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MVTA Honors Drivers of the Year

Recognizing that drivers are the face of the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA), the MVTA presented its 15th Annual Driver-of-the-Year Awards at a recognition dinner at Casper’s Cherokee in Eagan, tonight (Feb. 25). 

In presenting the 2014 awards, MVTA Board Chair Clint Hooppaw (Apple Valley City Councilmember) talked about how MVTA’s drivers are the “eyes, ears and face” of the MVTA. Their routine is varied: answering questions about locations along the route, connections to other buses and more.  Their ‘office’ is their bus. Connie Massengale, MVTA’s Project Manager with Schmitty and Sons Transit said, “All of our drivers here tonight are the reason I come to work every day and enjoy my job.  They are all deserving of this recognition and I applaud the outstanding job they do everyday.”  Hooppaw said the MVTA’s Driver of the Year dinner is the agency’s way to let drivers know how much we appreciate them and the work they do. 

            The 2014 Driver-of-the-Year recipients are:

            Linda Cram-Smith, Schmitty and Sons Transit Full-time Driver; and

            Rick Andres, Schmitty and Sons Part-Time Driver.

            In addition, a special award was presented to Classroom Trainer Mary Blanchard, who is the first of the Schmitty’s staff to work with drivers.

            Linda Cram-Smith was selected as “runner up” Driver of the Year last year.  She started with Schmitty and Sons in 2001.  She currently drives Routes 460 and 465 between Burnsville, downtown Minneapolis and University of Minnesota; has driven most other MVTA routes during her years of service.

A resident of central Minnesota all of her life, she currently lives in Lakeville, MN.  Her family includes one son and two granddaughters.  She started driving at age 13 (“I was a farm kid,” she reports).  In the fifth grade, she asked her school bus driver, “How do you know when the wheels are straight?”  She taught driving (both behind the wheel and classroom) to teenagers for three years prior to taking a full-time position at Schmitty’s.

            “If it has wheels, it interests me,” Linda said, adding that she has been a “shop gopher and parts runner all of my life.”  And, Back to the Fifties is the best weekend of the summer!

She volunteers at church, for Minnesota Street Rod Association (MSRA) events, and has donated more than three gallons of blood over the years.  Linda also enjoys sewing, gardening, reading (happy endings only), good TV and movies, car cruises and shows.  She said she hopes to resume dancing and traveling the US and “the oceans blue” soon.

Linda also remembers that when she was a “kid,” while getting ready for school, she heard Psalm 118:24 on the TV:  “This is a day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.”  She continued, “Now, as I wait to start my first run of the day, I witness the rosy hues of sunrise.  I am thankful and very glad for God’s love, guidance and protection every day of my life.”

Among the comments from customers are the following:

“While laying over at BTS, she was creatively using a broom to clean her windshield of snow.”

Linda is the BEST driver.”

Caller stated she “was on a bus…and there was a tire blow out. She wants to commend the driver for her excellent driving ability.  First she got the bus quickly under control, and then was very courteous and helpful getting people transferred when the replacement bus came.”

“The driver of this bus is excellent, acceleration is smooth, turns are smooth, stops are smooth.  The ride is smooth no jerking or swaying, no need to hold on, no passenger next to you leaning on you when the bus turns.  Always on time, arrival and departures.”

Barb Aldridge, Operations Manager, said, “When Linda walks through the door you feel how passionate she is about her job.  She is always willing to learn and steps up to help cover PM routes when needed.”    Project Manager Connie Massengale noted, “Linda keeps me challenged with her ideas and questions.  I love that she comes by my office sometimes, just to say ‘Hi!’”

            Rick Andres says, “I really enjoy driving and meeting and greeting passengers.

He drives a variety of MVTA routes throughout the service area:  Routes 437 (Eagan), 478 (Rosemount), 445 (Eagan), 440 (Apple Valley), 444 (Burnsville) and METRO Red Line.  He has been a driver for Schmitty’s for nine years.

            A high school graduate, Andres attended Tech College and he is a certified welder for the Minnesota Zoo.  His hobbies include: hunting deer, fishing, and collecting cast iron cookware (vintage & present day). He especially enjoys cooking and baking with his grandkids. He and his wife, Felicia, live in Apple Valley.  They have two daughters and two grandchildren.

            Comments about Rick include:  “Driver was careful and courteous while driving downtown,” MVTA Rider; “Rick always comes to work with a smile. He is a great asset to us for PM routes Monday through Friday and on the weekends.” Barb Aldridge, Operations Manager; and “Rick always has smile for me, when I see him.  He is a true professional, treats passengers with respect and provides a safe journey for all who board their bus!” Connie Massengale, Project Manager.

            Criteria in qualifying as a Driver-of-the-Year include:

  • The driver must have an excellent safety and attendance record.
  • The driver must be recognized by his/her peers as a leader.
  • Positive role model for other drivers.
  • Nominated by peers or supervisors.
  • No substantiated incidents that resulted in a driver complaint penalty during the year.

            The award consists of a plaque, a personalized MVTA sweater, and an MVTA scarf.  The runners up this year were 2nd Place – Gary McCorquodale (full-time driver); Kim Marty (part-time driver) and 3rd Place Gary Hall (full-time driver). 

            Gary McCorquodale has been a driver for Schmitty and Sons for five years and currently operates local and express routes in Apple Valley, Burnsville and Eagan. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Business, he and his wife, Mary, live in Lilydale.  They have two daughters and six grandchildren.

            Kim Marty has been driving for Schmitty’s for about a year and a half.  She operates buses on express routes in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan and Savage.  She and her husband, Harold, live in Burnsville.  They have one son, one daughter and one granddaughter.

            A special award was also presented to Mary Blanchard, Classroom Trainer for Schmitty and Sons.  A high school graduate, she has driven all MVTA routes in addition to operating special service needed by MVTA’s cities.  Mary has driven all MVTA routes, and is the preference of many city staffers when they need a special tour to the Jordan training center, the 911 center in Dakota County, or a city development tour.

            She has been with Schmitty’s for 15 years and lives in Eagan.  She has one daughter and three grandchildren who she terms, “the loves of my life!”

            Mary B, as she is known, describes her job as working with the training program, including classroom work, videos, on-bus training and training using the bus simulator, and “Every day has become adventurous and exciting.  No two students are the same, so it is challenging and fun.”

            Customers have commented about Mary B as follows:

            “We had a perfect bus ride,” reports the Eagan Police Department regarding their special service. “Mary was a sweetheart, totally professional, and fun!”

            "I ride the 6:22am northbound 470 Eagan bus from the neighborhood… Because my return home includes taking the train, I get a rail pass each morning. Mary, our driver, knows and generates one for me without me even asking.

            “Last Friday, she noticed that tickets weren't printing right so she used her pre-departure layover time to hand-write a rail pass for me! That she would be that forward thinking (and thoughtful of her passengers), just stuns me. Please clone her so all our drivers will be as top-notch as she is!"

            "Just when I think I've found the 'best' driver, we get another, even better one! This week our 6:21am 470 bus has not been a commuter's dream but Mary our driver is!

            “Yesterday the bus broke down before she even started the route. Though it was 10 minutes late, by the time we got downtown, we were within a minute or 2 of normal. And as stressful as it had to be for her, Mary was as bright and cheerful as ever.

            “Today I think we got caught in every traffic snarl & got downtown late. Only Mary could make everyone forget the frustration of being stuck in traffic and late. She called goodbye to everyone as they departed & left each one of us smiling as we rushed down the sidewalk!

            “Mary is truly a gem. I'll be almost sad when we get a permanent driver and she can get back to her trainer job. At least I'll know that she's passing on her great attitude to new drivers. Please thank her for me...and all of her Eagan ridersl"

            Her boss, Connie Massengale said, “Mary is the perfect classroom trainer.  She is professional, but above that she is patient.  She is the first person that most of our new employees get to know and her representation of MVTA and Schmitty and Sons is very important.”

            The special award includes a plaque and a personalized nameplate and pen for her desk.

Burnsville Transit Station: Construction Delayed

The construction project at Burnsville Transit Station will be delayed. The northwest lot (between Nicollet Avenue and the parking ramp) will remain open until the project begins.

Check Out the New MVTA-Prior Lake-Shakopee "Peel" Wraps

We are excited to unveil our new bus-wraps expressing the recent merger of the BlueXpress routes under MVTA's service. 

MVTA merger with Shakopee, Prior Lake official Jan. 1

Read the article here

MVTA Launches New Website (www.mvta.com)

Burnsville, Minn. -€“ (January 1, 2015) -€“ The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) is launching a new website at www.mvta.com today. This is the first re-write of the site in more than 10 years, with the purpose of the new site being "To enhance the user experience, simplify content management, and provide better information and customer service to our community,"€ said Beverley Miller, MVTA Executive Director.

The MVTA awarded a contract to Avallo Web Development in late July; work on the new site beginning immediately with a scheduled Jan. 1, 2015 launch date. In the interim, MVTA merged with Prior Lake and Shakopee'€™s BlueXpress, so those routes and facilities were added to the site.
MVTA believes that to be effective, the MVTA website must be:

  • Safe and secure
  • Quick to load and operate
  • Easy to use and intuitive for customers
  • Flexible to allow for growth of the site
  • Visually pleasing
  • Informative
  • Flexible to take advantage of new and emerging technologies, and easily adapted to future technologies
  • Work on various platforms (desktops, multiple internet browsers, mobile browsers and mobile operating systems)

"€œWe believe all of these components have been incorporated into the new site,"€ Miller said. "We invite bus riders and non-riders alike to take a look at the site at www.mvta.com," she added.

Among the new features of the site are the ability to sign up for route-specific Rider Alerts to be automatically generated any time there is an impact to service related to a detour, accident or other incident that affects transit service. The site also includes access to the Google Trip Planner and MVTA'€™s "Where'€™s my bus web portal"€ where riders can find real-time information about the status and/or location of a bus (not yet available for mobile devices). The new site is also the launching point for the MVTA'€™s first ever and just-completed "€œHow to Ride"€ video.

The majority of the site is also optimized to accommodate use of mobile devices such as tablets and cellular phones. Information about all facets of the MVTA are featured on the site, including Board meeting agendas, packets and minutes, fare information, news and rider alerts and more.

The MVTA is the public transportation provider for the businesses and residents of Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Prior Lake, Rosemount, Savage and Shakopee. Dakota and Scott County are also parties to the MVTA; the MVTA also provides service to the Lakeville Cedar Park & Ride.