Jackson

Jackson

“My littlest grandson is infatuated with buses. I live on a bus route. When we’re on walks, he yells ‘BUS!’ whenever a bus passes by,” Janet recalls.

“The other day, two buses passed. We took him for a walk and saw four buses lined-up in the Giant Eagle parking lot. He was so excited. The bus drivers waved to him and spoke to him from a distance. He loved it. Once back home, we knew some of the buses would be coming by. We waited in our yard. My grandson was waving at cars, telling them to ‘GO!’, so he could see buses. It was too funny. It wasn’t long before two buses resumed routes. One driver waved at him and another driver gently tooted the horn. It was a great day! Thank you, METRO, and your kind drivers.”

Jackson’s grandmother was a bus rider for many years. Janet recalls riding off-and-on from 1973-1993, but more so during 1980-1990 when she was working at the former Hillhaven Convalescent Center nursing facility in North Hill. Now retired, Janet enjoys spending time with Jackson and her other grandchildren.

#IAmEssential

According to a recent report from TransitCenter, 2.8 million essential workers use public transportation to get to their jobs, proving just how essential it is to keep transit running during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the hard working operators who transport hundreds of passengers daily to administrative staff who perform behind the scenes, it takes individuals from different departments with different skillsets to maintain an essential service for those who depend on transit for life necessary trips.

Transit agencies across Northeast Ohio are working diligently to ensure the safety and well-being of their passengers and team members in light of COVID-19 by implementing new safety procedures and purchasing personal protective equipment and strong cleaning solvents, all while evaluating their resources to provide as much service as possible to their communities.

Join us in our appreciation and gratitude of the team members from Greater Cleveland RTA, METRO RTA, PARTA, and SARTA, who selflessly come to work every day to keep their communities moving during this difficult time. #IAmEssential #InThisTogetherOhio

Casey, Greater Cleveland RTA

Casey, Rail Equipment Manager, works tirelessly with staff to ensure cleanliness of all vehicles. He was instrumental in purchasing the Moonbeam 3 disinfectant to clean high traffic areas of the rail system and offices with UV light, keeping customers and employees safe. Casey joined RTA in 2012. Thank you, Casey!

Krista, METRO RTA

As an essential employee, Krista is responsible for a variety of employee management tasks to support and compensate METRO employees. She and the Employee Engagement team continue to research and provide resources to help METRO employees through this difficult time.

“I wanted to join the METRO team to be a servant of others and that’s exactly what I’m doing: providing employee relations and support to my colleagues who are behind the scenes and on the frontline serving our community,” Krista said.

Daryl, Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA)

Maintenance Foreman Daryl is spearheading the effort at PARTA to install clear plexiglass barriers to provide the transit authority’s drivers with an added layer of protection during the coronavirus outbreak. Retrofitting PARTA buses with plexiglass barriers required Daryl to design a system that is convenient to use while still providing the needed protection.

“I like a challenge because there’s a greater sense of satisfaction when you’re finished,” the 20-year PARTA veteran said. The job required precise measuring, fabrication, and developing creative solutions to ensure that the system worked properly. The barriers swing out, away from the driver, in PARTA’s fixed-route buses for easy access. When closed, the barrier is latched in place.

As one of many essential employees at PARTA, Daryl is pleased with the contribution he is making. “It’s a good feeling to know that the work you’re doing is helping to protect someone,” Daryl added.

Tonya, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA)

Tonya has been a Coach Operator at SARTA for 17 years. She is dedicated to transporting passengers to work, doctor’s appointments, and grocery stores on days full of sunshine, days of bad weather, and days of public health pandemic. Tonya performs her job with superlative customer service and a smile. Thank you, Tonya. You are an unsung hero!

Seth

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Photo credit: Alan Barnett, 2019

“I’m a music educator, composer, and visual artist. I moved to Akron from New York City almost three years ago when I accepted a teaching position here. I found Akron charming, and I’m in love with its potential. It certainly had enough going on to grab my attention.

“I love taking the x61 to and from Cleveland when I can. It saves a lot of time and money with parking. I just wish it ran later or on weekends. And because I live in Highland Square, it can be incredibly convenient. I also love taking the #1 downtown, especially on excursions to the art museum.

“I wish I could take the Akron buses to more places in town. I have to drive to get to work in Bath, but I love not having to drive to many other places!”

Daryl

Daryl“I started working at Jani-King and Falls Village (Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation) three years ago. Seven days a week, I was working three split shifts at Jani-King; reporting to METRO’s Administrative Offices then working nights at Falls Village. It was overwhelming working at two different places. I haven’t had a vacation in three years. But it led me here, to play a role at METRO.

“I just started as a Vehicle Services employee on the 30th (of March). When I was interviewing for the job, my loyalty and dedication to the job impressed people. I love people and I love serving the community, and I’m able to do that here (at METRO). It’s an honor and a pleasure to be part of the METRO team!”

METRO’s Vehicle Services team is responsible for cleaning, sanitizing, and fueling buses.

“I’m looking forward to having a vacation, ha. I love traveling with my family. Our last trip was to Niagara Falls in Canada. One time, we took my niece on a road trip to Hollywood, Calif. It took us two and a half days to get there.

“I also love fishing. That’s how I spend my time alone. It gives me a lot of peace.”

Autumn

Autumn“I remember seeing a picture of the flu pandemic that really struck me. I decided I wanted to get pictures to document the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a dark time for everyone and I want to try and put a positive light by highlighting the people in our community.

Portraits of a Pandemic is a series of portraits that document the duality of life this pandemic is creating among those with essential jobs and those staying at home. With the Stay at Home mandate in place by Governor DeWine, life has changed drastically for many people. Only the Essential businesses remain open, while others are forced to close up shop. While many people are bound to their homes and restructuring their lives, there is a whole workforce out there working to combat this pandemic and serve the community however they are able.

“I’ve been working for Todd Biss Productions for 10 years. When I came up with this idea, my boss Todd told me to run with it. We share the same vision and he’s added to the collection, too. It’s a crazy difference I see between essential workers and those staying at home.”

Sharon

dsc_1062“I recently rode METRO SCAT for the first time. My wheelchair van needed to be repaired and was out of commission for an entire week. At the time I was working for Akron Public Schools and did not want to miss work for the week. I was unaware of the application process and had not thought of the time it would take to put everything together. So I rescheduled my car, took care of the application, and was utilizing SCAT in a few days time. The SCAT service was EXCELLENT! They were on time each day, the drivers were very kind and courteous and I have been encouraging all of my neighbors and constituents about the importance of applying as soon as possible so the service is there when you need it.

“I have been blessed with having a wheelchair accessible van and the ability to drive myself when I need to go places throughout my day. However, I know not everyone is that fortunate. The need for public transportation is vital to a community – for students, families, workers, and seniors. Many disabled persons would be lost without public transportation. When attending anything,  your first question is ‘How am I going to get there?’ and we are lucky that METRO is here to answer that question for us.”

Sharon Connor was elected Ward 10 Akron City Council in November 2019. Prior to, she has been involved in the Goodyear Heights community and serves as president of the RIGHT Committee, a group that’s worked for more than a decade to improve Goodyear Heights’ housing and green spaces and expand historic designations.

“Leaders should always be supporting services and agencies that ‘Lift People Up.’ For many people METRO is that service that is the first step to upward mobility.”

Joe

joe“Last year I became a fan of riding the DASH around downtown. I work at State and Federal Communications, near Quaker Square, so at lunchtime I like to ride through downtown and see the progress on construction. Sometimes I walk toward Bartges, catch the bus at GoJo, and then ride back to the office. This year, I am looking to use METRO to commute to work at least one day a week. This is a big step for me. I’ve been using the trip planner to see what it would take and then I’ll arrange my schedule. I think riding METRO is one of the most important things anyone can do in our community. I’d love to see us depend less on our automobiles. I also think higher demand for public transportation would improve our environment and our cities’ culture.

“Akron and Summit County seem to be at an important juncture, a kind of ‘hitting the reset button’ with our planning and investment. I am looking for our leadership to take the lead on making Akron a place that values (and invests in) good public transportation and green space. This could be our chance to set a new standard, something Akron could become famous for.”

Patrick

Patrick“I save probably $50 a month by riding the bus. I have a car, but choose to ride public transit. It stops me from spending a lot in gas money and I like the ride. It’s convenient and gets me from Point A to Point B.

“I take Routes #3, #6, and #1. It takes me about 10-15 minutes each way to get where I need to go. I’ve been riding METRO, off and on, for about five to 10 years.”

Gail

Gail“I was a prisoner in my own mind. I didn’t want to get on the bus because I was ashamed of what was left after my surgery – my speech impediment – but it’s gotten a lot easier. I’m a people person; I like interacting with different people and I’ve met people in my travels. I’m not saying I might not find my husband on the bus, but I’m cool!

“I spend about an hour on the bus getting where I need to go. I take the Route #2 to work at Goodwill Industries in the Arlington Plaza, and the Route #19 to my doctors appointments at Akron City Hospital.

“Public transportation is important because everybody doesn’t have the ability to drive or the financials to maintain a car and insurance. I can’t really say how many years I’ve been riding, but METRO bus has never hurt me!”

Alexa

Alexa - Access

Before arriving at ACCESS, Alexa had custody of only two of her four children, was home insecure, and struggled with addiction, but she knew she wanted to make a better life. After taking a leap into sober living for a few months, Alexa and her children found themselves without a place to sleep. She was able to bring her family to stay as ACCESS Shelter.

Alexa began taking full advantage of life skills programming as well as working through her individualized service program. She gave it her all, made strong connections with staff, especially the Health and Wellness Coordinator.

Alexa now has re-gained custody of all her children, has a job as a recovery coach at a non-profit, her own car, and the goal to help women experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction.

Story and Photo Credit: ACCESS, INC