Unless you’re a regular rider of Route 23, you probably wouldn’t know Melanie Benson. You also wouldn’t know that she’s been driving for nearly 40 years, celebrating milestones and mourning losses with customers she has come to regard as family.
Thanks to Rider's Almanac, readers can get a glimpse into Benson's world.
The ability to tell the backstories of those who dedicate their lives to transit is just one of the reasons we created this blog a year ago. The 120 stories that have appeared here over the last 12 months are intended to provide a more complete picture of what Metro Transit does, why it does it and the customers and communities we do it for. I hope the picture is better coming into focus. It is for me.
Before I joined Metro Transit and took over the blog six months ago, I used the same bus route to get to work each morning and took occasional trips on the METRO Blue Line. Because I had previously reported about transit and regional development, I had also boarded the Northstar Commuter Rail Line before dawn, followed construction of the METRO Green Line and was familiar with plans to build out new transitways like the Green Line Extension and A Line (Snelling Avenue Bus Rapid Transit).
But there's a lot more I didn't know. I didn’t know about bus operators like Randy Finch who dedicate their careers to making sure their peers are prepared to handle anything they encounter on the road. I didn’t know about the track maintainers who manually inspect every inch of the METRO Blue Line every week. I didn’t know that someone could spend 50 years making sure buses get from A to B – or just how well it was working. I didn’t know that Metro Transit promoted carpooling and vanpooling. And I didn't know that Minneapolis high schoolers had ridden buses more than 2 million times thanks to the Student Pass program.
These are stories that can't be told merely through a fact book. But they are also the kind of stories that are invaluable to understanding the benefits transit brings to Twin Cities. As I look forward to 2014 -- one of the most exciting years in this organization’s 138-year history -- I will continue to share what I learn here so that the understanding of what we do becomes even richer.
The Green Line’s opening is a milestone that I and many others are looking forward to. You'll no doubt hear plenty about this landmark project, the development it's inspiring and the lives it's changing. But it’s not the only story you’ll find here.
In the year ahead, I will continue spotlighting routes through our growing collection of Route of the Week stories, to continue introducing readers to operators like Benson through our Know Your Operator series and to find many other ways of putting customers behind the scenes of our operation. I will also answer more of your Good Questions, share the stories of the Metro Transit Police Department and highlight the ways our services continue to evolve to meet customers’ needs.
As the blog enters its second year, I’d like to ask for your help in making this space as insightful and valuable as it can be. Ask questions on Twitter, Facebook or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us about your favorite driver. One-up the story of the couple that met and became engaged on Route 6. In short: engage.
Thank you for reading Rider’s Almanac in 2013. It’s been a fun ride but it’s hardly over yet.
-Drew Kerr, Public Relations Specialist
Five posts to revisit from 2013
> Know Your Operator: Melanie Benson
> Route 21: A crosstown with culture, community
> Using ‘Keys’ to put safety first
> Good Question: Why offer transfers?
> The Love Bus