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.