Category Archives: Making a Difference

Public transit brings the world to us as we ride

Lenny Anderson

Photo: Jonathan Maus

Maybe it all goes back to an admonition from my late father to his teenage son when the latter asked for the car keys way back in the ‘60s: “What’s wrong with public transportation!”

That was not a question!  As kids we rode the Blue bus into Portland from Multnomah, but it did not get you to many other places in Southwest at the time. We had our bikes for that and later the use of the family car, despite the admonition.

Why public transit? It’s where we can be a part of the “polis,” (Greek for “city”) and experience our community at its most diverse and stimulating…

Getting out of Portland really showed me what public transportation or transit can do. A spring and summer in Athens, Greece, after high school introduced me to “big city” transit: the trolley bus to the beaches south of Athens or the old subway to Pireaus where you caught the ferry to Agina or Hydra for a day’s swimming.

And then Paris… where the Metro is part of what makes Paris Paris!

Followed by college in Chicago where we used the “L” and the “IC” to get to the Loop, and finally when I got to the Bay Area, it was the SF Muni (N Judah streetcar to the beach!) and the brand new BART system under the Bay.

Later, travels in South America and Europe where a lot was to be seen from transit: the “Mann” express bus to Mira Flores in Lima; the “Bongee” (streetcar) to Santa Teresa and the 554 bus in Rio; Frankfurt’s S-Bahns, U-Bahns and Strassenbahns to name a few.

Then a return to Portland in the mid 1980s just as the first MAX line opened… Riding it was just like the Strassenbahn in Frankfurt where my wife and I were married in 1985.

But it was the first Gulf War that finally got me out of my little BMW 1602 and onto the TriMet buses to my job on Swan Island from NW PDX. I was boycotting Big Oil! But three buses?? And it took me three times as long than the drive, until I recalculated my morning routine.

Drive: coffee, read the paper, 10 minute walk, then 12 minute drive for a total of at least 45 minutes.

Bus: Walk to the bus stop, read the paper, bus to Rose Quarter Transit Center, practicing German with a fellow rider, read the paper some more, then the bus north and a walk down the hill or a wait for that 3rd bus to Swan Island for a total of 50 minutes! A wash.

Lenny takes in the moment at his surprise retirement party.

Lenny takes in the moment at his surprise retirement party.

And then letters to TriMet and finally five minutes of face time with then General Manager Tom Walsh. I said: “10,000 people working on Swan Island, 10 minutes from MAX! Why no direct bus service?” And a couple of years later, TriMet proposed a new line, the 85-Swan Island, running nonstop from MAX to the Island! Yes!

In ‘98 we got C-TRAN to run an express bus to Swan Island, the “191,” but that’s another story.

Then came the Swan Island Evening Shuttle in 2000 and Interstate MAX and all day 85 service in 2004. And the Swan Island TMA (Transportation Management Association) was off and running.
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Why public transit? It’s where we can be a part of the “polis,” (Greek for “city”) and experience our community at its most diverse and stimulating… All colors, all ages and a lot of different languages. We can “bathe in the masses,” have a random conversation with a fellow rider, and feel a part of the larger community that is really what makes this a great place!

And as more of the world discovers our little secret, public transit brings the world to us as we ride.

Northeast Portland resident Lenny Anderson is retiring this month from his post as the executive director of the Swan Island Business Association. He’s a long-time advocate for transit in the region. 

Meet a “Gold Master Operator”

Rolynd Puckett, TriMet Gold Master Operator

Veteran operator Rolynd Puckett earned the distinction of “Gold Master Operator” for his safe driving, attendance and customer service. He is one of only three TriMet operators to receive this honor!

Long-time bus operator Rolynd Puckett has been awarded the distinction of “Gold Master Operator” as part of our Master Operator Program.

TriMet’s Master Operator Program recognizes bus and rail operators who achieve overall excellence in their duties as professional drivers.

Operators earn Superior Performance Awards (SPAs) each time they go 1,960 hours of work without any preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or suspensions.

To reach Master Operator status, a driver must accumulate 10 SPA awards. For Grand Master level, an operator needs 20. And to achieve Gold Master ranking, he or she needs 30 SPA awards.

They also must have excellent records of attendance and customer service.

I have met a lot of neat passengers over the years, made friends with people on the bus. It is special when a rider you haven’t seen for a long time gets on and still remembers you.

Rolynd has 30 SPAs meaning he has driven 58,800 stellar hours. (That’s 6.7 years!) He is one of only three operators at TriMet to receive the Gold Master Operator award.

He also has logged 13 years of perfect attendance, 11 of which were consecutive—no small feat.

Rolynd said receiving this award is “a real honor. My career at TriMet has been a great experience.” He continued, “I couldn’t ask for better coworkers. We really are a big family and we are all in this together. We try to help each other out where we can.”

He has been a TriMet bus operator for 38 years and is second in seniority; only one other current operator has been at TriMet longer.

Rolynd has driven countless routes and currently drives the first Line 67-Bethany/158th bus of the day from Merlo Rd/SW 158th Avenue to Portland Community College/Rock Creek Campus.

Riders say he is “friendly and warm” and “the nicest bus operator I’ve ever had.”

Rolynd and his wife of 42 years, Penny, enjoy camping, fishing and clamming together. He’s also involved in activities at his church, including participating in a choir that visits retirement homes and care facilities to entertain residents. He joined TriMet right after his service in the Navy.

As a reminder: Bus Driver Appreciation Day is coming up. Mark your calendars for March 18, 2013, to celebrate and honor all TriMet operators! Of course, you can submit a commendation for an operator any time at http://trimet.org/thanks.

By sleigh or by bus, “Santa Bob” delivers the spirit of generosity year round

Operator Santa Bob Foster in the driver's seat, smiling at oncoming passengers.From time to time, someone calls TriMet Customer Service to say, “I want to thank a driver who did something really great. I don’t know his name,” the rider admits, “but he looks like Santa.” At this, one name snaps into focus: Hillsboro resident Bob Foster, a TriMet bus operator since 1981.

Bob first donned the red suit more than 25 years ago—“when I had to use a little white shoe polish to gray up my beard”—for a holiday party at TriMet’s Merlo garage in Beaverton. For a while, he shared the honor of playing Merlo Santa with a couple of other operators.

“The spirit of Santa is the gift of wonder. The feeling that I am trying to exude is that it is OK for us to expect good things to come our way.” — Santa Bob

But as the years rolled by, Santa service became a bigger part of Bob’s life. He started scheduling his vacations so that “Santa Bob” could visit families all over the metro area. His stops include a local tree farm, Breakfast with Santa in Mitchell, a toy store in Northeast Portland, and the Hillsboro School District’s holiday party for the Life Skills Classrooms.

Want to know where Santa Bob will be visiting next? Like his Facebook page

By now, it’s a Merlo employee tradition to bring your children, or your grandchildren, or somebody else’s children to visit Santa in the drivers’ break area. A bus garage can be a busy, gritty place, but on Santa’s lap next to the tree, the only thing that matters is the children’s hopes and dreams for the holidays.

Operator Bob Foster, dressed in his Santa costume, with two children, each on one of his knees.To Bob, “The spirit of Santa is the gift of wonder. The feeling that I am trying to exude is that it is okay for us to expect good things to come our way.”

Bob displays this spirit—along with the apple cheeks and snowy beard—every day in the driver’s seat. He says, “We operators are the attitude of Portland. Each morning, I’ve got about 100 people who are going to reflect all day on our interaction. Maybe it’s conscious, maybe it’s unconscious, but at some point in the day they’re going to remember the nice operator who maybe brought a little joy and humor into their day.”

It should be noted that Bob Foster isn’t the only TriMet employee who’s especially attuned to the spirit of Santa. Dave Kay in bus maintenance and Shirley Block in field operations are said to be responsible for Mr. and Mrs. Claus’ attendance at the union holiday party.

But if you’re on the bus and hear Westside high schoolers yelling, “Where’s your reindeer?” or a wide-eyed Washington County child whispering, “It’s him!” there’s a good chance you’re riding with “Santa Bob” Foster.

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

VIDEO: See the feature about Santa Bob on KOIN Local 6

TriMet’s Dr. Dolittle: Ron “Doc” Chambers

Ron "Doc" Chambers

Photo by Alysha Beck

It is a typical morning in the Portland metro area with buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians maneuvering the streets for their commute. A call comes over the radio from dispatch: “Doc, there’s a bird on the road and we need you to rescue it.”

A TriMet employee since 1986, Ron “Doc” Chambers has gone above and beyond the boundaries of his job description. In addition to being an outstanding bus operator, rail operator and trainer, he has been the call guy for all injured animals TriMet employees come across, both at home and on the job. Doc credits his childhood, which he spent in rural areas of England and Spain with very few veterinarians, for his passion for birds and other animals.

Doc has rescued animals for operators, supervisors, neighbors and even the Portland Police. He repaired the cracked shell of a turtle that got hit by a MAX train, got a hawk out from the rafters of a rail garage, and saved countless pigeons from the side of the road that empathetic bus operators called him about. Outside of TriMet calls, Doc mainly rescues parakeets, which he saves and keeps until he can find them ‘forever homes.’

In his first year as a TriMet operator, Doc was driving  his bus through North Portland when a call came over the radio that a pigeon had been hit by a bus and no one knew how to help it. He got on the radio and said that if someone could deliver the pigeon to him, he could nurse her back to health. “The next day, I came back into work and my supervisor said, ‘Well, you’re just a regular Doc Chambers!’ The name stuck,” he says. He repaired the bird’s broken wing, cared for her punctured lung, and years later she died of old age with Doc and his wife at their home.

In the early 2000s, degenerating eyesight forced Doc to transition into a training role, but it hasn’t stopped him from saving animals. Just last week Doc found a dog wandering the storage yard at TriMet’s Ruby Junction facility. She was malnourished and had sores. Unable to care for her at home, Doc found fellow training supervisor David White to nurse her back to health. David and his family have since adopted her and named her Daisy.

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook.

Maya Trachtenberg, TriMet summer intern

Maya Trachtenberg

Written by Maya Trachtenberg, TriMet summer intern
Maya Trachtenberg is an undergraduate from University of Washington, who grew up in Portland and on TriMet. She was a summer journalist for the Jewish Review newspaper, and had an internship doing writing and public relations for the Portland Fire Bureau. During her internship at TriMet, Maya interviewed transit riders and TriMet employees for internal and promotional  publications.

 

Alysha Beck, TriMet summer intern

Alysha Beck

Photo by Alysha Beck, TriMet summer intern
Alysha Beck is a photojournalism graduate from University of Oregon. She has interned for The Oregonian, YH! World (a London-based online magazine), and was a freelance photographer for Long Run Picture Company in Eugene, Oregon. As an intern for TriMet, Alysha took pictures and videos of riders, operators, and management for internal  and promotional publications. Alysha is now a staff journalist at Coos Bay and Southern Oregon Coast’s newspaper, The World.

TriMet’s Myleen Richardson honored as Nature Conservancy “Volunteer of the Year”

TriMet's Myleen Richardson: The Nature Conservancy of Oregon's Volunteer of the Year

TriMet's Myleen Richardson was one of two volunteers to receive The Nature Conservancy's "Volunteer of the Year" honor for 2011.

The Nature Conservancy of Oregon has honored TriMet’s own Myleen Richardson with the conservation group’s 2011 “Volunteer of the Year” Award.

As TriMet’s bus stop planner/analyst, Myleen manages a complex database that tracks our 7,000+ bus stops and rail stations—juggling details about their location, the lines that serve them, their Stop ID numbers and amenities such as shelters, benches, sidewalks and crosswalks. In her role at The Nature Conservancy, she uses similar skills to manage their volunteer database and surveys for volunteer satisfaction. This is a critical task, because the Conservancy depends on at least 20 full-time employees worth of volunteer time every year!

One of the reasons I volunteer is that I enjoy helping others. I volunteer for The Nature Conservancy because it’s a cause I believe in.”

Myleen holds two (yes, two) masters degrees: a Master of Public Affairs and a Master of Science in Environmental Science, with a focus on environmental policy and natural resource management. She began volunteering for the Conservancy in 2000, the same year she was hired at TriMet.

Her behind-the-scenes work is helping to protect critical habitats for nature as well as people.

“One of the reasons I volunteer is that I enjoy helping others,” says Myleen. “I volunteer for The Nature Conservancy because it’s a cause I believe in.”

The Conservancy’s program director, Molly Doughtery, describes Myleen as being “key to the organization’s success and an important part of the team.”

“From complex database queries, to communications, to jumping in wherever needed, I can count on Myleen to do the job right,” says Molly.

Without knowing it, TriMet riders count on Myleen, too. The database she manages is used to deliver service information to riders and to coordinate the maintenance of stops and stations. When you come across a stop name or Stop ID number on TriMet’s website or phone system, for example, Myleen’s had a hand in it. On board the bus, when you hear an automated announcement for the next stop, again, that’s Myleen’s behind-the-scenes work.

It’s a lot of responsibility, really, and it occasionally spills over into her personal life. “It’s hard for me to stay in town for a vacation,” says Myleen, “because bus stops are everywhere, and my eyes are always drawn to them, especially when something is in need of attention.”

True to her small-town Midwest background, Myleen is not one to seek the spotlight. Nonetheless, she is a star here at TriMet, as well as at The Nature Conservancy. Thank you, Myleen, for what you do for us and our community!

DISCUSS THIS ON FACEBOOK: April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week. Do you volunteer or plan on volunteering in your community?

Mike Crebs: Big impact on a Little Brother

Transit Police Commander Mike Crebs

When Transit Police Commander Mike Crebs walks into Vestal Elementary School on 82nd Avenue, smiling and sporting a black uniform and badge, the students tend to see him as a kind of celebrity.

Mike spends his lunch hour on Fridays at the school as part of the Big Brothers program, where he sits and talks with his high-energy “Little” and plays kickball and foursquare. Mike’s been a Big Brother for four years, and is in his second year with his Little Brother, Norman.

Mike has worked with youth since his days on the force in Salt Lake City as a school resource officer, and then taught here as part of the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program, in which officers take a proactive role in preventing crime. He also sits on the Board of Governors for the Boys and Girls Club.

Mike says this experience has helped him in his job running the Transit Police Division, a partnership of 17 police agencies working together to keep riders safe. Mike oversees 58 officers in four offices in a three-county area. Youth make up 17 percent of all rides on TriMet’s system, and Mike acknowledges that much of the disruptions on the system are in part caused by youth.

“Kids have so much energy. Adults, when they’re on the bus, they just want to read. But a teenager is a little more boisterous.”

“Do we blame the kid?” he asks. “I don’t think so.” But there’s a line he draws between a kid just being a kid and when to intervene. According to Mike, that intervention works best before it’s ever needed, whether it’s by being a Big Brother, a commander or just a member of the community.

For Mike, being a Big Brother is an opportunity to provide “one more asset for a young person—whether that be a parent, coach, teacher or neighbor—that one person who might strike a chord.”

WEIGH IN ON FACEBOOK: Have you been a “Big,” or helped youth by volunteering or mentoring?

How Bus Operator A.K. Rucker is helping to keep kids out of gangs

Bus Operator A.K. Rucker

As a 40-foot bus pulls over at SE Powell Boulevard and 42nd Avenue, more than a dozen youth in bright yellow T-shirts hop off the bus and run, boot-camp style, to the nearby bus shelters and sidewalks. With gloves on and garbage bags in tow, the crew fans out, picking up trash, filling their bags, and then heading back to the bus.

Behind this well-oiled machine is A.K. Rucker, who started TriMet’s “First Step” program 13 years ago. The First Step program is an intensive 10-week jobs program where at-risk youth, ages 14 to 18, get the opportunity to have a summer job and learn responsibility and the value of hard work. A TriMet bus operator for 30 years, A.K. selects his bus routes based on areas where he knows he can reach youth and encourage them to apply for First Step.

“TriMet wanted to get involved in North and Northeast Portland because of the gangs,” he says, recalling a time when Portland gang activity centered in that area. “There was a lot of vandalism on the system and in the community. I was working with youth at the Boys and Girls Club, and some of the kids were upset that they couldn’t get jobs.”

“I’ve had kids come back and say, ‘I never thought I’d go to college.’ But they come here and realize they can go to college and do something with their lives.”

The idea for First Step came to A.K. in the spring of 1998, and TriMet was able to launch the program that same summer.

Cleaning bus shelters and sidewalks may seem like grunt work, but the youth approach it with an energy and pride that can point them in a positive direction for the rest of their lives. Sometimes past participants driving past will spot the crew, pull over on the side of the road and tell the kids that if they can make it through this, it’ll pay off.

For Rucker, the program is about showing the kids the community, and showing them another option other than gangs.