Industry Forum: Transit Celebrates Holidays

Nov. 8, 2012

Connect Transit Stuffs the Bus for the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, thoughts often turn to parties, presents and reflection on the year gone by. But for Connect Transit in Bloomington-Normal, Ill., the holidays can mean only one thing: it’s time to Stuff-the-Bus to help children in need!

2012 will mark the 10th year that Connect Transit partners with Children’s Home + Aid to stuff a Connect Transit bus full of supplies for the Crisis Nursery. In emergency situations, when parents are overwhelmed and have nowhere else to turn, the Crisis Nursery is there help them deal with the situation. The Crisis Nursery will provide a safe environment for children aged newborn through six years old and help the parents get through their crisis.

The children arrive at the Crisis Nursery with no food, no toys, no change of clothes and no supplies. That’s where the Connect Transit Stuff-the-Bus event rolls in to help, securing donations that will supply the Crisis Nursery for an entire year.

In early December, Connect Transit parks a bus in front of a different retail location in the Bloomington-Normal area each day for a week to receive donations. Connect Transit employees volunteer their time to promote the event, staff the bus and accept donations from the generous citizens of the community. Local TV and radio media helps out by performing live remotes at the bus each day to let their viewers and listeners know the location of the bus and remind them about the donations needed.

During the week, the bus is packed full of non-perishable food, new clothes, new toys, diapers and other items for use by children during their stay in the Crisis Nursery. Donations are also accepted on every Connect Transit fixed-route bus as well. At the end of the week, the Connect Transit bus makes the trip to the Crisis Nursery to deliver a capacity load of holiday spirit.

Connect transit employees believe in giving back to the community during the holidays. 2011 was the most successful year ever for the Stuff-the-Bus event, bringing in thousands of needed items and even attracting corporate donations to help children in need. And in early December 2012, Connect Transit will be there once again to celebrate the spirit of the holidays and help make Bloomington-Normal a better place for everyone.

Did You Meet Your Sweet on TriMet? A Valentine’s Day Contest Generates Heart-Warming Stories

Some people meet their mates online. Others are introduced to their significant others by a mutual friend. And for some lucky people, they just happened to catch the right bus or train at the right time.

TriMet asked riders to submit their transit-inspired love stories in a contest in which the agency asked: Did you meet your sweet on TriMet?

Twenty-nine couples said yes — sharing in 200 words or less — how they met the one they now call sweetheart on a bus, train or at a bus stop. The stories ranged from meeting while riding the train from the airport to finally getting up enough nerve to say hello to another regular rider.

Turns out, more often than not, timing was everything. For example, here’s the grand prize story submitted by Danette Burchill and Matt Haynes of Portland, Ore.

“Matt and I met while waiting for the #20 on December 23, during a snowstorm. Buses were understandably delayed and a group of 10 people had accumulated at the bus shelter on 28th and East Burnside.

“Well,” Matt said to the crowd “would anyone like to play an alphabet game while we wait? How ‘bout ‘Vegetables: A-Z?’”

“Hmmm … I don’t know …” I replied. “Could we include fruits as well?”

“Uh, all right, I guess.” he said and got us going. The whole crowd enthusiastically played “Fruits and Vegetables,” and had started “Rock Bands from the 70s and 80s,” when the #20 arrived.

I was impressed by Matt’s boldness, playful spirit and how he brought a group of strangers together into a community, if only for a moment. Once on the bus, I thought to myself: "Now that’s the kind of guy I’d like to be with. Too bad I’ll never see him again."

I was wrong. It turned out we were next-door neighbors. Three weeks later, we were taking the #20 again, and Matt asked me out on our first date.

We are getting married in July. Thanks, TriMet!”

Winners like Matt and Danette were revealed on Valentine’s Day at a special event designed to generate media coverage. The event took place from 6 to 7 a.m. to take advantage of morning news and live broadcast remotes.

It was friendly and inviting — even, perhaps, a bit romantic. During the event, several couples shared their heart-warming stories and were on hand to talk to the media. The event was covered with live remotes by two of the area’s four television stations, two radio stations and the daily newspaper. All the coverage was positive, generating high-value public relations.

But perhaps most important, the stories reminded riders and others that meeting people is a benefit of using transit. You may meet the love of your life — kind of hard to do that when driving to and from work alone in your car!

A downtown Portland hotel donated lodging as the grand prize.

First Transit Properties Participate in Holidays in a Variety of Ways

First Transit manages and operates public transportation systems in 236 locations across the U.S. and Canada. In many of our locations, First Transit local staff and managers participate in community events for the holidays. Here are some of the activities we have been involved in.

Denver RTD — Longmont, Colo.

For the past few years, our operations has coordinated with the Colorado National Guard to identify a military family in the service area that we can help at Christmas time. The family provides a list of gifts they would like for the family members. We typically buy gifts for all of them, plus additional gift cards to cover the cost of dinner, etc.

Last year, a family in Longmont became our focus. The husband is a wounded warrior, who has had seven surgeries to correct various problems with his vision as a result of an IED explosion in Iraq. He cannot work and the family had limited income that did not stretch far enough for a respectable Christmas. They have three children. One of the operators dressed up as Santa Claus and another as an elf and delivered gifts to the family on Christmas Eve.

Pierce Transit — Tacoma, Wash.

Last year our team at Pierce Transit in Tacoma, Wash., adopted four families from a local public elementary. We provided food baskets and gifts to these families in the community.

Manchester Transit Authority (MTA) — Manchester, N.H.

The Manchester Transit Authority gives a Holiday Light Tour every year. Every year we partner with the Manchester Police Department to bring a group of passengers around to see the Christmas lights over the city. The police officers direct the buses through a route to showcase the best lights in the city, and then bring everyone back to spend some time at the station, eat snacks, drink cocoa and meet Santa.

First Ride — Denver, Colo.

First Ride, serving seniors in Denver and Arapahoe Counties, conducts a free Christmas light tour annually for their customers. We have a great time singing Christmas carols, having hot chocolate, cookies and First Ride provides a gift for everyone.

Muncie Indiana Transit System (MITS) — Muncie, Ind.

Each year the Muncie Indiana Transit System sponsors the "Tour of Lights" for groups of senior citizens and for the general public. The Tour of Lights includes private and public holiday light displays around Muncie.

It was first offered in 1990 for residents in area nursing homes. In the mid-90s it was expanded to the general public and it has become increasingly popular over the years. There have already been calls asking if we're doing it again this year. The YMCA is considering making it one of their senior group activities in December.

Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) — Duluth, Minn.

The Duluth Transit Authority starts off the holiday season with the Port Town Trolley in the annual Christmas City of the North Parade. The DTA and the Greater Downtown Council team up for the event, which is held in downtown Duluth a week before Thanksgiving.

For Thanksgiving Day, the DTA and local bank team up to provide free city wide transportation and special shuttle service to senior residents and community centers to the annual Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center on the Bayfront.

The DTA also holds an annual December promotion, making proximity-sensitive EZ-Cards free with any fare purchase. They make great stocking stuffers and encourage riders to use the touchless farecards. EZ-Cards speed up boarding and save on farebox maintenance. They also allow drivers to dress up as Santa/Elves for a day and pass out candy.

From Memorial Day to Veterans Day, Gold Star Coach Keeps Rolling

More than 30,000 veterans have returned to Massachusetts from the Global War on Terror and Overseas Contingency Operation. With so many military veterans employed by the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR), finding an appropriate way to express our gratitude to local fallen heroes is something we developed with passion and our deepest respect. Thus, the Gold Star Memorial Coach was created to honor fallen Massachusetts heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unveiled just before Memorial Day and wrapped in an American flag adorned with 137 gold stars — one for each Bay State serviceman/woman who gave their life in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom — the Gold Star Memorial Coach has joined the rest of the commuter rail fleet and traveled thousands of miles across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

While roads and bridges are often named after our armed service veterans, the launch of the first-ever memorial train coach is an extension of the transportation’s community’s recognition of military service.

In addition to being part of regular commuter rail service, the Gold Star Memorial Coach makes special viewing appearances in communities across Massachusetts where Gold Star Families, veterans’ organizations and the general public can pay their respects to local heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and their families.

More than a dozen viewing events have been held since the coach’s inception this spring.  During special visits to Scituate, Kingston, Lowell, Lynn and Worcester commuter rail riders, neighbors and veterans gathered on train platforms, waving American flags and expressing their deepest gratitude for the ultimate sacrifices made by the Gold Star Families in attendance.

In recognition of Veterans Day, the Gold Star Memorial Coach will make a special trip to Gillette Stadium for the November 11 New England Patriots game vs. the Buffalo Bills. Ten veterans and a guest will enjoy free admission to the game compliments of the Military Friends Foundation and join the thousands of commuter rail riders for the trip to the Foxboro football stadium. A moment of silence will be observed at Boston’s South Station prior to the coach’s departure.

This fall, far beyond the nearly 80 communities MBCR trains usually travel through, the Gold Star Memorial Coach will take a ride on the Cape Cod Central Railroad. While there, Cape Cod area veteran’s organizations will gather around the rolling memorial to pay their respects in a somber ceremony for those soldiers who’ve given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hugh Kiley Jr., general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad can’t thank his employees enough for the efforts they’ve made — from the mechanical department installing the gold star wrap, to all who work to make sure the Memorial Coach visits every community it’s requested in. “Our employees are proud to operate this very special memorial for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”