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Community

On/Off the Clock with Paul Hollen 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, December 20, 2018 3:46:00 PM

 

Name: Paul Hollen
Lives: Minneapolis
Job: Assistant Transportation Manager, South Garage
Years of service: 5 1/2

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do?
After working 20 years in a few different industries, I found myself laid off from my management job at a big box home improvement store. After hearing my story, a member of my church and retired Metro Transit employee, Alphonso Gayle recommended that I apply to be an operator. I followed his advice and the rest is history.

My first job was as an operator at the Nicollet garage. After three years, my managers recognized my potential and I became a relief instructor. I served in this role for two years until I was recently promoted to assistant transportation manager.  Nine months and counting, you can find me at South Garage serving in this position helping plan and manage bus operator performance. I’m responsible for ensuring timely and safe delivery of bus transit services within the region.

Where are you from originally? Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born in Minneapolis and lived here most of my life.  I grew up in a minister’s home and thought maybe I’d follow my father in church work. But, after becoming an ordained minister, I found that I wasn’t that good at it.  While I didn’t glean my father’s talent for ministry, what I did take away from my childhood was how to fix things. In a small church, we had to fix everything ourselves. He taught me to do floors, walls, windows, doors, heating, cooling, finish carpentry, rough in carpentry, trim work, cabinets and countertops, mechanical, and electrical.  So, that has come in handy throughout the years when I had work to be done, when someone else needed help, or in one of many careers I’ve held through the years.

What do you like the most about your work?
I love people.  I enjoyed driving the bus and meeting all the passengers. And now I am getting to know the 250 plus drivers at South Garage.  I really enjoy working in a place where I can positively affect the community of the council, one operator at a time.  I’m a firm believer that if you are in trouble or have a need, there is help if you know you have a problem and want to change.  I was taught early on to correct in private and praise in public.

What are your favorite activities when you’re “Off the Clock”?
I enjoy helping others – it brings me joy. It’s why I enjoy playing the part of Santa Claus, making appearances all around the city at parties, charities, and even on Metro Transit buses and light rail. Seeing the kids’ faces when I enter the room is priceless. And even when I’m not wearing the costume, I take my role as Santa seriously. It’s probably why I find myself busy making little toys for the children in my workshop.

Outside of my seasonal alter-ego, I also enjoy being outdoors, hunting, fishing, and working at our family cabin on the tractor.  I enjoy having a cup of coffee with friends and family playing games and making memories.  I enjoy a good hot sauna in the back yard. I also enjoy tending the garden.  I have pear, apple and cherry trees; red and black raspberries; rhubarb; blueberries; and grapes. To help the environment, I am also an Apiarist and have twelve bee hives.

How We Roll

How We Roll: Michaela Ahern 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, December 14, 2018 1:15:00 PM

Many Metro Transit employees are committed to sustainable transportation, riding the bus or train, biking or walking to work and other destinations across the region. “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!

Michaela Ahern, Data Management Analyst, Service Development

How do you get to work?

I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood with a lot of great transit options within walking distance from my house. In the morning, I’ll take either the 46, 74, or the A Line to the Blue Line. If it’s raining or I’m feeling lazy, I’ll take the 134 because there are a few trips that stop just steps from my front door. Going home, I always take the Blue Line and transfer at the 46th Street Station to whichever bus is leaving first for Highland Park.

During the summer and fall, I’ll ride my bike to work or combine a bus or train ride with a bike ride. Last year I joined a bike team and found that bike commuting was a good way to get training time in instead of trying to juggle family time and workouts in the evening. I bought a fat bike this year, so maybe I’ll try winter bike commuting occasionally.

What do you enjoy most about your commute?

Not having to drive! Usually I read or do crosswords on my phone – I’m 20 years late but am finally reading the Harry Potter series. I appreciate leaving the annoyances of traffic to the bus and train operators, who handle bad drivers and crummy weather with more skill and grace than I ever would. I’ve also been able to get to know other employees through conversations on the bus or train or on the walk to Heywood from Target Field.

Riding transit and making transfers also helps inform my work in Service Development. I can see how important accurate running and recovery time is to operators trying to maintain a schedule, and I can also empathize with customers when they’re trying to make a connection work.

How do you get around outside of your commute?

I walk or bike to a lot of places in my neighborhood and now both of my boys (5 and 7) can ride their own bikes so we’ll bike up to the library or playground together. Weekends are when we usually do car errands or when we use our truck to go camping in the summer. My husband likes driving, so even when I’m not commuting I still don’t have to drive very often.

My kids love riding the bus. Their favorite seats are the ones in the very back because they don’t have to be buckled into a seatbelt and they can take turns pulling the cord. My 7-year-old now insists on putting his fare in by himself and hanging onto the transfer, which works out most of the time. We take the 74 when we go to the Science Museum in downtown St. Paul, the 23 to the Riverview and the Blue Line to the airport.

Bus Bus Maintenance Bus Rapid Transit C Line Go Green

Fleet plan calls for gradual addition of electric buses 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, December 10, 2018 4:30:00 PM

An electric bus being made by New Flyer will be included in Metro Transit's C Line fleet beginning in 2019.Electric buses will be gradually added to Metro Transit's bus fleet over the coming years under a plan presented this week to the Metropolitan Council. 

The plan will begin going into effect next year, when Metro Transit starts the process of purchasing 19 new 40-foot electric buses. The buses would arrive in 2020 and will be used to help Metro Transit understand how electric buses effect scheduling, operations and maintenance.

Electric buses could also make up half of the fleet for future rapid bus lines on Chicago and Fremont avenues (D Line), Lake Street (B Line) and Hennepin Avenue (E Line). Additional 40-foot electric buses could go into service as early as 2022.

Combined, Metro Transit may purchase up to 125 electric buses by 2022. The fleet plan may evolve based on funding and an ongoing evaluation of electric bus technology.

Metro Transit’s first electric buses will be used on the C Line, a rapid bus line that will largely replace Route 19 service in 2019.

The first of eight electric 60-foot buses is currently being built in St. Cloud by New Flyer (above).

Charging equipment will also be installed at the Heywood Garage and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.

Metro Transit was among the first transit agencies in the country to begin using hybrid-electric buses. Today, the fleet includes more than 130 hybrid-electric buses, which are partially propelled by electric power stored in a large battery on the roof of buses. 

Electric buses are fully-propelled by rechargeable batteries, eliminating tailpipe emissions.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Shamara Baggett 

Posted by John Komarek | Sunday, December 09, 2018 1:37:00 PM

After years of exhaustion working two jobs to make ends meet, Shamara Baggett decided to upgrade her career to achieve a work/life balance as a Metro Transit bus operator.

Whether she put on the uniform of a nursing assistant, private care provider or school bus driver, her weeks would consist of working eight hours overnight, then followed by six during the day.

“I made it to work, but I was exhausted,” Baggett said. “It got to the point that my life was work, and I couldn’t remember the last time I slept well.”

It was in one of those tired moments she remembered Metro Transit and the good pay and benefits they offer.

“It’s something a lot of young people just don’t think about,” Baggett said. “Being able to work one job and go to the doctor are very important, especially as you get older.”

She started the application process, but quickly found out that even with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and school bus experience, becoming an operator can be difficult. “It was a lot harder than I expected, but I was determined to get this job,” she said.

It took three tries to earn her uniform, but she was bound and determined to get the job -- and the set hours, good benefits and pension that came with it. Becoming an operator allowed Baggett to to purchase her first home.

Baggett's persistence served as an inspiration for a customer who similarly aspired to land a job as an operator. While driving Route 4, a regular rider named Willie Moses shared his story about failing the operator test and said he was going to give up.

“I told him I failed it three times before passing, but I learned from it, and I’m here now,” Baggett said. “I told him to go back, that he can pass it!”

Years went by and she started to wonder what happened to Moses. By a stroke of fate, as she was walking down the hall in South Garage, she stopped and did a double-take. She was standing across from Moses and they were both wearing Metro Transit uniforms.

“A big smile immediately came to my face,” Baggett said. “He made it!”

They still see each other often on the job and are happy talk about the conversations they’d have when she drove him home each night on the Four.

However, she likes their new job-related arrangement better. “I’m glad he’s driving someone else now. Maybe he can inspire another person to keep trying, too!”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Shamara Baggett
Hired: May 2013
Routes: 14, 113, 134 and a Relief Garage Instructor
Garage: South
Lives: North Minneapolis

Family: A 4-year-old daughter; expecting a second child in 2019

Hobbies: My daughter is my life and it’s great! Whenever I’m not at work I spend time with her. We love going to the park or the Children’s Museum.

Best Advice: “Persistence pays off” and “Don’t hold on to things – let them go.”

Learn more about becoming a bus operator at Metro Transit

 

Shared Mobility

Meet Metro Transit’s new Shared Mobility Program Manager 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, December 07, 2018 11:15:00 AM

Growing up in a farming community outside of Columbus, Ohio, Meredith Klekotka took long bus trips to and from school and didn’t have many places she could safely walk to. 

Frustrated by the lack of options, she developed an early interest in urban planning and transportation. 

That interest has been evident throughout her career – as an advocate for bicyclists and pedestrians, a proponent for high speed rail and, most recently, as a transportation planner in Indianapolis, Ind. 

As Metro Transit’s new Shared Mobility Program Manager, Klekotka will work with staff and partners to help integrate new mobility options into the existing and planned transit network. Shared mobility refers to car, bike and scooter sharing services, on-demand transit and ride hailing companies like Lyft. 

Klekotka recently shared some of her thoughts on transit’s role in the fast-changing transportation landscape. 

Why is shared mobility important? 

Shared mobility is about providing a multitude of options so people can leave their vehicles behind, and so those without a car have full access to their community. Everyone working in this space sees transit as the backbone of a multimodal system. Having a suite of options available to people can make them more comfortable traveling without a vehicle, which will ultimately help attract more riders to transit. 

What can Metro Transit do to support shared mobility? 

One of the things we can do is to expand upon our transit stations to create mobility hubs, where people can take transit but also access things like car share or ride share services to reach their destinations. We can also look at making payment systems more nimble, working with partners to package fares and other transportation options to provide travelers with a host of options to get where they need to go. We’re part of a community-led group, the Twin Cities Shared Mobility Collaborative, which allows partners to share ideas and information, advance regional shared mobility initiatives, and to work together toward common goals. 

What challenges might arise as transportation options expand? 

We need to define and aim to achieve equity so that no one is left behind. One of my friends has a saying about service with dignity – that people should have the freedom to choose and be able to travel with dignity no whatever mode they’re using. 

We also should also remember that transit can move more people more quickly and more safely than any other mode.  A key task is to work closely with our city partners to make sure shared mobility options work with transit and don’t impede our service or access to service. 

So how do you get around the Twin Cities? 

From where I live, I can walk just a few minutes to the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station and take the train to and from work. I also really love to bike, which is part of what brought me to the Twin Cities. My partner and I share a vehicle, but it’s almost always in storage. 

To learn more about Metro Transit’s Shared Mobility Program, contact Klekotka at meredith.klekotka@metrotransit.org. A summary of current and potential shared mobility options is available at sharedusemobilitycenter.org. The Twin Cities Shared Mobility Action Plan was developed by the Shared-Use Mobility Center, with support from the McKnight Foundation and input from local officials and transportation advocates.  ​

 
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