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Great People

Saluting decades of service to our customers

The accomplishments of those who have dedicated their careers to Metro Transit inspire us to do our best work. We are proud to honor members of the Metro Transit family who retire with more than 30 years of service here. Retirees are also honored with plaques on board buses and trains, and in the Metro Transit Wall of Fame at the Metro Transit Police & Office Facility.

Scott Thompson 

Posted by John Komarek | Wednesday, May 1, 2024 9:34:00 AM

In 1974, one college presentation propelled Scott Thompson into a 47-year-long career. 

“Two MTC operations planners spoke to our geography class about restoring the transit system after Twin Cities Lines became MTC,” Thompson said. “Not long after, I changed my major to urban studies.” 

Soon after, he sought an internship at Metro Transit. As there wasn’t one available in service planning yet, he began where he could, in the Marketing Department. “I just wanted to get a foot in the door,” he said. 

Soon after, he reached his goal of becoming a transit planner. Along the way, he also worked in the Public Facilities department, which highlighted other places Thompson could have an impact. “There was a lot of opportunity to improve processes here,” Thompson said. 

He remembers riding buses to count people as part of research and working with physical maps. And, at one point, he recalls only about 25% of bus stops had signage. “Today, Metro Transit is doing everything faster, better, and smarter,” he said. 

Thompson helped launch many services, including the METRO Blue and Green lines and supporting bus services within 10 years of each other. Unlike these scheduled launches, however, not everything goes to plan. In 2020, Service Development implemented drastic service changes in weeks, instead of months. 

“It’s a challenge to put together efficient schedules and balance the needs of the ridership,” Thompson said. “I enjoy the challenge of complex problems.” 

What he’s most proud of is helping design a reliable system for people who need transit the most. In his early years, a call from a distressed customer who didn’t connect with a bus inspired him to work tirelessly to meet the needs of riders. 

“We offer an important service to our public,” Thompson said. “We help people get to their jobs, groceries, and the doctor’s office.” 

In retirement, Thompson plans to spend more quality time with his wife, kids, and grandkids at his vacation home up North and take a cruise around the Caribbean.



Melanie Benson 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, April 24, 2024 8:28:00 PM


Waiting for a city bus in driving, icy rain, Melanie Benson found her calling. "When that red bus came over the hill it looked like my savior and I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a job where everyone’s glad to see you all the time?’" she said.

That flash of inspiration – Benson calls it an "epiphany" – occurred in late 1974. It led the then-student at Macalaster College to apply for a job as a Metro Transit operator soon after earning her degree in humanities. She started on Oct. 11, 1976, and retired 47 years later as Metro Transit's longest-serving operator. 

"This is the longest full-time job I’ve ever had," she joked before a crowd of family members, longtime riders, and co-workers who gathered for an April 2024 send-off at Nicollet Garage. "Oh that’s right, it’s been the only job I’ve ever had."

Benson never wavered largely because she came to see the people on her bus not just as riders but as friends. For most of her career, Benson drove on Route 23, and she came to know just about everyone who got on board. "If you drive a route like it’s a neighborhood, you find that people are all connected," she said. 

In 2020, Melanie Benson was recognized as the Minnesota Public Transit Association's Operator of the Year. Her longevity also led to media interest, including stories in her final year on the job from KARE-11, The Star Tribune and Racket

In retirement, Benson said she plans to continue riding the bus, to visit friends at Nicollet, and to continue working on a book about her experience as a bus operator

Joanne Tyler 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, April 9, 2024 9:53:00 AM

Joanne Tyler applied to Metro Transit on a whim. “My friend wanted to apply to be a bus operator. I just made sure she went,” Tyler said. “I filled out an application for the heck of it. I didn’t think I’d get in!”

Tyler didn’t believe she’d be considered due to a resume filled with gaps and part-time employment as she raised her three kids. Unlike her friend, however, she was accepted and began training. But the road to 31 years of service was bumpy to start. “I almost quit during training,” she said. “I flunked my first driving test.”

Instead of quitting, however, she buckled down and drew inspiration from adversity. “I wanted to prove to them and myself that I could do it,” Tyler said.

Tyler retook the test and passed with flying colors and began a three-decade long career as a bus operator. “I’d never thought I’d drive anything bigger than a pickup truck,” she said. Now I’d rather drive a bus than any other vehicle!”

Tyler served the bulk of her career at East Metro Garage with stints at the old Single Creek and Snelling garages. She began on express service but discovered that she truly loved the local bus – especially routes 64 and 62. “I prefer local runs with regular people,” Tyler said. “You can build good relationships with your riders.”

In retirement, she plans to travel to two countries on her bucket list, Italy and Greece, and take up quilting.

Tom Vang 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, January 11, 2024 11:52:00 AM

In 1979, a teenaged Tom Vang immigrated from Laos to Minnesota with his father to be close to family and to find opportunities. About a decade later, he found opportunity at Metro Transit.

“I was working as a teacher and working part time at Metro Transit,” Vang said. “After a few years of doing both, I realized the pay and benefits were better being a bus driver.”

Like many college graduates, Vang discovered a great career that wasn’t a title printed on their degree. His degree and experience in education did prove helpful in his newfound career as a classroom filled with students and a busload of passengers share a lot in common.

“I work with people,” he said. “And when you work with people, you work with difficult ones sometimes.”

When he began, operators made $8 an hour, buses were red and had no power steering nor air conditioning, Snelling Garage still existed and Ruter was called Shingle Creek. Today, as he leaves Metro Transit with all the modern advancements and amenities operators enjoy, Vang realizes that his 34 years  went by fast.

“Metro Transit is a place to meet lots of different people onboard and in the garage,” Vang said. “The time here goes by fast.”

He recommends Metro Transit as a great place to grow a career and recommends working here to others, including his son Johnny, now an operator with ten years of service and counting. During Johnny’s early years, Vang served as a mentor and answered all his questions. And the same advice he gave his son, he’ll happily share with others.

“Stick with it. With time, you get seniority,” he said. “And try to do your best every day.”

In retirement, Vang plans to travel to Europe and South America. And, when he’s not traveling, he’ll tend to his 7-acre hobby farm with sweet corn, mustard greens, and a host of other plants.


Tim Smith 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, September 15, 2023 12:19:00 PM


Tim Smith always wanted to be a bus operator and ended up a teacher.

“I used to ride Twin City Line’s Route 16 with my mother and that’s when I became fascinated with buses – how they worked, where they went,” Smith said. “From an early age, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

And, for multiple decades he did. Smith also knew that he wanted to work at Metro Transit, but like many, he started working for other transportation companies, like schools and other regional providers. When he began here in 1991, he split his time between Metro Transit and another company as he worked both part time.

“It was a changing of the guards and a changing of the uniform,” he said. “I’d take off my light blue uniform and put on my Army green uniform.”

That old transit uniform was one of many changes the St. Paul native saw throughout his transit journey – from the name of the company (MTC to Metro Transit), the color of the buses and uniforms, garages opening and closing, and new technologies like electric buses.

“I trained at Old Snelling Garage which was the old instruction center and started at Shingle Creek Garage,” Smith said. “There’s been a lot of changes in my time.”

And this included changes for his career. After an instructor noticed his work ethic around bus operations, they suggested that he consider becoming an instructor. That nudge launched him into the next phase of his career, first as a relief instructor in 1999, then a full-time instructor at the Instruction Center in 2008.

“I trained thousands of people throughout my career,” Smith said. “And they remember you throughout their careers.”

As an instructor, he taught not only bus operators, but any staff operating large or complex vehicles with his certifications to teach Commercial Drivers License, Class A, forklift, and Safety Keys. He’s proud of the high standards Metro Transit has for training. While he enjoys instruction, there’s still that kid inside of him who fell in love with buses and just wants to operate them. During the pandemic and short of staff, he got a consistent opportunity to fulfill his need to drive.

“It felt so good to get behind the wheel again,” he said. “But now it’s time to move on. I’ve put my time in.”

In retirement, Smith and his wife plan to move southwest for the weather and to be near family. They also plan to road trip around the United States.

Bob Little 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, September 1, 2023 4:09:00 PM

While riding Route 5 in high school to his job, Bob Little decided that he wanted to work at Metro Transit.

“College didn’t interest me, and I knew that Metro Transit had good job opportunities,” Little said.

Throughout his career, he was able to move around not only job locations but job titles. Forty-three years ago, he began his career as a cleaner at the Old Snelling Garage, followed by Shingle Creek Garage (Ruter), Old Northside, and Old Nicollet. But his goal was to advance into a mechanic role.

“I’ve always been mechanically minded,” he said. “I used to scare my mother by taking apart things – she worried I wouldn’t get them back together – but I always did.”

Little became a mechanic at the Old Snelling and South garages, but that’s just the beginning of his career journey filled with new skills he’d acquire. Next, he learned to weld and welded new frames on buses at the Overhaul Base. Then, he grew an interest in HVAC and became certified to fix those system at the “new” Nicollet Garage.

Then he learned that Public Facilities needed people and became licensed in boiler repair. From there he moved to the opening of the Blue Line facility and took care of all the rail platforms at that facility. Next, he worked at the Old Public Facilities building on Hoover and East Hennepin as a senior mechanic. In 2011, he made his final career stop at South Garage as a facilities technician for Public Facilities.

“I never really wanted to become a manager or supervisor,” Little said. “I was always more interested in doing the work.”

And what kept him here all these years was the ability to move around, learn new skills, and work with people who were always willing to help.

"This is a place you can grow into,” he said. “And the people care about you.”

This experience made all times he worked through extreme weather, including the coldest day on record (-35 degrees), and the blizzards of 1981 and 1991 worthwhile. He proud of the fact that he never missed a day due to weather. In retirement, however, he’ll be happy to sit them out.

“I won’t miss driving to work before the plows hit the highways!” he joked.

In retirement, Little plans to spend more time with his wife who recently retired and travel the world. As he’s 100% Irish, Ireland is at the top of the list followed by a trip to see the Andes.

Karen Underwood 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, September 1, 2023 4:04:00 PM

Forty-five years ago, Karen Underwood began as a temp revenue worker at Metro Transit, and that’s all she thought it would be: temporary.

“I was just out of college, didn’t know what I wanted to do, and needed a job to pay the bills,” Underwood said. “I thought, ‘I’m just a temp – I don’t need to stay here.’”

However, she felt guided to stick with it. After 6 months on the job, a permanent position became available and was offered to her. “I decided I would stay here and develop my role as much as I could,” she said.

As a revenue clerk, she learned about Service Development when riding and counting passengers were added to her duties. It wasn’t long before she became interested and sought a position as a planner.

“I didn’t have a degree in Urban Studies, but I was good with math and maps,” Underwood said.

While she didn’t get the role the first time, she studied hard and applied again for the next planner opening in Service Development. She eventually became an analyst, which focuses on improving service now versus long term planning, a role that suits her.

“I wound up in a job I love,” she said. “I got to see the impact of the work I do in the field.”

The impact she is most proud of is advocating for 3rd shift workers and non-native English speakers. Route 68 is one of the services she advocated and expanded the hours of weekend service to ensure that these workers could rely on transit to commute to work. This improvement was especially important during the pandemic.

“We’re doing much better at reaching out to these underrepresented groups and recognizing service for essential workers,” Underwood said. “It’s gratifying to see the agency do more of this.”

She enjoyed her time at transit so much, she encouraged her husband to apply when he was looking for a job. He became a part-time bus operator and recently retired as well. “There’s lots of opportunities here, classes to help you develop, and other roles to take on,” she said.

In retirement, she plans to continue volunteering, go camping with family, and travel as much as possible with Indonesia, Uganda, and Switzerland at the top of the list.

John Carrier 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, August 14, 2023 12:06:00 PM

Bus Operator

John Carrier couldn’t picture himself as a bus operator.

“My dad brought me to Metro Transit kicking and screaming,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a driver; it didn’t seem like me.”

Carrier had just earned an accounting degree and was working as a warehouse clerk. However, starting a career at Metro Transit became the first and final stop in his career. He'll retire next week after more than 38 years of service.

“I thought I’d be too nervous to do this job – but that didn’t play into it at all,” Carrier said. “I was surprised at how quickly I became accustomed to doing the job properly.”

Carrier started at Nicollet Garage, moved to Snelling and Heywood, and ends his career at South. For several years, Carriers served as a union steward, helping fellow operators solve problems. Onboard his bus, he also enjoyed helping people. He fondly remembers springing into action to help a blind person cross the street during a trip on Route 2.

“I was surprised passengers saw what I did and thanked me,” Carrier said. “It’s amazing how the stuff you do resonates with people.”

In retirement, he looks forward to sleeping in, traveling to Europe and Central America, and spending more time with his wife and two children.

Al Daley 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, August 14, 2023 12:04:00 PM

Bus Operator

When he was 18 years old, Al Daley didn’t want to leave Jamaica and join his mother in Minnesota.  “I was sure my mom made a mistake – I was going to leave Minnesota as soon as I could,” Daley said. “Thank god that didn’t happen.”

His mother was worried about the lifestyle he was becoming accustomed to, so she sponsored him to immigrate. From sunny beaches to the frozen tundra, Daley arrived in Minnesota in January of 1973.

“It was my first real experience with cold and snow,” he said. “I was excited for about 10 minutes. That excitement wore off quickly.”

After arriving he enrolled in college, but soon found out that it wasn’t a good fit for him. So, he entered the job market and eventually became an IT field technician. However, this job was shorter lived than he’d hoped – 3 years after starting, the now young father was laid off.

“I was looking for anything that got a paycheck coming in,” Daley said. “I drove taxi, school buses, sold cars, whatever it took.”

That’s when a friend suggested he apply to be a bus operator at Metro Transit. “I thought it was going to be a stop along the way. I hoped to return to IT,” he said. “That didn’t happen, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

He credits the people and the pay for keeping him here all these years. The interactions with customers onboard reminded him that his role was important, especially on cold winter days.

“They appreciate and need you,” Daley said. “They’re good people just trying to get from Point A to Point B.”

In retirement, he plans to spend more time with his son and his grandchildren, and when he can, return to Jamaica during the winter.

Steve Mahowald 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, August 14, 2023 12:02:00 PM

Senior Transit Planner

Steve Mahowald retired a senior planner, but like many folks at Metro Transit, he began his career as a bus operator.

“I was driving cab for a living,” Mahowald said. “I’d commute downtown to my job on Metro Transit and that’s when my bus operator told me to apply.”

He took that advice and a half century later; he celebrates a long and storied career. At Metro Transit, he served as a bus operator for about 5 years, which gave him steady income and the ability to go back to college and finish his degree in Urban Studies. This gave him the launching pad to apply for a job in Service Development and eventually the ability to earn his master’s degree.

“I didn’t get the job right away,” he said. “It took me three times.”

He started as an associate planner and worked his way up to senior planner. Throughout the years, he’s worked on many projects, but he’s most proud of helping develop transit market areas in the mid-90s. This document provides cities with an understanding of what transit can do now, and what transit could provide given the right developments.

“Cities still refer to it today to help develop areas that are conducive to transit service,” Mahowald said.

Throughout the years, community is what keeps him coming to work every day – not only the communities onboard buses and trains, but the community built by his fellow employees.

“It’s very rewarding to see and hear from the people we serve,” he said. “But it’s also energizing to work with such talented people with a passion for our mission.”

And just like the bus operator who told him to apply, he’s even inspired some people to work at Metro Transit. While teaching at the University of Minnesota, he met a passionate and driven student interested in transit. That student is now the director of Strategic Initiatives.

After 50 years of service, Mahowald is ready to retire and he knows he’s leaving the future of transit in good hands.

 “The talent coming into Metro Transit today is incredible,” he said.

In retirement, he plans to spend more time with kids and grandkids, traveling, and advocating for pedestrian improvements.

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