train operator, he applied for a position as a rail transit supervisor. He held that position for nearly three years, working in the Rail Control Center, often alone, and managing overnight construction activities along the corridor. That role led to yet another opportunity, as one of Metro Transit’s first rail safety officers.

Because this was a relatively new position, Cummings wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But he was interested in writing and saw a chance to help craft reports, plans and other documents. One of his first big projects was to help prepare emergency response plans for the Northstar Commuter Rail Line when it opened in 2009. Cummings also coordinated training exercises with emergency responders and helped develop a training program that was presented to thousands of contractors who worked on rail corridors.

Cummings said he was happy to have made a career in transit, despite growing up in rural Minnesota and studying an unrelated field. “It was a complete surprise,” he said. “There was nothing in my life to indicate this is what I’d do. But it was a good place to work and I really enjoyed the people.” In retirement, Cummings planned to spend more time traveling and to move to Mazatlán, Mexico, where he and his wife have long vacationed.


Marilyn Hood 

Safety Specialist
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:29:00 PM

Marilyn Hood

Marilyn Hood thought she’d dedicate her career to social work. And after graduating from Bethel College, she started down that path, working at a center that supported women who’d been raped or sexually assaulted. But with two children and dreams of buying a home, a job ad for what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission caught her attention. As a bus operator, she could make double what she was earning as a counselor. Hood applied, began as a part-time operator and, within two years, went full-time. Hood would go on to build a 32-year career in transit. But while she found herself in an unexpected line of work, her passion for helping people never faded. 

Hood’s time at Metro Transit is roughly divided into thirds. For the first part of her career, she served as an operator at the Shingle Creek and Heywood garages. As an operator, she enjoyed having regular routes where she could get to know her customers. “It was the human contact that was really important to me,” she said. When she told a manager that she was considering a move to teaching, she was persuaded to instead join the agency’s nascent team of instructors, who would be charged with helping new operators get their start. As one of Metro Transit’s first full-time instructors, Hood wasn’t just teaching but also writing the first lesson plans that would guide her and her peers work. It was a good fit, too. “I totally enjoyed teaching,” she said. “The creativity, working with people from around the world and figuring out what makes them tick. It was really intellectually stimulating.” As a self-described introvert, she also learned how to stand in front of a group without revealing any apprehension. “I imagined myself as Meryl Streep, which allowed me to feel like I could be up there and be competent, confident and able to make a difference,” she said.  

A decade after becoming an instructor, Hood found herself at a retirement for a safety specialist who described their job as the best they’d ever had. Intrigued, she applied and got the job. As a safety specialist at Heywood Garage, Hood investigated accidents, monitored on-street performance, rode along with bus operators, provided input on new bus purchases and was involved in arbitration and legal proceedings. As she did as an instructor, she also helped break new ground, introducing classes built around videos from real accidents and other course materials. As a safety specialist, Hood especially liked having the chance to support operators who were involved in a collision but still showed promise. “I always wanted to be the advocate and this was one way to do that,” she said. During her time in safety, Hood also helped plan and organize the agency’s annual Bus Roadeo,   

Hood retired in July 2018 with plans to move to Texas, her home state, and commit herself to humanitarian work. “I feel really fortunate to have worked in an organization that offers opportunity, diversity and support,” she said.  


Tom O’Brien, #5450 

Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, July 9, 2018 10:30:00 AM

Tom Obrien

Growing up, Tom O’Brien often worked on cars and joined his dad while he worked as a mechanic, crawling underneath vehicles to apply grease in areas he had an easier time reaching. The experiences developed an interest in vehicle maintenance that would eventually lead him to attend vocational school and to apply for a job at what was then the Metropolitan Transit Commission. “I wanted to work on biggest stuff and buses are pretty big,” he said. In late 1985, O’Brien began as a skilled helper at the old Snelling Garage, the start of what would become a nearly 33-year career.

O’Brien’s career in bus maintenance included time at nearly every garage and in positions as a skilled helper, cleaner, fueler and technician. After old Snelling closed, he moved to South where he spent over 12 years working the overnight shift. As a technician, he did a little bit of everything – powertrain maintenance, hoist repairs, tune-ups and inspections – gaining expertise along the way. He was particularly interested in the powertrain work, he said, because it allowed him to learn about new technologies that were appearing in the fleet.

The final four years of O’Brien’s career were spent at the Overhaul Base, where he worked in the Body Shop as a welder. Along with his fellow technicians, the job involved cutting steel for replacement bus panels and a host of other odd jobs, including fabricating custom parts requested by other departments. “There’s such a wide variety of stuff that comes through here, which keeps the job interesting,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien retired in July 2018, just two months shy of the day he began, 33 years earlier. Looking back, he said he was glad to have found a home at Metro Transit, where he made many friendships and enjoyed good benefits. In retirement, O’Brien said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren and bringing his RV and off-road Jeep to parts of the country he hasn’t yet explored.



Jay Capistrant, #3168 

Passenger Sampling Clerk
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, June 7, 2018 10:33:00 AM

Working at a south Minneapolis auto shop, Jay Capistrant often visited with operators who came in to escape the cold during their breaks. The conversations sparked an interest in the job and, in 1974, led him to apply. He began his career at the old Northside Garage and later spent time at the Nicollet and old Snelling garages. As an extraboard operator, he drove a variety of routes. Capistrant enjoyed the job and was a skilled operator, with impressive showings in two Bus Rodeos. But after six years behind the wheel, he found himself seeking better hours and less stress. He applied for and got a new job as a revenue clerk, a move that would lead to a nearly four-decade career in Revenue Operations. “I loved driving the bus, but I’ll always be grateful I made that switch,” Capistrant said. 

Capistrant spent three years as a revenue clerk and spent another three years as a balancing clerk. At the time, operators manually recorded boardings on records known as trip sheets, which were then reviewed by clerks like Capistrant. Any irregularities discovered by clerks led to additional follow up. In 1986, Capistrant took on another new role, as a passenger sampling clerk, that would come to define his career. The job involved riding the bus or setting up somewhere along a route to count passengers, helping to develop ridership estimates. “I got to be out and about a lot, which was great except when it was 20 below,” Capistrant said. 

The role took on greater visibility when the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. Eager to know how many people were riding the state’s first light rail line, Capistrant spent hours riding the train to provide some of the first estimates. “Everyone was starving for ridership numbers so the train really became home to me there for a while,” he said. “That’s when I started noticing I’d need a seat cushion.” The appetite for information eventually began to wane, and technology was introduced that automatically counted passengers. Capistrant continued to ride, though, verifying data and making observations that helped estimate ridership for large events. Most days, he spent as much as five hours riding the Blue Line, Green Line or a bus. While focused on the task at hand, the job allowed him to befriend regular customers and fellow employees and to observe the daily life that unfolded on the train. 

Near retirement, Capistrant said he was proud to have built a career at Metro Transit and amazed at the growth he’d witnessed during his 43 years of service. “When I started in 1974, this was just a bus company with a few old buses,” he said. “Now we have two light rail lines, millions of rides, we’ve helped the cities grow. I’m really proud to have been a part of that.” Capistrant’s career choice was also a fateful one: In 2002, he was introduced to a new co-worker, Mary Capistrant. He offered to help her with a carpentry project and she offered to make him dinner. Five years later, they were married.

In retirement, Capistrant planned to spend more time on a long-running family carpentry business, continue volunteering with Allina Health Hospice and restore a 1973 half-ton Chevy pick-up. 


Richard Kasprzak, #1603 

Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, May 7, 2018 12:02:00 PM

Rich Kasprzak

When Richard Kasprzak visited the unemployment office for help finding a job, the woman he met threw up her hands and declared the then 23-year-old needed to go back to school. Instead of taking that advice, he left the office, immediately found a payphone and called the Metropolitan Transit Commission to ask about applying for a job as a part-time bus operator. It wasn’t quite what he'd had in mind but the job had been recommended by a longtime neighbor who happened to know a thing about transit: Fred T. Heywood, who led the agency’s first service development department and would later become the namesake for a new Minneapolis garage and office. Kasprzak would spend the next decade as a bus operator and another 23 years in bus maintenance and material management. By the end of his career, Kasprzak estimated he’d held more than 100 different assignments, the kind of variety that kept him engaged throughout his three decades in transit.

As a bus operator, Kasprzak worked at every garage except for Ruter and spent most of his time at South and old Snelling, where he could take the bus to and from work. While he had to sacrifice many of his nights and weekends, Kasprzak enjoyed driving and never had any accidents. The longer he stayed, though, the more he realized he needed to find a new challenge. He considered starting a new career in electronics or real estate but ultimately decided to go back to school and pursue a career in bus maintenance. He spent three years going to school full time and acquiring skills as a cleaner and helper. He enjoyed the work, but as graduation approached he was offered a job as a stockkeeper. The job had long intrigued him, and he had some previous delivery experience, so he took the gig.

As a stockkeeper, Kasprzak spent time at each garage and in a variety of roles. He enjoyed the constant changes and the opportunity to meet and work with people across the organization. One of his favorite jobs was as a truck driver, delivering parts to work locations throughout the Twin Cities. “You’d stop by, say hello, then be back on the road,” he said. “It made the day go by pretty quickly.” Kasprzak also enjoyed the challenge of keeping the stockroom organized and earned a reputation for being an “idea guy” who was always eager to make suggestions. He helped design and introduce a recognition program for material management employees and created a checklist that helped improve cycle counts.  

In retirement, Kasprzak planned to spend more time with his son and grandchildren, old friends, biking and traveling. “I’m glad I was able to work here so long,” he said at his retirement. “We are all very lucky to have such good, stable jobs.”


Patrick Brown, #224 

Transit Supervisor
Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, May 7, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown didn’t think he wanted a job that involved a lot of public interaction. But with a six-month-old child and another on the way, he needed to find work that would allow him to support his growing family. A hiring sign hanging on the side of the old Northside Garage gave him the idea of applying for a job as a bus operator. He reported to the old Snelling Garage, passed the hiring test and was immediately thrown into a class with other new hires. Shortly after that, he began working out of Shingle Creek Garage (now the Martin J. Ruter Garage). And so began what would become a 38-year career in transit.

Brown spent more than seven years as a bus operator, working the extraboard at the Heywood and Nicollet garages. He liked the job but started to feel like he needed something more. “I saw another operator who was a week behind me in seniority with a supervisor badge and that’s what kind of lit the fuse for me,” Brown said. “I had to find out where the job board was.” In 1987, Brown’s ambitions led to a new job as a Transit Supervisor.

Initially, Brown split his time between answering calls in the Transit Control Center and managing service out on the street. When those roles were divided into separate jobs, Brown began spending all his time on the road. (The first car he was assigned was a Chevy Citation.) It was, he said, an easy choice. “Nobody ever calls the Control Center to say, ‘Have a nice day,’” Brown said. “There’s always a problem.” As a supervisor, Brown watched to see how closely buses were following their schedules, managed planned and emergency detours, responded to accidents and got back to customers who had questions or concerns. For years, his days began at 4 a.m., an hour before any other Minneapolis supervisors. With the city to himself, his primary responsibility was to make sure that a group of early-morning buses met as scheduled. Brown said he enjoyed the relative freedom that came with the job and serving a community he knew well: Brown often found himself in Northeast Minneapolis, near his boyhood home and where he later lived as an adult. “I live right in the middle of my district so, to a degree, I’d go to work and then go right back home,” he said. 

While there was a degree of routine, Brown found himself in plenty of unique situations. In one instance, he helped line up buses that were used to provide a layer of protection as the Minneapolis Fed moved cash into its new building on Hennepin Avenue. Presidential visits led to interactions with the Secret Service. He worked through two Super Bowls and two World Series. And he was tapped to be the driver for what was essentially the Metro Transit Police Department’s first squad car, carrying police to and from a St. Louis Park roller rink where teenagers gathered. “There was such a variety of things,” Brown said. “You’d come to work and never really know what was going to come over the radio.”

Brown retired in April 2018 with plans to spend his retirement traveling, fishing and enjoying his family, including his wife, three sons and six grandchildren.


David Lefebvre, #458 

Facilities Technician
Posted by Christina McHenry | Wednesday, April 11, 2018 1:41:00 PM

David Lefebvre

Growing up, David Lefebvre thought he’d enjoy being a pilot. But as an adult he ended up flying just once, an experience he didn’t enjoy. He did, however, find himself in a driver’s seat for a large part of his career. Encouraged by his brother, a 21-year bus operator, Lefebvre joined what was then the Metropolitan Transit Commission in 1986. He spent the next eight years driving buses and the following 24 years working in bus and facilities maintenance.

As an operator Lefebvre, split his time between the Nicollet and South garages. Low in seniority, the first route he was given involved bringing groups of rowdy teenagers to and from a roller rink in St. Louis Park. “All they told me was to put my foot to the gas and not to stop until I got downtown,” he remembered. The job remained interesting, too. When heavy rain fell in 1987, he found himself having to back an articulated bus back onto Interstate 494 to avoid driving through standing water. To keep a group of suspected pick-pockets from exiting the bus before police could arrive, he locked the doors and they escaped out a rear window. 
While he enjoyed driving and interacting with most of his passengers, those scenarios and a schedule that required him to work a lot of late nights and weekends ultimately led Lefebvre to pursue a new line of work in Bus Maintenance. He’d tinkered some with cars and was confident he could learn the skills he needed by working alongside experienced technicians. And that’s what happened: Lefebvre spent two years as a cleaner, five years as a fueler and then became a technician, swapping radiators, bellows, rods and doing other hoist work. Lefebvre’s time in bus maintenance was spent largely at South Garage. It was the right place at the right time: at South, Lefebvre met the woman who would later become his wife, Beth Radke, who was then working as an operator.
After nearly a decade, Lefebvre had, by his own estimation, become an “above average” technician. But all the heavy lifting was beginning to wear on him, so he decided to try his hand at building maintenance. He spent a few years at the Overhaul Base, returned to South and spent the final eight years of his career at Nicollet Garage. In building maintenance, Lefebvre did electrical work, plumbing and a variety of other tasks, once again learning on the job. “I like fixing things and that’s basically all building maintenance is – fixing anything that breaks,” he said.
On his final day of work, Lefebvre said he’d miss many of the people he worked with over the years. But he also had a lot to look forward to. He and Beth recently had their first child, Ruby. Lefebvre also hoped to spend more time golfing, fishing, hunting and building a cabin on a piece of Wisconsin property he’d owned for the past 20 years. “It’s really been fun being here,” he said. “It’ll be sad and a little strange not coming in after all these years.”


Brad Smith 

Transit Supervisor
Posted by Christina McHenry | Wednesday, April 11, 2018 1:29:00 PM

Brad Smith

Brad Smith thought he’d have a career in radio. So after studying the business in Minneapolis, he returned to his hometown and started working at the station there. But it didn’t last long. Encouraged by his father, he gave up the job and returned to Minneapolis to pursue a relationship with a woman he’d met while in school. It was a good move: Smith married that woman, Sue, who put him in touch with family members working in transit. It wasn’t long before those connections led him to apply for a job as a bus operator, the first stop in what would become a 40-year career at Metro Transit.
When he started as a bus operator at Nicollet Garage in 1978, Smith had a lot to learn. He didn’t know the area and remembers thinking of North Memorial as sounding more like a statute than a hospital. He was also a little unsure behind the wheel. “I was getting passed all the time, and could never stay on schedule,” Smith said. “I remember thinking this was the biggest mistake I ever made.”
Smith eventually found his way, though, and stuck with it hoping his new line of work would lead him back to his passion for radio. He applied for a job in the Transit Control Center, where he’d communicate with bus operators by radio, and was taken on in 1980. Smith joked that, in the new job, he instantly had more listeners there he ever had working at the Wisconsin station. It was especially clear that he had an audience when, working on Christmas Eve, he was encouraged to extend a “Merry Christmas,” to all the operators working that evening. The responses he received consumed most of the rest of the evening. On another memorable winter night, a blizzard left him stranded in the TCC for over 36 hours.
Smith wasn’t entirely bound to the desk, though. Like others in the TCC, Smith also spent time on the street monitoring operations. Getting out into the community became increasingly appealing, too. Given the opportunity to devote all his attention to the street, he took it. As one of the agency’s first transit supervisors, he monitored suburban service that Metro Transit was being provided under contract. He later took responsibility for a large swath of south Minneapolis and Bloomington, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. At the airport, he helped coordinate employee shuttles and maintain service through large projects, including the construction of what was then known as the Hiawatha light rail line. His familiarity with the area led him to take a leading role in developing plans to provide bus service when light rail trains couldn’t operate.
There were plenty of memorable moments from Smith’s time as a transit supervisor, too. On Thanksgiving night 1982, he worked through the night and into the next day as buses had to be detoured around a large fire that consumed a downtown Minneapolis high rise. Working at the airport led to several encounters with well-known figures. “The neat thing about my job is that, even though I can make a list of things to do, I never really know what my day will bring,” he said. “I’ve seen presidents, huge disasters – it makes for good storytelling at parties.”
In retirement, Smith planned to spend time with his family, including four children and seven grandchildren. He also hopes to travel and to take on more opportunities to DJ. “I’m going to miss it, but it’s time to move on,” he said.

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