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Finding freedom and fun by bringing kids along for the ride 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 17, 2019 9:56:00 AM

Terry Crunk and her son Finn, riding Route 758 during a recent commute to downtown Minneapolis.

When Terry and Brian Crunk decided to move from downtown Minneapolis to Golden Valley, they didn’t want to take their 6-month-old son Finn out of his downtown daycare or deal with the stresses of commuting by car.  

The solution: Bring him on the bus.

Nearly two years later, Finn has become a routine presence on Route 758, which stops just a few blocks from the Crunk’s home.

“Initially, I was very nervous about how it was going to go but it’s progressively gotten better and now he loves the bus, being able to look out the window and having that freedom,” Crunk said. “As a working mom I also like being able to spend that extra time focusing on him rather than driving.”

During a recent morning commute, Finn sat quietly near the front of the bus paging through a board book and peering out the window as the bus traveled down I-394. Arriving downtown, he reached for the cord to request his stop – one of his favorite parts of the ride.

Survey data doesn’t indicate how many children like Finn ride transit. But anecdotes from across the Twin Cities suggest there are plenty of caretakers who don’t shy away from bringing young ones along for the ride.

Zachary Kahn, who lives in downtown Minneapolis, is among them. Several times a week, Kahn and his six-month-old son Camden walk to the U.S. Bank Stadium or West Bank stations, board a light rail train, and ride to Nicollet Mall. From there, Kahn drops Camden at daycare and heads to work.

“One of my favorite things is watching him as people make eye contact and smile,” Kahn said. “It brightens my morning to see him making other people smile and we end up interacting with people we wouldn’t interact with normally.”

Jamey Erickson, who lives in Northeast Minneapolis, also finds joy in traveling by bike and on transit with his children, ages 6 and 3.

Erickson gave up his car a decade ago, and has learned to adapt since having children. Today, he regularly brings his kids to school, the grocery store and other destinations on the back of his electric cargo bike. When weather or distance dictate, Erickson and his kids hop on light rail.

“It’s become such a regular thing for us,” Erickson said. “That’s just how the kids assume they’re getting around with dad now – by bike or by train.”

Metro Transit has taken steps to welcome children on transit. Children under 5 years old can ride any Metro Transit bus or train route for free. Children can also remain in their stroller while they ride (children in strollers should be secured, with the brakes set, and strollers cannot block the aisles or doorways).

Crunk has overcome the occasional challenge of needing to get home in the middle of the day by using Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, which allows regular commuters to seek reimbursement when they unexpectedly need to pay for a ride.

Finding a daycare provider that is accessible by transit and making extra time for potentially longer trips are bigger hurdles.

A report produced by Wilder Research for Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office suggested that Metro Transit, childcare providers and other partners work together to make daycare more accessible by transit.

Chad Dunkley, the Chief Executive Officer at New Horizon Academy, said the company intentionally looks for locations with frequent transit service. New Horizon has several locations in and near downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul where, and in Highland Park near a METRO A Line station.

About 20 years ago, New Horizon also opened a childcare in Burnsville’s Heart of the City, right next to a Park & Ride that will soon be served by the METRO Orange Line.

“We purposefully built in that location because we knew it was a high commuter area and it’s been full ever since,” Dunkley said. “Parents are busy, so we want to make it as easy for them to come and go as possible.”

Crunk, whose commute on Route 758 takes about 20 minutes, is now expecting her second child. The new addition will likely change her travel habits, at least for a while.

“It’ll make things different, but I’m hoping we can continue to take the bus,” she said. “We’ve really grown into it and now it’s just a part of our routine.”

Tips for riding with children

 > Children left in strollers should be secured with the stroller seat belt with the brakes set. Parents must remain with the child. Strollers must not block the aisles or doorways.

 > Children ages 5 and under ride free, with a fare-paying customer. Youth ages 6 to 12 can ride for $1, outside of rush hours. To receive a reduced fare during non-rush hours, inform the driver of your eligible age. 

 > K-12 students can also use a Go-To lite Card, which can be used to take 10 rides (fares that are more than $3.25 are not eligible). Go-To lite Cards cost $15, providing significant savings. Students or their parents must complete and sign this form to receive a Go-To lite Card. Go-To lite Cards are available at a Metro Transit Service Centers, by mail and at select schools and organizations.

> If you're concerned there may be times you need to use a car to get somewhere quickly for a personal emergency, the Guaranteed Ride Home program has you covered. Regular commuters who have an eligible emergency can request reimbursements up to four times per year or $100 in value, whichever comes first, for eligible trips with valid documentation.

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


Long-serving planners, operator recognized for their service 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 10, 2019 2:23:00 PM

Senior Planners John Dillery, Steve Mahowald and Scott Thompson, who shared a Distinguished Career Award; recently retired operator Theresa Collins, who was named Minnesota Bus Operator of the Year.Four long-serving Metro Transit employees were recognized for their contributions by the Minnesota Public Transit Association (MPTA) this week. The recognition came at MPTA's annual awards banquet, held Wednesday in St. Paul.

Operator Theresa Collins, who retired in August, was named the Minnesota Bus Operator of the Year. Senior Planners Steve MahowaldScott Thompson and John Dillery shared MPTA's Distinguished Career Award. 

Collins was recognized for a 30-year career that began when she was among the agency's few female operators. That gender imbalance and years of overnight shifts created some challenges. But Collins relished the opportunity, treating her passengers like family and befriending her peers. 

"It wasn't always easy, and I was very young, but I knew I was going to do this job until I retired," she said shortly after she retired. 

Collins also never missed a day of work, was among the first operators to be assigned to the METRO A Line and served on several committees. She remains an active member of the ATU Local 1005. 

Combined, Mahowald, Thompson and Dillery have devoted more than 120 years of service to Metro Transit. Their experience is valued not just by their peers in Service Development but throughout the organization. 

"They bring such a breadth of knowledge, both in terms of transit as an operation and from the customer perspective," Director of Service Development Adam Harrington said. "They really provide a lot of leadership both within the department and throughout the agency." 

Their reputation as leaders is rooted not just in their years of service but also in the way they blend history, research and their own experiences as customers throughout their work. 

During their tenures, the planners helped make the case for higher frequency service in densely populated areas and advocated for the development of express service to and from suburban Park & Rides. Until that point, less frequent service had been provided over a much wider area. 

The planners also helped make it easier to combine trips by creating schedules with timed transfer points at transit centers and other key locations.   

Dillery played a key role in shaping bus service on Interstate 35W and adjusting service when the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004.

Mahowald was the lead service planner for the Marq2 project, which created bus-only lanes and improved customer facilities in downtown Minneapolis. 

Thompson led the effort to improve bus service in the Central Corridor and created service plans for two important St. Paul transit hubs, the Smith Avenue Parking Ramp and Union Depot. 

Seeing their work play out in real time has been one of the most satisfying part of the jobs, the planners said. "I've never been that interested in writing reports," Thompson said. "I need more immediate gratification." 

Although their knowledge has grown, the planners always return to the fundamentals that were imparted during the early parts of their careers. 

The foundation of their work: spending time in the field making first-hand observations, fulfilling one of Mahowald's credos: "Know the territory, know the territory, know the territory." 

Thompson, Dillery and Mahowald aren't ready to close the books on their careers just yet. But after more than four decades, Aaron Isaacs, who helped recruit and train the planners, said their legacies have been well-established. 

"These three have shaped the transit system to a greater extent than anyone else in Metro Transit's history," he said.

 > Awards & Recognition

 > Know Your Operator: Theresa Collins

C Line

Challenges don’t change our commitment to electric buses 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, October 09, 2019 1:51:00 PM

A METRO C Line bus. There’s a certain amount of uncertainty that comes with trying something new – like using some of the country’s first 60-foot electric buses. But facing the unknown and accepting that things may not always go as planned is necessary to evolve.

That’s exactly what’s happening with Metro Transit’s electric bus pilot, which began this summer when eight electric buses were put into service on the METRO C Line.

In early October, these electric buses were removed from service amid ongoing efforts to resolve issues between the buses and charging stations at Heywood Garage. New Flyer spent much of the last week at Metro Transit working to resolve the issues that led to that decision.

In the meantime, diesel buses are being used on the C Line so customers experience no service impacts.

While disappointing, this setback does not diminish Metro Transit’s plans to continue purchasing electric buses in the future as funding allows.

Under Metro Transit’s proposed 2020-2025 capital spending plan, eight 40-foot electric buses will be purchased for use on local routes beginning in 2020 or 2021. The plan was presented to the Metropolitan Council on Wednesday, Oct. 9, and will be approved by Council Members in its final form later this year.

Earlier plans had called for the purchase of 19 electric buses in 2020 or 2021, pending new funding. With no new funding forthcoming this past legislative session, the eight new buses were funded within existing budget constraints. Currently, the cost of an electric bus, including charging infrastructure, is about twice that of a diesel bus.

Metro Transit will continue to consider additional electric bus purchases as service, fleet and budget plans evolve in the future. The agency currently has more than 900 buses, including more than 130 hybrid-electric buses that are partially powered by batteries.

Thank you for riding with us as we continue to lead the transition to electric bus technology.

On Off The Clock

On the Clock/Off the Clock: Theodis Turner 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, October 03, 2019 11:03:00 AM

Theodis as his rap alter-ego, "Juice G" in a music video for the song, "SKOL."

Lives: South St. Paul
Job: Bus Operator
Years of Service: 6

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do?

Growing up, I split my time between Minneapolis, where my father lived, and Marianna, Ark., a small town where my aunt lived. I hoped to get a scholarship and play college basketball but that didn’t work out so I moved back to Minnesota. I knew about Metro Transit but had heard stories and wasn’t sure it was for me. About ten years later, I decided to apply. The pay and benefits are good, especially for a father of five. It didn’t take long to see that my fears were overblown.

What are your favorite activities when you’re working or “On the Clock”?

I enjoy my role as an extraboard operator. It’s great because not having a specific route makes every day different. That variety, I find, helps keep the job fresh and interesting. There’s never a dull moment when you clock into work.

Of course, your co-workers are a great part of this job. Without them the good days wouldn’t be as good, and the bad days would be worse. Even if you think you’re the first person to experience something, you find out by talking to other operators someone’s been there already and can help you work through it.

What are your favorite activities when you’re not working or “Off the Clock”?

I’ve been rapping since high school and am still recording. My first stage name was “OJ” which was short for “Otis Jr.,” after my father. That nickname morphed into “Juice,” which I thought sounded better with a “G” at the end. I’ve recorded one album and have a second on the way.

Recently, with a little encouragement from my daughter, I made a splash with my song “SKOL.” To my surprise, the video got picked up by KFAN and KDWB. I wrote “SKOL” because I’m a Vikings superfan and wanted to help fire up fans before a game.  I hope this song does just that and inspires fans and the Vikings to take home the championship ring this year.

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