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Rider's Almanac Blog

Appreciation for transit workers runs around the clock

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, March 14, 2024 1:45:00 PM

Transit is a 24/7/365 operation.

So, in celebration of Transit Employee Appreciation Day, we’re shining a light on just a few of the nearly 2,900 transit workers who keep our region moving all day and all night, every day of the year.

Inspired to join us? We’re hiring in almost every department and have increased wages for frontline transit workers represented by the ATU Local 1005.

Learn more about open positions and apply

Want to give a transit worker a shout-out? Submit a commendation.

Mechanic Technician James Thies at South Garage.

12 a.m. to 1 a.m., South Garage, Bloomington | James Thies, Mechanic Technician

What does Mechanic Technician James Thies like the most about their job? The chance to be an independent problem-solver. From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., four days a week, he looks into issues reported by bus operators – everything from broken cup holders to transmissions that seem to be shifting harder than usual. “Figuring out what’s going on can be frustrating, but that’s part of the fun – working through all the steps and taking the time to get it right,” he said. Thies says he enjoys working nights because it’s a close-knit crew and, when there’s a need to test drive the bus, the roads are mostly empty.

Hiring? Always! Learn more about becoming a mechanic technician

1 a.m. to 2 a.m., Mall of America Station, Bloomington | Peter Yang & Brady, K9 Police Officer 

The best part of the job for Officer Peter Yang is getting to work with his best friend. “He's my partner every day and every night," Yang says. "He goes home with me, he goes to work with me.”  Yang and his K9 partner, Brady, have been an inseparable team for the past three years. Today, the pair are doing sweeps of buses and trains at Mall of America Station in Bloomington. Brady is trained to pick up on the scent of a wide range of items – from explosives to weapons to electronic articles. When they’re not on the hunt for anything potentially dangerous, Yang says one of their favorite things to do is to meet kids and do school visits. 

Hiring? Well, yeah. Isn't every police department?

2 a.m. to 3 a.m., Heywood Garage, Minneapolis | Julio Peneloza, Janitor  

At midnight, Julio Peneloza began his shift at Heywood Garage. As a janitor, he ensures the building is clean when most bus operators and other garage staff begin arriving in about an hour. At this hour, he’s putting the final touches on cleaning the rooms on the second floor above the drivers room. His shift ends at 8 a.m. “I like morning shifts, it gives me more time during the day to work on my home and it’s quiet for most of my shift,” he said.  

3 a.m. to 4 a.m., Dispatcher, Heywood Garage, Minneapolis | Keith Harlston 

Keith Harlston is the first person to arrive in the Heywood Driver’s Room. As a dispatcher, he’s the primary point of contact for operators as they arrive for their shifts. He’ll assign them a bus and answer any questions they may have. And, this morning three people called in sick, so he’s working on filling those shifts. “I’ve always been a night owl, so this works for me," he said. 

4 a.m. to 5 a.m., Heywood Garage, Minneapolis | Sisay Weldetsadge, Bus Operator  

Operator Sisay Weldetsadqe arrives early to make sure he leaves the garage with enough time to get to the start of his first trip on the METRO D Line. But before he heads out, he’ll need to double-check his schedule, receive his bus assignment, and inspect his vehicle inside and out. With only a year under his belt, Sisay is a relative newcomer to Metro Transit. But he’s finding that he enjoys it. “I like working morning shifts. And it’s good money and benefits,” he said. 

Hiring? Hiring!

5 a.m. to 6 a.m., Transit Control Center, Minneapolis | Chia Xiong, TCC Supervisor 

Bus operators are never alone. They’re connected by radio to the Transit Control Center (TCC) and supervisors like Chia Xiong, who answer questions and dispatch help if needed. Xiong was encouraged by a bus operator – his brother – to join Metro Transit as an operator. He then took an on-the-job training assignment in the TCC, which led to his current position. It’s a fast-paced environment and Xiong says he enjoys helping operators, the technology that links the system together, and the people he works with.  

6 a.m. to 7 a.m., Transfer Road, St. Paul | Larry Crepeau, Facilities technician-in-charge

Great benefits, variety and career advancement opportunities are what facilities technician-in-charge Larry Crepeau likes most about his job. He currently oversees the construction, installation, repair and removal of shelters at bus stops and light rail stations and runs the department in his supervisor’s absence. “I have had seven jobs in different departments over the past 33 years while being able to stay with the same employer,” he said. Crepeau is proud of his colleagues’ customer focus. “Our department is pretty much 24/7. If it’s snowing at 8 o’clock at night, we are out there until the wee hours of the morning. We respond to emergencies around the clock.”

Hiring? Public facilities will be accepting applications soon -- check back!

7 a.m. to 8 a.m., Heywood Garage, Minneapolis | Darryl Phillips, Vault Puller 

When bus operators end their shifts at Heywood Garage, Vault Puller Darryl Phillips is there to greet them with a smile and empty their fareboxes. He quickly hops on each bus, downloads data from the farebox and switches the full farebox “vault” for an empty one that’s ready for the next trip. An employee since 2016, Phillips started as a janitor, became a vehicle cleaner, and now enjoys his role where he has a steady daytime shift – “and I get weekends off,” he adds.  

Train Operator Brian Walsh on the METRO Blue Line.

8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Blue Line | Brian Walsh, Train Operator

As a former watchmaker, Train Operator Brian Walsh has a unique appreciation for being on time. So, at 8:50 a.m. sharp, he departs Target Field Station en route to the Mall of America. Walsh has made the trip many times before – after starting his career as a bus operator, he moved to light rail to become a train operator about five years ago. While the route never changes, he says he hasn’t tired of carrying passengers. "I keep coming back because I love operating the train and I get personal satisfaction making sure our customers have a safe, and reliable transportation service," he said. 

Hiring? Train operator applications will be accepted at different times throughout the year -- check back!

9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Radio shop, Minneapolis | Brian Boucher, Revenue Technician

The promise of a pension when he retires, good pay and health benefits brought Revenue Technician Brian Boucher to Metro Transit 8.5 years ago. With another 8.5 years to go before retirement, it’s good that he happens to enjoy his job repairing, installing and maintaining fare equipment for LRT and BRT. “Also, I love the freedom of the job. I am not stuck at a bench all day. It’s not boring. There is always something new to do or fix.... It’s not just swapping coin boxes or bill boxes or ticket rolls. It’s a lot of mechanical work and troubleshooting. You need a good analytical background.”

10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Target Field Station, Minneapolis | Tommy Fickett, Police Officer 

Officer Tommy Fickett may be one of the newest members of the Metro Transit Police Department, but he already knows every detail about the METRO Blue Line. Fickett has been with the department for the past three years as a Community Service Officer, which allowed him to learn the ropes of law enforcement while completing his education. He says it’s the “community and culture within the department” that made him choose MTPD. “Every day is completely different. You can do so much and help so many. It’s the best job in America.” 

Hiring? You betcha!

11 a.m. to noon, South Garage, Bloomington | Ziyad Abdella, Assistant Transportation Manager 

Assistant transportation managers like Ziyad Abdella provide leadership and support for dozens of bus operators at their respective garages. While much of the job is admittedly computer-based, Abdella also makes sure to check-in with dispatchers, instructors, coordinators, and of course, operators, while at the garage. “What I like about my job is providing our bus operators the tools they need to continue learning and improving," he said. "And I'm regularly exposed to new challenges, which helps me develop both professionally and personally.” 

Noon to 1 p.m., Transit Information Center, Minneapolis | Shayon Dempsey, TIC Representative

Transit Information Center Representative Shayon Dempsey has always wanted to serve others. After considering a job as a nurse, Shayon decided to start her career at Metro Transit, following in the footsteps of her grandmother. After spending time as an operator, she wanted a change, and started work in the Transit Information Center, or TIC. Now, Shayon takes call and chats from riders looking for trip planning help between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.  “We have a lot of regulars. I like hearing from them,” Shayon said. “They like the assurance that their route is coming, and when.”  As a mom, she also likes that her workday is done by 3:30 p.m., giving her time to spend with her kids.

Hiring? Applications will be accepted at different times throughout the year -- check back!

1 p.m. to 2 p.m., Instruction Center, Minneapolis | Rich Miller, Instructor  

Rich Miller has been at Metro Transit for the last 17 years, experience that has given him plenty of knowledge he can pass along to new bus operators. And these days, that's his job. As an instructor, Rich leads classroom training and hits the road with operators who are completing their seven-week training program. While operators move to garages after that, Rich says his job doesn't end there. "Our responsibilities don't stop when students leave the Instruction Center," he said. "We continue to coach, guide, and support everyone along their journey."

TRIP Agent on the Blue Line.

2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Blue Line, Minneapolis | Chris Alois, TRIP Agent

Transit Rider Investment Program (TRIP) Agents have quickly become an essential presence on our light rail lines, inspecting fares and speaking up when they observe behaviors that violate our Code of Conduct or are illegal. 

Hiring? Through a contract, TRIP Agents are currently being hired by Allied Universal. Metro Transit plans to post and hire these positions later in 2024.

3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Target Field Station, Minneapolis | Rich Cipala Commuter Rail Mechanic  

It’s 3:38 p.m. and the big Northstar train is ready to roll. But not before mechanic Rich Cipala had checked things out. Cipala has worked at Metro Transit for 10 years, sometimes on bus, other times on light rail. These days, working on Northstar vehicles, he says he likes the variety of the work on tasks big and small. “Depending on the day, we take engines apart, replace starters, or change out wheels; another day we switch out windows and lights,” he said. Cipala says it’s a good place for mechanics to work. “We provide training. There’s a retirement plan, benefits package, and wages have increased.” 

Northstar staff, like Cipala, are about to get busier!  Metro Transit has announced service to Twins games at Target Field this season and Vikings home games come fall. All aboard! 

Hiring? Of course!

4 p.m. to 5 p.m., North Loop Garage, Minneapolis | Ed Zapata, Maintenance Supervisor

Inside Metro Transit’s newest support facility, the North Loop Garage in Minneapolis, Maintenance Supervisor Ed Zapata receives a call about a bus that lost its air conditioning and had warmed up to almost 80 degrees. As a short-term fix, Ed helps find a spare bus and a technician who can deliver it to the operator who reported the issue. At other points during the day, Ed helped manage inventory and completed a ‘bus mark-up,’ confirming data about buses stored and maintained at the garage.

5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Blue Line, Minneapolis | Adam Kleven, Traction Power Foreperson

Traction Power Foreperson Adam Kleven enjoys the specialized nature of his work maintaining substations and providing traction power propulsion for light rail trains. “It’s pretty unique coming from an electrician’s background. There are very few people in this country who can say they are traction power maintainers. It’s a continuously changing and evolving technology with every LRT line.” He also likes his role in helping get customers from point A to point B. “I get a sense of pride doing our job. It’s a big part of the economy, keeping it going.”

Hiring? Absolutely!

6 p.m. to 7 p.m., North Loop Garage, Minneapolis | Stockkeeper Hector Barcenas Rivera 

As the second-shift stockkeeper at North Loop Garage in Minneapolis, Hector Barcenas Rivera appreciates that Metro Transit maintains good inventory levels at each of its bus garages and that he gets to work with mechanics who are professional and easy going. He came here from another company because he wanted better benefits. Which benefit is his favorite? “Pension. We know we’re going to retire with something," he said. Although he is a good 20 years from retirement, “The pension made the difference to me. Now that I’m done raising a family, it’s time to think about me,” he said.  

7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Metro Mobility Supervisor Deroulo Cadet

From customer service to dispatch to drivers to supervisors to technicians, dozens of employees support our contracted service operations to provide critical transit service for Metro Mobility, which serves our ADA customers. We’re grateful for their dedication, attention to detail, and commitment to serving our customers. “I love people. I like helping them.” Deroulo Cadet, supervisor for Metro Mobility, said.

Our support staff and operators say their number one goal is to help people living with disabilities and health conditions become independent and self-sufficient. They enjoy the variety in their jobs, and they love helping people: both customers and colleagues. “It feels good to help people understand how we work and the opportunities we provide so that they move forward with better access to their communities,” said Pamela Hall-Clemens, customer service specialist. “I find it especially rewarding when Metro Mobility customers thank me for a job well done.”

8 p.m. to 9 p.m., Real Time Information Center (RTIC), Minneapolis | Keith Hendrickson, RTIC Specialist

Inside the Metro Transit Police Department's West Command, a bank of monitors provides staff in the Real Time Information Center a live look at what's happening at stations and onboard vehicles. Among those keeping a watchful eye is RTIC Specialist Keith Hendrickson, who works the evening shift and has a personal connection to the work -- Hendrickson lives in south Minneapolis and is a regular rider of the METRO Blue Line. "As a rider, it helps to know we have very good cameras and that criminals are probably going to get caught quickly," he said.  

9 p.m. to 10 p.m., Heywood Garage, Minneapolis | Shamara Baggett, Transit Supervisor 

Shamara Baggett begins her shift at 6 p.m. and works until 2 a.m. In the office, she collects and submits videos that need to be reviewed by management. She also takes calls from the TCC that will get her out in the field to assist operators and police during an incident or investigate accidents or detours. When she’s out, she’ll also checks in on facilities and signage to help keep the system looking its best. And if there’s ever a stranded customer, she can help make sure you get home safely. She stepped into this role two years ago after serving as a bus operator. “I love that we can be there for drivers," she said. "They have a stressful job. Sometimes they just want to be heard. I was a driver, so I understand. Being helpful to people making their day easier.”

Rail Transit Supervisor Joe Kistner.

10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Blue Line, Minneapolis | Joe Kistner, Rail Transit Supervisor

Every night is a little different for Joe Kistner, a rail transit supervisor who works with train operators, police officers and rail maintenance crews to keep a watchful eye on the Blue Line from sundown to sunup. Working with so many different people, he says, is a big part of what makes his job interesting and enjoyable. “I’ve always like the atmosphere here,” he says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie with all the other departments.” Among his usual tasks: placing “boards” on tracks to mark them as out of service as crews complete overnight maintenance, visiting stations to see if anything is amiss, helping wayward customers, and communicating with operators to keep trains moving when things go awry. Some days, that involves working in the field; other times, he’s in the Rail Control Center monitoring service from a desk with a view of station and light rail vehicle cameras and train locations. “Because there are fewer people on third shift, you get to be more involved in the decision-making, which I like,” he says.

Helper Hassan Raha cleans a light rail vehicle.

11 p.m. to midnight, Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility, Minneapolis | Hassan Raha, Helper

Hassan Raha’s job is to pay attention to the details. As a general cleaner, he spends his eight-hour shifts mopping, scrubbing, and wiping down every hard surface inside a light rail vehicle, including all the little crevices where dust and other debris collects. “I divide my time and now know exactly how long it takes to complete every step,” he said. Light rail vehicles are deep cleaned like this at least once a month, adding onto the nightly and between-trip cleanings that occur every day. When Hassan’s workday ends, he returns home and helps his children, 5 and 7, prepare for their days before getting some rest and starting again.  

Hiring? Heck yeah we are!