Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Expanded Service Makes It Easier To Try Transit

Dump the Pump Day is June 15

Thursday, June 15 is the 12th annual National Dump the Pump Day. This was an event created back in 2005 when gas prices were very volatile, even approaching $5 a gallon in some parts of the country.

Community Transit has participated every year, encouraging Snohomish County residents to leave their cars behind and try using transit on this day. That was a hard sell for us after 2010 when service was cut.

For several years as our service hours dwindled, our buses were overcrowded and schedule performance was spotty following massive layoffs at our company.

This year, we take pride in inviting everyone to try transit! Thanks to county residents, our service is expanding. Last year we added two new core routes connecting Ash Way with Mill Creek and Snohomish, and Lake Stevens with Marysville and Quil Ceda.

This fall we’ll be adding a new route between Lynnwood Transit Center and Boeing, and extending Route 105 during peak hours to establish service on the future Swift Green Line corridor.

We haven’t just created new routes, we’ve been adding more trips. New Sunday trips, new late-night trips and new Seattle/UW trips are coming in September. Even more opportunities to dump the pump.

Why transit? It can save you time, headaches and money. It takes more vehicles off the road, easing traffic. It’s good for the environment and the air we all breathe.

And, it’s a whole different perspective walking our sidewalks and watching the traffic go by from a second-deck window on our Double Tall buses. Try it and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Coach Operator Training: Inspiring Confidence

Imagine sliding behind the wheel of a 42,500 pound vehicle, buckling up, and turning the key. Would you be excited? Nervous? Terrified? All of our Coach Operator trainees have been there, and no matter how anxious they may have felt, within just a few weeks they look back fondly on those first-day jitters. What does it take to drive such a huge vehicle without sweaty palms and a racing heart? It takes confidence, the kind of confidence that comes from feeling fully prepared for anything that crosses your path.

Our ten-week Coach Operator training program is designed to empower our employees to take on challenges that build confidence from day one. Training begins in the classroom, focusing on a team environment. We understand that not everyone learns the same way. Our training staff utilize adult learning theories that ensure that all learning styles are met so that each employee feels completely ready to move from one phase of training to the next.

The first eight weeks of training start with basic skill mastery. Trainees move from classroom demonstrations to learning how to maneuver the bus around cones in the bus yard. Skills include everything from learning how to turn the bus to backing up an articulated coach. These skills and drills create confidence and build muscle memory about driving. Trainees have an opportunity to drive every piece of equipment we operate. That scary bus becomes much less scary after just a few days behind the wheel. We define our success by how successful our trainees are, so we encourage a team environment where employees celebrate each other's achievements.

We understand that test taking isn't easy for anyone. We are sensitive to test anxiety and create a program that eliminates that anxiety. There are pop quizzes throughout training to help employees get used to test taking. Formal testing doesn't take place until there's a lot of informal testing, so trainees are comfortable with the format. There is a midterm that focuses on basic skill and traffic control, and a final that covers all of the material including our routes.

To prepare for the CDL exam, trainees are given multiple opportunities to practice simulating driving without instruction. Trainees will have all of the technical understanding needed to pass the CDL "skills tests" which include pre-trip inspection, basic controls, and road test. We pay for this portion of the test, schedule the test, and provide a vehicle for testing purposes.

After becoming proficient at basic skills, around four weeks into the program, trainees take the CDL exam! Once the CDL test is complete, training moves onto driver skill mastery, including learning our transit technology, every type of coach in our fleet, and special areas like University of Washington and downtown Seattle. Trainees drive with groups into neighborhoods across Snohomish County. They receive personalized attention and mentoring from our instructor staff. Trainees learn how to take route notes - about landmarks, the difficulty of certain turns, lighting effects, and where bus zones are located. They not only learn every route, they also learn about fares, how to take lunch, where to use the bathroom, and how to help our customers.

Trainees then have two weeks to operate a vehicle "in-service." With another Coach Operator aboard to assist, trainees will apply everything they've learned, picking up passengers, securing mobility devices, and providing the excellent customer service for which Community Transit is known. These two weeks are an opportunity for trainees to be successful and really shine.

Coach Operator trainees earn while they learn. Paid training starts at $19.75/hr plus great benefits for the whole family (medical, dental, vision, life insurance). Trainees also have access to our wellness program and workout facilities. Upon graduation, pay increases to $23.23/hr and additional benefits include a retirement pension, paid time off, and disability insurance coverage.

We value our employees and want them to be successful. Our Coach Operators are the face of our agency, and play a critical role in our community. The bonding that happens in training classes shapes how our Coach Operators feel once they graduate and take to the road on their own. They feel proud to be part of our ranks and our community. And we are proud to welcome them to the Community Transit family.

Do you want to work where you are valued, and where you make a difference in your community? Apply today for our next training class!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Swift Green Line is still on schedule – for now

Within the next two months, construction will begin on the Seaway Transit Center. This facility will be a central hub for Paine Field-area transit service and will serve as the northern terminal for the Swift Green Line. This is a state-funded project and all finances are “in the bank.”

This week’s news that President Trump’s proposed 2018 “skinny” budget does not include many transportation projects already in the pipeline was not a surprise at Community Transit. While the bulk of funding to build the Swift Green Line will come from the federal government, Snohomish County’s second bus rapid transit project is very much moving forward. Presidential budgets are starting points for funding discussions, but it is Congress that writes and approves the federal budget.

Last year, President Obama included Swift II (later renamed the Swift Green Line) in his 2017 budget proposal. Community Transit received a favorable ranking in the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts grant program for the project; it just needed funding. Because of the close presidential election, Congress never approved a 2017 budget.

Instead, the federal government has been kept afloat by Continuing Resolutions, which allow regular spending at 2016 levels, but do not include new projects. Not only are the Swift Green Line and Lynnwood Link light rail among these, but there are many transportation and infrastructure projects nationwide that were vetted through their respective federal agencies in this funding limbo.

Community Transit hopes to get a $48 million Small Starts grant approved as part of a 2017 budget or through a 2017 appropriations bill. Just this week, Community Transit staff and board members were in Washington, D.C. pushing for that. They were told by all five of our elected officials – Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Reps. Suzan DelBene, Pramila Jayapal and Rick Larsen – that they strongly support our Swift Green Line project and were hoping to get such bills done fairly soon.

Community Transit Board members and staff met with Sen. Maria Cantwell
on March 14 to discuss federal transit funding and the Swift Green Line project.
Budget approval will allow for new Swift buses to be ordered and stations to be constructed starting later this year. This would keep us on schedule to open the Swift Green Line in early 2019, about two years from now.

Meanwhile, Community Transit has received a “Letter of No Prejudice” from the FTA, which gives us authorization to spend money now, to be reimbursed later when the grant is approved. With this letter, we are able to start work on one part of the project that is federally funded – road improvements to the I-5 bridge at 128th Street in south Everett.

This summer, we expect to start work creating one new lane approaching the I-5 bridge from both directions that will allow cars to enter I-5 more easily and buses to get across the bridge more swiftly.

There are very real concerns about federal funding for public transportation, and how the Swift Green Line project could be impacted. For now, we’re optimistic that a 2017 funding package will include projects that already have FTA’s approval and there will be no delay for the next Swift.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Drive It: Meet Donald, Community Transit Coach Operator

When your job goes from handling small pieces of machinery to handling machinery that is nearly 50,000 lbs, that's a big change! After years of trouble shooting photoelectric sensors as an electric bench technician, we are happy that Donald decided to stretch his legs and give driving the bus a go. In almost 12 years (and getting close to his Million Mile Driver Award goal), Donald has expanded not only his view out the window, but his view inside the window as well.

It was the excitement at the responsibility of driving a large passenger vehicle that initially inspired Donald to drive for us. While he had driven a semi-trailer truck before, the thought of a vehicle with space inside and people as its precious cargo was a little intimidating. Our nine-week comprehensive training program soon set his mind at ease. "I appreciated how in-depth the training program was. Our training department is really top-of-the-line. I was given such a sense of confidence because I didn't have to worry too much about what might happen on the road. As long as I followed my training, I was fully prepared."

Along with confidence came the connection with passengers inside the bus. "Right away I started understanding service is about people helping people. I like that part. The people I serve is life; it's why I'm here. One morning I was driving the 116 from Silver Firs and a woman up front was acting a bit edgy like she was running late. She said to me, 'I know you don't care, but I really need to catch the 113 at Ash Way. I don't want to miss my bus.' That really affected me. In her experience drivers are robots, just driving the bus. I looked at her and said, 'Don't worry, you'll catch your bus. And by the way, I really do care.' Her whole demeanor changed and she relaxed."

Donald said this commitment to service makes him proud to work for Community Transit. "Because the company as a whole values service, it really sets us apart from other agencies. The higher-ups respect and listen to all employees. This helps the demeanor of the drivers and creates a wonderful camaraderie here."

What do you value in a workplace? Do you feel valued by your workplace in return? If making a difference in people's lives is important to you, we're hiring Coach Operators:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Stabbing Victim Reunited with Life Saving Transit Deputy

Fotiki Fofana and Deputy Cline
Fotiki Fofana nearly lost his life on January 31 when he was stabbed multiple times in the neck at Everett Station. After several surgeries and a stay in Intensive Care, Fofana is now home and recovering. He wanted the chance to meet and thank the man that he believes saved his life.

That day came on Tuesday, February 28, as Snohomish County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Cline visited Fofana and his family. As soon as the door opened, Fofana exclaimed, “My hero! My hero!”

It was a fairly typical Tuesday morning in January for the Community Transit Police Unit. Deputy Cline was headed to Everett Station for a check of the area when routine turned into chaos.

While stopped at the traffic light near Everett Station, Deputy Cline saw a man running from the bus bays bleeding heavily from his neck. Within seconds Deputy Cline was out of his patrol car and applying pressure to the multiple stabs wounds.

While providing aid, Cline called for medical help. A witness at the scene pointed out the attacker coming towards them. Deputy Cline had no back up, but was able keep the suspect away with verbal commands. The suspect took off in the other direction and Deputy Cline called to other officers the suspect’s description and direction of travel. Sergeant Don Hart of the Transit Police Unit was nearby and was one of the first officers to respond and arrest the suspect.

Fofana has a long road of recovery ahead but was thankful for Deputy Cline being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to save his life.

Just this week the suspect was officially charged with attempted murder by the prosecutor’s office. The suspect and Fofana did not know each other and the attack was unprovoked. 

The Transit Police Unit is a division of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office working under contract for Community Transit.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Talking Shop: Community Transit's Mechanic Apprentice Program

Community Transit prides itself on investing in our exceptional Mechanics. We place a high value on education, both on-the-job continuing education and company-funded formal education. It's how we ensure we not only have an incredibly talented team to maintain our ever-growing fleet of vehicles, but we have a team that feels valued, confident, inspired. One way we grow these relationships with our employees is through our Apprentice Program.

Our Apprentice Program began as a way for our Vehicle Service Attendants and Vehicle Service Workers to gain the experience necessary to become a skilled journey-level mechanic. By growing our own mechanics through years of extensive training, we are privileged to have a team that is truly the best of the best. Most of our graduates from the program are still part of our maintenance family. We are proud to note there is an exceptional commitment to our agency that comes from growing up here. We all take care of each other.

Not all of our apprentices, though, come from in-house. We also partner with several technical colleges in the area to source dynamic candidates who are eager to learn. Our four-year Apprentice Program takes place over four years/8,000 hours. Students receive paid on-the-job learning at 60% of our regular mechanic salary, increasing every six months during the four-year program to receive 100% of salary at graduation. During this program, Community Transit pays for six hours in the shop and two hours at school for each weekday as they work towards their Diesel Technology Certificate. Our two-year Apprentice Program is offered when a student comes to us after receiving the certificate and works full-time in our shop for two more years.

Program participants spend each day partnered with a qualified Journey Mechanic to learn the ins and outs of all of our systems, including engines, transmissions, and brakes. This on-the-job learning not only ensures our apprentices learn everything their job will require of them, they also feel part of a family who believes in making a difference. Our Mechanics learn the importance of trusting the team that precedes them and trust for those who follow. This helps our new hires feel confident, no small task when working with complicated vehicles like ours. The programs also provide additional classroom learning for safety aspects and for detailed instruction on our specific equipment. Our apprentices are evaluated every quarter on their attentiveness, preparedness, safety, and quality of work.

While we require our apprentices to get a Diesel Technology Certificate, Community Transit recognizes the value in investing in additional education. We pay for additional coursework so they can get an associates degree. A well-rounded education provides our Mechanics with the potential to move up to leadership positions should they desire. Leadership positions include supervisory roles where individuals organize and set priorities for the teams: Shop Lead, Journey Mechanic Lead, Body Shop Lead, and Component Rebuild Lead.

Want to be part of a team that values it's employees? We're hiring!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Drive It: Meet Jaswinder, Community Transit Coach Operator

Ever wonder where that friendly face behind the wheel came from? Or what inspired that smile to drive a 30-, 40-, or even 60-foot vehicle? We all know that everyone has a story, but with over 300 Coach Operators employed by Community Transit, the stories here are rich and varied and often surprising. Their unique backgrounds all share a common theme: they want to make a difference in their communities. They are the face of our agency, the people who get you to work, to school, to errands, and back home again. Meet Jaswinder, Community Transit Coach Operator.

Jaswinder's path to us was a long and winding one. Originally from India, Jaswinder lived for 15 years in Vancouver, Canada, and 15 years in California prior to joining a Community Transit training class in 2006. Before he learned everything there is to know about driving a large bus, he knew everything there is to know about cheesemaking. Yes, that's right! Jaswinder worked at a large cheese plant near Modesto, California, where he ensured ingredients were accurately measured, supervised the pasteurization process, and monitored pH and acidity levels. While he enjoyed working at Hilmar Cheese, he was intrigued with the prospect of a great job at Community Transit when he met one of our drivers. Having worked as a taxi driver and dispatcher in Vancouver, he was inspired to pursue a new career behind the wheel. "I like driving. I especially like the freedom of driving. And the people. I have met people from all over the world."

The freedom of driving for a living is still enticing for Jaswinder. He's usually on the extra board, which means he jumps in to cover for any coworkers who have to miss their shift. "I get to do all of the routes, which means the scenery is always changing. I like that." Jas likes the flexible schedule, too. "When you are a new driver, the schedule can be a little bit challenging the first couple of years. But as you work here for awhile and get more seniority, there's a lot of flexibility in the schedule. You can create a schedule that works for you, which is especially good if you have kids."

While there's nothing like the freedom of being out on the road during work hours, Jas, like so many of our drivers, talk about how connecting with customers can really make the day. "One time at a layover at the Lynnwood Transit Center, a lost and disoriented elderly gentleman got on my bus by mistake. He was supposed to meet his daughter at Smokey Point. I was able to get his daughter's number and contact her to let her know her father was okay. Then I put the gentleman on a different bus that would take him to her."

It's that one-on-one interaction with customers that can change someone's day. "We're better than Trip Planner because we can help midway through a trip. We try to educate riders, too, on how transfers work and encourage them to get an ORCA card." Jaswinder can usually tell when people on his routes are a bit confused and can use a helping hand, "People who are visiting the Boeing Museum or the Seattle Premium Outlets will sometimes have questions. I'm happy to answer them." This commitment to customer service makes a difference to both riders and drivers. In eleven years, Jaswinder says he's never had any issues with disrespectful riders, "As long as you are respectful of them, they are respectful of you. I've always had good interactions with customers. It makes me proud to work here."

Does the freedom of being behind the wheel intrigue you, too? We're hiring!