Thursday, October 20, 2016

"I'm Oxy Gene. And I Am the Defender of Truth, Justice and Really Clean Air."

The year was 1999 and Community Transit needed a hero. Not just any hero. A clean air-avenging superhero who would inspire the citizens of Snohomish County to fight pollution, one bus at a time. In flew Oxy Gene to the rescue, with a big purple cape and an even bigger smile.

Oxy Gene made his debut at the grand opening of the Ash Way Park & Ride. A bus wrapped with Oxy Gene's image on the side was covered with a tarp for a dramatic unveiling to various dignitaries. And what an impression he made! Oxy's first superhero costume didn't have the recognizable physique we've come to expect (those strapping muscles were modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger and came a few years later), but the energy and enthusiasm behind his "Hello, good people!" greeting was there from the start. "I got the inspiration for my signature greeting from the 1975 Robert Redford movie, The Great Waldo Pepper, where Redford pulls up in an airplane, raises his goggles and says that line. It was perfectly delivered. I wanted to bring that fun, theatrical persona to my work as Oxy Gene."

Oxy Gene replaced Community Transit's "Rabbit" rapid transit mascot from the mid-1980s through the late 1990s. We realized we needed more than just a mascot to address the serious problem of pollution. We needed a superhero. "Oxy Gene is rare because I'm one of the only mascots that talks. I get to spread the word to kids of all ages on how taking transit really makes a difference in keeping our air clean. This works especially well at parades because we bring a bus with us. In the staging area, people can see the bus up close and ask questions. If the character didn't speak, the experience wouldn't be nearly as fun for them."

Did you know originally Oxy Gene was going to have an alter-ego? When we were brainstorming names for a new mascot, the name Oxy Gene was a play on the words oxygen and clean air. Originally Oxy Gene was going to have an alter-ego called Gene Green. Kind of like a mild-mannered Clark Kent type before he turns into Superman. Luckily it was decided the Oxy Gene name should stand alone. Because really, in the end it's all about that cape, those muscles, and pulverizing pollution with humor and heart.

Look for Oxy Gene spreading his mission to defend truth, justice and really clean air at parades and festivals throughout Snohomish County. And the next time you take a bus, you can feel good about being a clean air-avenger, like Oxy Gene. As he says, "There is only one thing that all of us share... it nourishes, it refreshes, please love it... IT'S AIR!"

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Community Transit Celebrates 40 Years of Service

Last week marked Community Transit's 40th anniversary, and what a week of connection, community, and celebration it was!

Customer Appreciation Day: On Tuesday, October 4th, we celebrated the agency's 40th anniversary by honoring the people that make it possible to serve our community, our riders. Over 70 employees greeted early morning commuters at 20 different locations throughout Snohomish County with commemorative candy bars as a special thank you to our riders.

Community Transit Celebrates 40 Years of Service from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Employee Appreciation Day: On Wednesday, October 5th, Community Transit executives and managers thanked employees throughout the workday and coffee carts with treats were provided for employees to gather and share their excitement for the big week. Shifts at the agency start at 4 a.m. and run through 1 a.m. "We have the hardest working employees in the business," says Community Transit's CEO, Emmett Heath. "From our drivers and mechanics to our supervisors, planners and payroll staff, they are the key to the great service we bring our customers every day."

Board Meeting with Guest of Honor, Governor Jay Inslee: On Thursday, October 6th, following a regular board of directors meeting, Governor Jay Inslee was our guest of honor at a 40th anniversary reception. Past and present board members were joined by local community leaders and Community Transit employees. The agency presented Inslee with a plaque commemorating his contributions to the agency's success as a congressman and governor. In addition, former State Senator Gary Nelson recalled the early days of the agency. Nelson wrote the legislation creating Community Transit and all state Public Transportation Benefit Areas (PTBAs), and also served as a Community Transit board member from 1995-2007. The agency’s first Executive Director, Vic Sood, was also on hand, as was 20-year CEO Joyce Eleanor.

Governor Inslee spoke of being a Community Transit advocate in his moving tribute, "It is easy to advocate for this organization that's kind of the Boeing and Microsoft of the transit world because it's as innovative in its space, its sector, as Boeing and Microsoft are in theirs. The double-decker buses, the new lines, the kind of customer satisfaction that you have achieved, it's remarkable. It's homegrown innovation. We're the most innovative state in the country and that's been shown right here with what you've been able to do with Community Transit. It has been a joy to work with you to enable that."

Governor Jay Inslee Guest of Honor at Community Transit’s 40th Anniversary from Community Transit on Vimeo.

We look forward to serving our community with dedication and innovation for forty more years. Says Emmet Heath, "This generation is building something that will benefit the next one. We are laying the foundation for those that will come in the future." Our route ahead will include a network of Swift Bus Rapid Transit lines and expanding our overall service to connect communities in new and exciting ways.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Community Transit "Moves" Me, With the Service I Need

For forty years, Community Transit has been privileged to serve the communities of Snohomish County. We work hard to make sure our customers have the connections they need to get to the important things in their life. Each weekday we provide nearly 40,000 trips to people who rely on us to connect them with jobs, school, healthcare, and home. That's up to 10 million riders each year!

Community Transit is committed to investing in the transportation demands of Snohomish County, one of the fastest-growing and dynamic counties in the state. Thanks to local support, we have recently expanded service to include two new routes that provide more east-west bus connections, and new service along Highway 9 to create a north-south transit corridor. We've also added new commuter trips to downtown Seattle and the University of Washington. Even our Dial-A-Ride Transportation (DART) has expanded to include new service and hours along some routes.

And we're continuing to grow! Plans for our Swift Green Line bus rapid transit are well underway and will connect the Boeing/Paine Field aerospace manufacturing area in Everett with the Canyon Park technology center in Bothell. This corridor intersects with our existing Swift Blue Line and serves high-density housing and nearby concentrated jobs. We hope to begin construction on 34 Swift stations in 2017, with a goal of beginning operations in 2019.

Thank you for trusting us to "Move" you with the service you need.

Transit moves me, with the service I need. from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"I'm Emmett. And I Guide It."

As the Chief Executive Officer of Community Transit, Emmett Heath is uniquely positioned to affect change. Having spent the majority of his career in public transportation, he is keenly aware that our agency has a great responsibility to serve the community, both now and in the future. We provide nearly 40,000 trips each weekday to people who rely on us to connect them with jobs, healthcare, schools, and their community. That's up to 10 million riders a year! Emmett keeps these 10 million riders, our customers, close to heart when guiding Community Transit into the dynamic future of public transportation.

Thanks to local support, Community Transit has recently expanded service. Emmett's short term vision includes ensuring we deliver on our promises. "The community values the service we provide. They have supported us and now we need to deliver on their desire for expanded transit service." Even while plans for proposed new routes in 2016 and 2017 begin to roll out, along with the subsequent buses and drivers needed to make them happen, Emmett stresses the importance of looking ahead even further. "This generation is building something that will benefit the next one. We are laying the foundation for those that will come in the future." Our route ahead will include a network of Swift Bus Rapid Transit lines and expanding our overall service to connect communities in new and exciting ways.

Making a difference in our community goes beyond strategic planning for the future. It also includes growing relationships, both internally and externally. "It starts with each person in this agency, and that includes me. Anything I can do to role model, to show the care we should be giving customers. This means interfacing directly with customers when issues come to my attention. It's a great opportunity to listen, learn how to improve, and turn someone into an advocate."

This hands-on approach is important for engaging employees, too. "It's important to have face-to-face time. I always have an open door policy and make a point to frequently visit different work groups. It goes a long way to fostering harmony. When you invest in harmony, this wonderful synergy happens and it empowers our employees to contribute to a positive workplace culture and deliver what our customers want and need."

In his role as CEO, Emmett Heath guides our agency as we prepare to meet the increased transit demands of significant projected growth for 2030, shaping an environment where individuals work collectively as a team to bring forth Community Transit's vision of the future: providing 40 more years of safe, reliable, and friendly service to Snohomish County.

Monday, September 26, 2016

"I'm Laurel. And I Tweet It."

Social media has become an important vehicle to reach our customers. From rider alerts to service change announcements, we strive to provide exceptional service and foster great relationships with our passengers. From first thing in the morning until late at night, Laurel, from our Agency Communications department, monitors our social media to ensure our customers stay informed.

Laurel spent fourteen years marketing online financial services where she thrived on responding to rapid technological changes. Part of these changes included incorporating social media as a method for outreach and customer service. Laurel brought her passion for social media to Community Transit three years ago, "It was nice to be able to usher in Twitter and nurture our audience there. Social media has an immediacy to it that is unique. It gives us the opportunity to respond right away to customers, to tell them we hear them and we're listening."

Laurel monitors @MyCommTrans regularly, especially early in the morning just before our commutes are at their peak, responding to any questions or concerns. By coordinating efforts with our Customer Service and Dispatch departments, Laurel utilizes social media to connect with our riders. "When people are frustrated, listening and responding goes a long way. It helps when you feel like someone hears you. We may not have the answer right at that moment, but we'll work hard to get the answer you need."

In addition to Twitter, Community Transit also has a Facebook page and can be found on YouTube and LinkedIn. "Every social media platform is different, but the interactions I have with customers, whether it's a 140 character tweet about service or a 'Like' on a photo I've posted to Facebook, make my job challenging and fun. To be able to answer a question and get feedback in such an immediate way makes social media a great fit for public transportation."

Thanks, Laurel, for your commitment to service, for being the friendly voice our customers see on their Twitter feed, and for being an active listener and problem solver. When you "Tweet It", you make a difference in how we help bring our customers home.

Friday, September 9, 2016

"I'm Matt. And I Help People Use It."

Nearly 10 million passengers board a Community Transit vehicle each year. With a service area that spans over 1,300 square miles, these boardings take place in all kinds of environments, from bustling urban areas to sleepy suburbs to outlying rural routes. A lot of our passengers have never taken a bus before, or are intimidated to take the bus from one environment to another. We rely on the efforts of our hardworking Sales & Distribution team, where people like Matt help our passengers use it and ride with confidence.

After thirteen years of working in the transit industry, Matt joined our Sales & Distribution team as a Supervisor just over a year ago. He knew right away it would be a good fit, "When I worked for Everett Transit, Community Transit was one of our partners. Everyone there was always positive and I could tell it was a good place to be. If you're going to work, you might as well find a home. From the very beginning, everyone has been welcoming and supportive. The fact that you can have a real conversation with our CEO means a lot. It starts from the top down."

Our Sales & Distribution department is responsible for distributing route information to a network of over 225 outlets across Snohomish County. From colleges to grocery stores to libraries, this small team of eight is constantly on top of every rider alert and service change. All those time tables you see at bus stops are also managed by this team. A minor service change could mean swapping out materials at 550 bus stops, while major service changes could mean 1,200 stops and take two weeks.

Not all of Matt's team's work is behind the scenes. Sales & Distribution also staffs the RideStore in Lynnwood where they get the opportunity to directly impact our customers. From selling ORCA (One Regional Card for All) products to providing trip information, this team helps people navigate the world of public transportation. Matt says, "The availability of transit options can often turn an unwelcome burden into an exciting new experience. It's so satisfying to help somebody discover this entire new world available to them. The look of relief they have when they realize how easy it is is really rewarding."

One final way that Matt's team makes a difference is by reuniting our customers with their property. You would be surprised at what gets left on our buses! While it's common to find laptops, iPhones, purses and wallets, the RideStore also receives everything from bikes to yard tools. Every day items are either found on the bus or turned into the RideStore by helpful passengers. While the team receives well over 600 items each month, sadly only 25-30% of these are ever claimed. Any item determined to have value that is left unclaimed will eventually be surrendered to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. If you've misplaced your wallet, try checking here first!

At the end of the day, Matt and his team find real value in helping people use our services. "It all comes down to touching the lives of customers. Everyone has somewhere to go. How can we help them?" Thank you, Matt, for overseeing an awesome team that feels truly passionate about our customers. Because of your efforts, new riders are empowered to take advantage of our services and more experienced riders are encouraged to try new ways of getting to where they need to go.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"I'm Shawna. And I Support It."

With a transit system network as vast as ours, it's no wonder that Information Technology is the key to connecting us with our customers. Every division in our agency depends on our hard-working IT department. We rely on talented people like Shawna to help us drive it, maintain it, coordinate it, resource it, plan it, and guide it, all so that we can bring you home.

Giving back to the community has always been important to Shawna. After years spent working on emergency issues supporting technology for Snohomish County 911, Shawna joined the fast-paced but far less stressful environment of Community Transit. "I enjoy being in public service and being part of my community and Community Transit seemed like a good fit. I was immediately impressed by the unique culture here. It felt like a family right away." This connection to community can be on a large scale, or it can be far more intimate, as Shawna discovered when a family tragedy hit just a few months into her employment. "Immediately I felt instant support. I was given a lot of flexibility so I could take care of what was important. It felt like family, and honestly that's how I got through it."

A self-professed "gadget freak" who enjoys taking things apart to see how they work, Shawna has always had an affinity for technology. In addition to providing support for our internal network and help desk, Shawna has been involved in researching special pilot projects and taking the lead in researching hardware and software acquisitions. "So much of what we do in IT is behind the scenes. We troubleshoot in the background in a virtual environment so you can't even see what's being done. It's cheaper, faster, and more streamlined. I'm proud to work for a company that has such cutting-edge technology. Working here is never stagnant. I am always learning something new."

While innovative technology and dynamic problem-solving definitely excites Shawna, what really makes a difference each day are the connections she makes, from her internal team to her colleagues and coworkers. "My team has a broad view and we always back each other up. People are generally grateful for the help we provide. It feels good to work where people are grateful every day. You feel super-special, like you have a superpower."

We think you are a superhero, Shawna! Thank you for being part of our incredibly talented team of technology experts who are always supporting our agency's efforts to see where we can do better to serve our customers. You bring every department at Community Transit to life, all so we can connect in meaningful ways to our customers and bring them home.