Recently-retired Operator Renee Stafford was celebrated as the state’s Bus Operator of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transit Association this week.
The MPTA also recognized Metro Transit with a Management Innovation award for its new mobile fare app.
Both awards were presented at MPTA’s annual conference in St. Cloud on October 16.
Stafford, #603, retired in June, exactly 41 years after her career at Metro Transit began. When she retired, Stafford was Metro Transit’s longest-serving female operator.
Stafford said she was honored by the award, even though she never sought recognition or felt she’d done anything out of the ordinary.
“I just treated people nicely and tried to do my best at my job,” she said. “It feels amazing that my service and the things that I did people noticed. It’s wonderful to be recognized.”
Stafford took interest in becoming an operator while riding the bus to and from classes at the University of Minnesota. She quickly grew to enjoy the work, joking with friends that it was like driving her living room around the city.
Stafford spent the last seven years of her career on Route 9, becoming friends with many of her longtime customers. She was also well-liked by her peers at Nicollet Garage, where she spent her career.
This is the third time a Metro Transit operator has been named MPTA’s Bus Operator of the Year. Retirees Jerry Olson and Tony Taylor were honored in 2014 and 2013, respectively.
Also on Monday, the MPTA presented Metro Transit with a Management Innovation award recognizing the benefits its mobile fare app has brought to customers.
Customers who download the app can buy and use a variety of fare products on their mobile devices, providing instant and cash-free access to transit. Customers show operators or transit police a dynamic display to prove they’ve paid their fare.
Since being introduced last November, app usage has grown 30 percent a month. More than $400,000 in fares have been purchased through the fare since the beginning of 2017, including $100,000 in sales in August alone.