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Bus How We Roll

How We Roll: Jovita Oghumah 

| Wednesday, April 18, 2018 10:15:00 AM

Jovita Oghumah, Assistant Manager-InstructionMany Metro Transit employees are committed to sustainable transportation, riding the bus or train, biking or walking to work and other destinations across the region.

These “How We Roll” profiles illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Jovita Oghumah, Assistant Manager-Instruction

How do you get to work?

I walk about a mile and half from my house to the Highway 610 & Noble Parkway Park & Ride in Brooklyn Park. I take Route 768 to downtown Minneapolis, catch a light rail train to Target Field Station, then walk the rest of the way to the Instruction Center. In inclement weather, my wife drives me to the Park & Ride in the morning and picks me up in the afternoon. I walk to meetings at Heywood, take the Green Line to meetings at Robert Street in St. Paul, and carpool to work meetings at other sites or use the Instruction Center official van.

Why do you choose to take transit to work?

I have been taking a combination of bus and light rail to work consistently since last summer. The benefits for me are immense. I get regular exercise from walking – frequently taking more than 10,000 steps a day. I save some wear and tear on my personal vehicle and I am free from the stress of driving in rush hour traffic. It gives me a chance to meet and interact with many of our operators outside of a garage or Instruction Center setting. I drove the bus for 20 years. It’s nice and relaxing to watch somebody else drive.

Metro Transit makes it easy for me to ride the bus to work by providing me with a free transit pass. In addition, the frequency of the service on Route 768 accommodates my bus rides to and from work. I don’t stress if I missed a scheduled trip because I know another bus is not far away.

How do you use sustainable transportation in your personal life?

My wife and I always take the bus to downtown Minneapolis for any shopping, sporting or entertainment event we attend. Our goal is to avoid the expense and hassles associated with parking downtown. When we take our children to the Mall of America on weekends or go to the airport we always take the Blue Line. The convenience is immeasurable. That’s why we can’t wait for the Blue Line Extension to Brooklyn Park to be up and running (the extension will extend north to Brooklyn Park).

Bus Light Rail

Metro Transit applauded as "the only way to get around" in historic blizzard 

| Sunday, April 15, 2018 9:43:00 AM

A Metro Transit operator picks up Route 64 customers in St. Paul during a blizzard on Saturday, April 14, 2018.More than a foot of snow fell across the Twin Cities on Saturday, bringing the region its first blizzard in 13 years and snowfall totals not seen in more than three decades. The rare April weather led the Twins to call off a pair of home games, a temporary closure of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and hundreds of crashes on area roadways. 

Metro Transit’s buses and trains stayed on the move, however.

“Our operators, maintenance staff, supervisors, police and many others banded together in the face of extraordinary circumstances,” General Manager Brian Lamb said. “Their efforts were essential to allowing those who had to travel the ability to do so safely.”

Not that there weren’t some challenges along the way.

Around 200 buses were rescued after becoming stuck over the course of the day and on Saturday evening. Light rail trains faced some delays as rail lights and signals were obscured by the fast-falling snow. At the worst point, seven bus routes were on snow detour and 75 percent of buses were significantly delayed. 

Even so, customers applauded the effort to maintain service.

"The bus driver saved my entire evening," said Minneapolis resident Kris Millner, who rode the bus home from work Saturday evening. "Once onboard, we passed 10 stuck vehicles, including trucks and semis. While slipping from time to time, this man had everything under control. He never had a severe setback...he was my personal hero tonight."

"Our bus driver was just great and incredibly helpful with our questions!" said another customer who took Route 4 on Saturday evening. "I cant believe how positive and kind he was in the middle of a snow storm."

If you witnessed Metro Transit staff going above-and-beyond, please give us a call or submit a commendation online

Crews are now out clearing snow as quickly as possible. Here's a refresher on how snow removal is prioritized

Stay up-to-date on any additional service impacts by by signing up for Rider Alerts or by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo by Metropolitan Council photographer Jeff Syme. 

Safety

Transit telecommunicators’ role: Reassurance, right response 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, April 11, 2018 10:49:00 AM

Supervisors at work in Metro Transit's Transit Control Center.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." -- Mr. Rogers


Officially and across the country, they’re known as public safety telecommunicators. At Metro Transit, they're known as Transit Control Center supervisors. 

And while their work revolves in large part around keeping service on schedule, they also handle public safety calls that come in through 911, on-board alarms or emergency phones at transit stations.

“Because we’re the ones taking the call, we’re the lifeline between the public, who need help, and emergency responders,” TCC Supervisor Chad Ladda said. 

National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week recognizes this work, and the importance of having a reassuring voice at the other end of a potentially terrible phone call. The celebration originated nearly 40 years ago, when public safety telecommunicators were struggling to be recognized.  

In 2017, TCC supervisors received more than 20,000 public safety calls. Their call volume has steadily risen over the years as the region’s transit system has grown. Calls can come from anywhere throughout the seven-county metro region.

Many of the calls are initiated not by individuals but by police officers and operators who have been trained to be vigilant and proactive observers. In some cases, these observations have little to do with transit itself. 

TCC supervisor Heather Gravink recalled a recent situation in which a bus operator saw an eight-year-old boy walking barefoot in his pajamas. The operator called the TCC and Gravink contacted police, who safely returned the boy to a family member’s home.

“In that moment, it didn’t matter if the bus was late,” Gravink said. “It was about taking care of a child who really needed it and getting the best possible outcome.”

Getting the right outcome also means taking every call seriously. Seemingly harmless situations could turn out to be much more consequential or even life threatening. For instance, someone who appears to be asleep may actually need immediate medical attention.

“A person’s life could hang in the balance based on my response to them,” TCC Supervisor Todd Messer said.

While the work can be stressful, TCC supervisors have become adept at staying calm and patient, reassuring whoever’s on the other end of the line while ensuring emergency responders have all the information they need.

“It’s our job to make sure everyone – customers, cops, medics, whoever it is – goes home at the end of the day," Gravink said. 

Story by Chris Cantoni, who is one of three communications specialists in the Transit Control Center. TCC communications specialists create and send Rider Alerts, provide service updates on social media and coordinate responses to customers using the new Text for Safety service.

Minneapolis Transit Police

Sincerity, soft touch earns officer top cop honors 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, March 28, 2018 1:37:00 PM

Growing up, Tim Lawrence often used his stature to stand up to bullies. He went to school to become a teacher. And one of the first jobs he took was as a skycap, traveling and interacting with people from around the world.

The experiences didn’t seem to point toward a career in law enforcement. But at 28 years old, he realized they could all be of use as a police officer in a large and diverse area like the Twin Cities.

So the Hastings native decided to turn his attention toward becoming a cop and went back to school. After acing his first class, he was convinced he was onto something.

Nearly a decade later, Lawrence stood before his family and his peers and was recognized as Metro Transit’s officer of the year. The award is presented annually to an officer who exemplifies the department’s principles.

Days after that celebration, Lawrence stood in a small substation at the Chicago-Lake Transit Station and reflected on what the award meant.

“I’m not doing this to get recognized,” he said. “I do police work. That’s my job. I’m honored to get it, but it’s just another day.”

Lawrence’s humility isn’t surprising. Fellow officers describe him as a soft-spoken, matter-of-fact individual known for quiet displays of empathy and a steady, calm demeanor.

When an infant was kidnapped last summer, it was Lawrence who stayed with and consoled the distraught mother. A chance encounter on a frigid Christmas night sparked a years-long relationship with a homeless individual who often sought refuge on light rail trains. And while assigned to Lake Street, he persistently visited with business owners, using his limited Spanish to build trust in the community.

“He genuinely likes to help people, and you don’t see that very often anymore,” said Sgt. Jeremy Rausch, who nominated Lawrence. “Even with all the challenges we have, he hasn’t lost his soft touch. He cares about people who are less fortunate and that shows every day that he comes work.”

Lawrence is now in his sixth year as a patrol officer with Transit Police. He’s spent countless hours riding the Blue Line, worked overnights and helped train three new hires as a Field Training Officer.

He’s currently among a team of officers who patrol the west metro from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. His time is spent largely in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, monitoring busy boarding locations, responding to calls for service and riding buses.

While it’s a broad territory, Lawrence said he takes serving the community personally. “Even though this is a huge jurisdiction, this is my area and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.

That’s especially true in North Minneapolis, where Lawrence is perhaps better known as a coach than as a police officer.

That part of Lawrence’s story started three years ago, when he was riding the bus and ran into a former classmate he played football with at Bethel University. The teammate was now coaching at North Community High School and said it would be great to work together.

That interaction led to a call from Charlie Adams, the head football coach at Minneapolis North Community High School. Lawrence was offered and immediately accepted a job as a line coach.

He’s since been embraced by student athletes and parents, some of whom he sees while on the job.

“It’s been a great opportunity for these kids and their parents to see me out of the uniform and begin to see cops as human beings,” Lawrence said. “It also gives me a chance to see where they’re coming from and what I need to do to earn their respect.”

Lawrence hopes to build similarly warm relationships with all those he encounters. But he’s more interested in the personal satisfaction that comes from these positive interactions than the kind of acclaim he received last week.

“You get a chance to do one good thing and it rejuvenates you and makes it all worthwhile,” he said. “I’m not doing these things for recognition. I’m just doing what any human being should do.”

 > Learn more about the Metro Transit Police Department's annual awards 

Metro Transit Police Department Awards Ceremony March 2018

Bus Community Light Rail

Taking time to say thanks on Transit Driver Appreciation Day 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 16, 2018 12:45:00 PM

Metro Transit’s 1,600 bus and train operators received extra kudos this week as supporters celebrated Transit Driver Appreciation Day.

Transit Driver Appreciation Day got its start in 2009, when a group of riders in Seattle, Wash., wanted to show support for their operators. It has historically been celebrated on March 18, the date the first known bus service is believed to have been offered, in 1662 in Paris, France (in the Twin Cities, auto owners began charging for rides as early as 1915, a business that soon gave rise to the area’s first bus services).

Today, Metro Transit is among many transit agencies that pause to recognize their operators for their service.

In addition to the messages of appreciation, The Current helped recognize Transit Driver Appreciation Day this year by devoting its morning Coffee Break to transit-themed songs. The playlist included The Hollies “Bus Stop” and The Replacements “Kiss Me On The Bus” (find more "essential transit tunes" on CityLab).

General Manager Brian Lamb, Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff, and several Council members also took time to personally thank operators. 

Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate and remember, operators can be commended for their service any time. Let us know what you love about your operator by submitting a commendation online or by calling 612-373-3333.

Don’t know their name? We can identify the operator with their driver number, found on the uniform sleeve, vehicle number, and information about where and when you rode.

Learn more about some of Metro Transit's bus and train operators through our "Know Your Operator" series. Also, we’re hiring bus operators. Just saying.

Here’s a small sampling of shout-outs from social media:

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