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Rider's Almanac Blog

Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Despite challenges, public facility workers endure, empathize

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, July 15, 2021 9:17:00 AM

Public Facility Workers Chang Yang and Julie Mickus at the Lake Street Station.

Julie Mickus isn’t easily rattled. And at 64, the former bus operator and mother says she tries to start each day by letting go of whatever may have upset her the day before.

Her ability to stay positive has been especially helpful over the last 16 months as she has worked to keep some of the busiest light rail stations in Minneapolis looking their best through civil unrest and a pandemic.

“I look at this from a stranger’s point of view and think, ‘If I were to come here to take transit, what would I want to see?’” Mickus said. “That’s what motivates me.”

Mickus’s resolve and good humor was evident on a recent Friday morning as she walked through the Lake Street Station greeting regular customers, many of whom she’s come to know on a first-name basis.

In addition to cleaning, Mickus often serves as an informal station ambassador, offering directions and answering other questions that come her way.

The same helpful spirit can be found in Chang Vang and Mustapha Benami, who have also been assigned to the Lake Street, Franklin Avenue, Nicollet Mall and Warehouse District stations, and around 40 other public facility workers.

Together, the team clears litter, wipes down surfaces, mops and scrubs floors, and does whatever else they can to keep light rail stations and other boarding areas looking as clean as possible.  

“They’ve really been doing outstanding work under the circumstances,” Facilities Maintenance Manager Donn Rude said. “I can’t say enough about how they’ve persevered.”

In the future, there are plans to expand the team of public facility workers so more attention can be put toward cleaning and facility maintenance. At the Lake Street Station, plans are also being made to use public art on a utility box to deter graffiti.

Public Facility Worker Vang, who also spent a few years as a bus operator, has hopes his and others’ efforts will help customers have the best experience possible.

“It can be hard not to get discouraged, but I do this for the people who really need and want to use transit,” he said.​