When Gary Bier showed up to apply for a job with Metro Mobility, he was told they weren’t hiring. But just two weeks after putting his name in, he got a call and was asked to begin working as what was then known as an order taker. His job, essentially, was to answer the phone and help Metro Mobility customers schedule trips. Metro Mobility provides door-to-door transportation to individuals who can’t use regular route transit service.
He enjoyed the work, but in 1985 Metro Mobility services were contracted out and Bier was left with a decision: transfer to the Transit Information Center (TIC) or find a new line of work. He chose to join the TIC, where he’d build a 38-year career and retire as the department’s most senior employee. Bier helped customers plan well over 1 million trips during his career and said he enjoyed helping people understand how to get where they needed to go. “I would say 99 percent of callers were very appreciative of the service, going back to when I started to present day,” he said shortly before retiring.
Bier’s presence was one of the few constants during his tenure at the TIC. In the mid-1980s, TIC representatives used a thick directory of printed schedules and large wall maps to help customers, often spending more than 20 minutes planning a single trip. By the time Bier retired, it wasn’t uncommon for representatives to take up to 200 calls a day, planning trips within minutes online. Bier developed a firm grasp of the system, but still used the new trip planning tools to verify his intuition and avoid leading people astray.
Besides being a patient presence on the phone, Bier strongly supported his co-workers. He coached fellow representatives and spent nearly 20 years training new hires. “I liked the interaction and the challenge,” he said. “You had to find different ways of communicating with people.” Bier also spent more than 13 years as a union steward, representing ATU Local 1005 members in Transit Information, Finance and Service Development. Bier said he enjoyed representing his fellow union members and working with management to resolve issues. “We could disagree but at the end of the day, I understood where they were coming from and they understood where I was coming from and we both wanted the best for the employees,” he said.
In retirement, Bier plans to get long-stalled projects done around the house and spend more time with his family, including his wife, whom he met while working at Metro Mobility, children and grandchildren.