Ms. S

Meet the first passenger on METRO Connect!

“I’m heading to a doctor’s appointment that I’ve pushed off since March. It’s important we continue to take care of ourselves and get stuff done, (even with COVID). When I use METRO Connect again, I’ll go to other doctor appointments and the bank.”

METRO Connect is a call-ahead service providing convenient trips from designated bus stops to specific destinations within the areas of Cuyahoga Falls, Stow, and Tallmadge. The pilot program began September 14, 2020.

“I lived in Maryland for 20 years before moving back home. I used to ride SCAT to my dad’s house to take care of him. I’ve been riding for four years. I don’t need to ride SCAT though to get where I need to go… (METRO Connect) is perfect for me. The bus stop is close by (to home). I think it’s a better deal, actually.

“I’m really appreciative of those who wipe down the buses so we can have a safe ride. Today, I thought to myself ‘it’d be nice to get on the bus and see different sites.’ It’s nice to get out, ride, and feel safe! I’m glad I followed through.”

Zacharia

Zacharia“I used to live in Philadelphia and public transit was a big part of my daily routine. I was always so pleased that public transit helped lessen my negative impact on the environment; it truly is one of the greatest avenues to sustainability. Taking the bus on a daily basis also gave me a lot of exposure to a diverse community of people. Because of my positive experiences with public transit, I jumped on the chance to design a mural around it.”

Zacharia featured a METRO bus in his a transit-themed chalk mural as part of Downtown Cuyahoga Falls Partnership’s Chalk it Up event. The event tasked six local artists to bring to bring color, vibrancy, and a sense of community to the downtown district. Zacharia’s art can be seen on the side of Flury’s Cafe.

“I’ve been into art as long as I can remember. My father, brother, and sister are all artists as well so I guess you could say it is in my blood. My hope was that I could use my illustration skills to give back and honor the things that I appreciate most about public transit; community, sustainability, diversity, and efficiency.”

Rachel

Rachel BarnettThe American Public Transportation Association (APTA) dedicated the June issue of Passenger Transport, an APTA publication, to racial inequality and the July edition to Pride Month. Here’s what METRO Operator Rachel submitted:

Bringing People Together as Equals

“Public transit reaches all types of racial and ethnic groups. Public transit serves all types of people for different reasons and brings together people from all walks of life, as one. As a black bus driver, I have dealt with some passengers being racist toward myself and co-workers. With these challenges, we, as bus drivers, have to be careful how we deal with this situation. If we respond or handle it the wrong way, then there is a possibility that we may lose our job.

“At METRO RTA of Akron, OH, all bus drivers are required to take a class titled ‘Bridges out of Poverty’ when hired. The training taught me to realize how different we all really are by the different ways each of us were raised by our families. It was very interesting to me to see in real life how different our upbringings were as co-workers. A way for public transportation to address the systematic racism problems that are around us, every day, is to understand what these differences cause. As an example, white individuals cannot understand racism on a daily basis because it has become the status quo. There needs to be continued and expanded dialogue and training available to help individuals have a better understanding of all our unique differences.

“A paragraph in a book called PowerNomics by Dr. Claud Anderson provides a great definition of racism. Dr. Anderson states that ‘Racism is a wealth and power-based competitive relationship between blacks and non-blacks. The sole purpose of racism is to support and ensure that the white majority and its ethnic subgroups continue to use blacks as a mean to produce wealth and power.’ That is why the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was successful when black passengers decided not to use the bus system until they were able to sit wherever they pleased. Public transportation needs to keep promoting the message that everyone is on equal footing and has a fair shot at the opportunities provided for employees.

“Another good step public transportation can take to address systematic racism is to post signs recognizing programs and celebrations of different ethnic groups, such as Kwanzaa, Juneteenth and others, and serve as a sponsor to racial and ethnic events in the community.”

Not Tolerating Being Defined by Others

“The Stonewall riots in 1969 were demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, in June of that year. The riots had to happen to bring attention to the treatment and brutality toward the LGBTQ community. Their treatment was solely based on their lifestyle and who they were.

“This year, some major steps are being taken to provide equal rights to the LGBTQ community. On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination, handing the movement Not Tolerating Being Defined by Others for LGBTQ equality a long-sought and unexpected victory. In layman terms, it simply means that an employer is not allowed to fire a person based on their sexuality.

“With myself being a lesbian, I sometimes feel like I am faced with the double whammy. I deal with racial inequity as a black woman and with being a lesbian. But I refuse to let other people define me as being less than them; we are all equal.

“METRO RTA of Akron, OH, my employer, does its best to work on and address equality among its workforce and the community. I have never felt from management any unfair treatment related to my sexuality, nor would I allow it. I believe that the public transit system can help with community awareness about LGBTQ issues. This could be done by sponsoring different community events, posting information showing support, and listing community events by advertising inside and outside of buses, and to have literature available in the transit center from support groups during Gay Pride events and also throughout the year. All transit authorities’ providers should keep the doors of communication open with the LGBTQ community.

“I often refer to a quote that I really like from the late actor Paul Newman: ‘I’m a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter, either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being… by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant.'”

Don

Don Jeffrey vertical“Art has always been my ambition. Growing up, I wanted to be a cartoonist and write my own comic strip. I realized I needed to find a different job to make more money. I worked in retail for 30 years doing visual merchandising at Dillard’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, and Kohl’s. It was in 2016 when I decided to do drawings for myself.

“I started with watercolor, pen, and ink and mixed the three together. I liked how professional it looked, and from there my art just took off! My first art show was at Summit Artspace in Barberton at the ‘A Brush with Magic’ show in 2018. People thought this was the best work I’ve ever done. They liked them better than my comic strips. I also draw greeting cards for people. I haven’t bought a greeting card in 30 years!

“I used to take the bus when I was a student at the University of Akron. I would walk from campus to the library downtown and catch the bus to go to work in Chapel Hill. It was never a direct trip, you know, so I got to know the city pretty well.”

Sheila

sheila grant photo“I was a frequent rider of METRO for the past two years. I rode the #3, #9, #12, #7 and the #14 for travels to work and back, and to all of my other daily/weekly activities.

“I’ve worked at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank for almost five years. I previously assisted in the volunteer center for four years through a partnership with Mature Services, now known as Vantage Aging. For the past nine months, I’ve been a full-time Foodbanker and serve as the Volunteer and Guest Experience Champion. I greet all guests in our lobby, help our volunteers check in, answer phone calls from people in need of food assistance, and help those looking for general Foodbank information.

“As the Volunteer and Guest Experience Champion, I have taken a lot of calls from people who are seeking help for the very first time. What stands out to me are callers who ask how the Foodbank works; this is another way of asking, ‘How do I get help with food?’ Other callers who stand out are people who can hardly speak because they are overcome with emotion and need. In both instances, I simply try my best to reassure the caller that that is why we are here – we are here to help. An interaction that really struck me was when a woman called the Foodbank with questions about our grocery distribution and what types of food items she might receive. Upon hearing the types of items she would take home with her, she simply started crying because she was so thankful.

“Every employee has stepped up to the challenge of working through this (COVID-19) pandemic. They not only work in their area of expertise, they willingly fill in in other areas as needed. (The pandemic) has heightened my consciousness of the importance of instituting safe practices in my daily life, and the ability to appreciate enjoying each day.”

Abigail

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Abigail is the Executive Director of Downtown Cuyahoga Falls Partnership.

“I typically walk to work, bars, restaurants, and shopping in Downtown Cuyahoga Falls from my nearby home. I also like to ride my bike, when possible. I used the bus system in Chapel Hill, North Carolina while I was an undergraduate. When I lived in Boston, I took the subway and buses everywhere. Then, when I lived overseas in Ukraine, South Africa, and Italy, I took buses, trains, and subways everywhere.

“METRO and public transportation in general is such an important asset to cities and communities, particularly in terms of equity and sustainability. Having a healthy public transportation system can provide mobility and open doors for folks. There are folks who work in and live near me in Downtown Cuyahoga Falls who rely on METRO RTA bus routes to get to work, the grocery store, and the pharmacy. I heard METRO RTA CEO Dawn Distler speak at the Akron Community Foundation’s Women’s Endowment Fund biennial forum on economic empowerment of women. She spoke to the importance of good public transportation in uplifting women in poverty. I was blown away by Dawn’s leadership and collaborative approach to her work. So, I’m a big fan of METRO!”

How Downtown Cuyahoga Falls (DTCF) Partnership has adapted around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The DTCF Partnership has had to shift gears big-time because of COVID! Much of our work is to bring people downtown and increase foot traffic for our shops, often through big events and festivals. Despite the shutdown, we have an impact on the community during COVID by keeping downtown alive. We have rallied both our businesses to support the community and the community to support the businesses.

“For example, we helped share businesses were doing a bear-and-rainbow hunt in their windows during the pandemic for kids. We helped coordinate a Pay-It-Forward Campaign for Healthcare Heroes, through which the community could simultaneously support local businesses and provide a pick-me-up to our first responders by purchasing a selected gift or meal through a DTCF business. We also provided up-to-date information on how folks could continue shopping, eating, and drinking from local businesses in ways that involved minimal contact, online ordering, and curbside options.

“Our events we are planning are much, much smaller. For example, we were planning a big Chalk the Block Festival with artists, food trucks, and music for the community this summer, which had to be postponed until 2021. Instead, we are commissioning local artists to do chalk murals throughout Downtown for 5 weeks this summer. So, instead of bringing people all downtown at once for a 5-hour festival, we are inviting them to come as families over time to view and enjoy the temporary public art. Even our volunteer activities, like the planting of the summer planters on Front Street, involved social distancing and mask-donning. We are trying to come up with creative ways to get folks to support our small businesses through various campaigns and incentives.

“(The pandemic) has made me hopeful and inspired because I’ve realized how supportive Northeast Ohio is, and how resilient and innovative small businesses are. It has reinforced my belief in the importance of small, independently-owned businesses because it’s made clear how much we need their creativity and generosity in our communities.”

Blue Green

Blue Green'“I came to Akron a few days after turning 18 to attend The University of Akron. I lived on campus and took METRO RTA to Chapel Hill to shop at Twin Value, way before the BestBuy and Target that now inhabits the area. In the later years, I rode the bus to the hill on Montrose to work at East Side Marios as a pizza chef. Without METRO RTA, I would not have been able to survive in Akron during a time when I did not have a car. I appreciate METRO RTA and all the services that it offers.”

Blue Green highlighted METRO in his recent episode of Around Akron with Blue Green on PBS Western Reserve. The episode focused on how the Akron area is adapting to changes related to COVID-19.

“The goal of Around Akron with Blue Green is to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire people in Akron and Northeast Ohio. I spotlight businesses, people, history, and exciting things going on in and around Akron.

“With a lack of broadcast TV in Akron, I wanted people to see Akronites spotlighted on their televisions. I think it’s essential to a city’s identity to be represented on broadcast TV and news. Akron does not have an affiliate network station, but we have PBS Western Reserve, and they reach over 5.1 million homes in Northeast Ohio through broadcast, cable, and satellite TV. In Akron, children growing up need to see positive stories about their community; this instills pride and civic responsibility in the citizens of Akron.”

West Market Starbucks

8218bcd3-afbf-4d62-b8e9-1f860211c8a8When you live and work on one of the busiest bus routes, it makes sense to ride public transit – and that’s exactly what Melissa does. A regular rider, Melissa has befriended several METRO bus operators on her travels to and from her job at Starbucks, which is why they’ve been so prominent in her mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. Melissa said the bus operators’ kindness is her favorite part of riding, and is grateful for the service they provide.

“I wanted to show them appreciation for everything they do, especially now,” she said.

So, with the help of her team at Starbucks, Melissa coordinated a coffee delivery to thank METRO employees.

METRO thanks Melissa and the staff at the West Market Starbucks for the delicious, freshly brewed coffee! It was a treat enjoyed by all.

Julius

Julius“I’m an artist. I focus on portraits using colored pencils, pastels, paintings, and water paints. I got into art when I was 4 years old and taught myself how to draw. I never took any classes. Over the years, I focus more on details and my drawings get better.

“I’ve been riding METRO my whole life. I take it everywhere — to the grocery store, the library, to my mother’s house, and back home.”

Mike

DAP_Ambassador_Mike_Smith_ShaneWynnPhoto
Photo credit: Shane Wynn

“I’m from Huntington, West Virginia. I came to Akron in 1977 — my job brought me here. I was employed by Consolidated Freightways as a supervisor. Then I moved on to Pacific Intermountain Express. I was a company buyer there for about six years. I have a degree in transportation, so that’s what steered me in that direction. I’m also a former highway patrolman. I lived in Columbus and worked out of Delaware. I was a cop in Huntington City. I’ve done a little bit of everything.

“The important thing about being a Downtown Akron Partnership Ambassador is keeping the downtown area clean. I’ve been in a lot of places driving charter buses and semis, and you know the first impression is the lasting one. It looks better when you have clean streets. Trash stands out.

“Another important part of being an ambassador is you meet a lot of people: nice people, interesting people. Making the right impression when people approach you for directions or information makes a big difference. You can tell when you see someone on Main St. looking around — every building isn’t labeled with an address. So you approach them first and it takes the stress off of them. They appreciate it.

“Because I work from Sunday through Tuesday, I go and pick up any trash around the METRO terminal (Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center). When I come in on Sunday, that’s my first stop of the day. Doing both sides of the terminal and anything on the grass, and it makes it look better for Monday. Next month, I’ll pressure wash the platform on the Broadway side.

“I’m just a normal dude, retired and needed something to do, so I came downtown. Darrell (another ambassador) brought me on. He said, ‘I know you can work, because I’ve seen you around all the time.’ And it’s turned out to be a pretty good deal because the work is not hard, and you get to meet people. And that’s the idea: helping people go on their way and through their day without any difficulty. If you can relieve some of the stress with directions and what have you, it’s pretty cool.”