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METRO Captures Two Crystal Awards


Montage of winners and winning artwork

Centuries-old masterpieces inspired modern-day marketing spots that garnered two prestigious awards last night at the American Marketing Association's annual competition.

METRO won a Crystal Award in Graphics - a series of illustrations for Changing the Art of Travel that included a depiction of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa holding a rabbit.

We also won a Crystal Award for Online Video for Public Third-Party Site - Terracotta Warrior: The Escape.

This is the first time we have won two Crystals in one year. In 2008, we won a Crystal for the "I Ride" campaign. The AMA says the Crystal Awards honor Houston's best marketing efforts because judges don't simply select the flashiest or slickest campaign - they judge results of the spot.

"What is really gratifying is we have a staff that, with very limited resources, does remarkable work promoting METRO and the services we provide to the community," said Raequel Roberts, associate vice president of marketing, media & corporate communications.

METRO was a finalist in six categories and competed against well-respected marketers: Texas Video & Post, Zenfilm, Axiom and Weatherford. Click here for a list of all the winners.  

If you missed seeing Terracotta Warrior: The Escape, click here to view. With no budget, we created the video with the Taiwanese actor, who traveled with the terracotta soldiers exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

The story line: The terracotta warrior escaped from the museum and explored the city while riding the rail. When he returns to the museum with arms brimming with souvenirs, he is teasingly scolded by the museum guard.

"Putting the warrior on the train was great because it allowed him to interact with people who were not expecting him to appear. It was fun to capture their expressions," said Rob Fritsche, senior copywriter/producer.  "Using our two cameras, we were able to shoot multiple angles at one time, giving the illusion of a video that had a budget."

Tinkering with some of the world's most well-known paintings was a bold step to grab people's attention. A series of paintings, including Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and American Gothic, were changed to include a bunny. The startling images showed that just as classic art was changing, so was travel with our introduction of the Quickline Signature bus service providing next-time arrivals and fewer stops.

"It all stemmed from the headline, Changing the Art of Travel, which is what the Quickline is doing. We thought it would be funny to take famous works of art and change them. And the bunny - the Quickline's logo - took a life of its own," said Brian Rogers, graphic designer.

And winning two coveted awards for two humorous, yet effective, spots was exciting. "It is a run-with-the-big-dogs thing. There were other big agencies there. It's nice to be validated," said Rogers.




METRO'S FY2009 Annual Report

Cartoon drawing of man carrying big bag of money in armsThe financial section of METRO's FY2009 Annual Report has been posted on our Web site. This covers the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009. Our fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Here are some financial highlights:

Fiscal Year 2009 vs 2008


  • FY2009 sales taxes were $518 million, 0.6 percent lower than FY 2008. Fares in FY2009 were $67.1 million, 24.7 percent more than in FY08.


     There was a 25 percent fare revenue increase in FY09 due to    the effects of fare restructuring, offset by a decrease in fixed-route    ridership of 10.4 percent. Sales tax deterioration resulted from the economic recession in Houston and the accompanying job loss.


  • FY09 total operating expenses (including depreciation) were $558.6 million, an increase of 12.5 percent over FY08. This was primarily due to higher fuel cost, which is the result of payments made to cover fuel hedge account.


  • The balance sheet shows net assets, as of Sept. 30, 2009, of  $1.780.9 million, an increase of 0.5 percent over Sept. 30, 2008.

Read the full financial report here.


Try a Two-Wheeled Commute


Bike to Work logoWhen's the last time you smelled gardenias on the way to work?

If you were pedaling a bike, you'd be able to smell flowers, hear the birds sing and drop pounds without really trying.

Bike enthusiasts are encouraging you to dust off your bicycle and try commuting to work by bike - or try a two-modal approach with bike and bus.

This month is Bike to Work month, promoted by the League of American Bicyclists, a nonprofit group that encourages biking for fun, fitness and transportation - and advocates policies that make cities and states more bike-friendly.

The METRO Cycling Club is scheduled to gather at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 21, at 1900 Main St. and ride to Memorial Park, where they will join Mayor Annise Parker on a city-wide bike ride to city hall.

"Join us here at 1900 Main and ride with us to Memorial Park," said Tom Pham, president of the METRO Cycling Club. "We're happy to support the city's efforts to get people to ride their bikes to work. And we want to add METRO to people's formula on getting to work. Ride your bike, then take the bus."

For those who live in west Houston, check out the Energy Corridor District's Bike to Work Day tomorrow. You'll get a free breakfast at the Pavillion in Terry Hershey Park, located next to the ExxonMobil Chemical on Memorial Drive. METRO will host a booth there.

Food, fun, music and giveaways start at 6:30 a.m.

If you've never commuted to work on two wheels, click here to read tips on how to do a safe, two-wheeled commute. You'll learn the rules of the road (Be predictable, be visible) - and have 80 percent fewer collisions than riders who don't learn the rules.

You'll learn what accessories are essential (a helmet, a frame pump for flat tires) and tricks to starting out gradually. (Drive to work with your bike stowed in your car - then bike home).

Worried about how fit you are? If you can walk a mile, you should be able to pedal five with no problem, according to the League.


No. 1 Bus Operator in North America

Frank Gonzales with board members; Khanh Nguyen and David Tat, winning maintenance team, bus decal of GonzalesFrank Gonzales, a METRO bus operator for 19-and-a-half years recently won two prestigious awards from the industry group, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Today, at the METRO board meeting, he was recognized for capturing the title of No. 1 Bus Driver in North America - as well as First Place in Customer Service.

Gonzales is pictured standing between Board Member Jimmy Stewart and Chairman Gilbert A. Garcia.

Also honored were two mechanics on the METRO bus maintenance team, who placed 9th in the Bus Maintenance Competition - Khanh Nguyen (on the left) and David Tat (on the right). Not pictured is Van Ho.

Gonzales was presented with a personalized bus - an autographed bus with a huge decal showing the ever-smiling Gonzales leaning out a bus window. He'll get to drive this bus for a year. Congratulations to a great team, whose overall score boosted METRO to No. 2 nationwide among transit agencies - METRO's highest overall score.

New Rules Against Rail Car Distractions

Train crash in CaliforniaDistracted driving kills.

That's the mantra Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been repeating almost from the beginning of his leadership at the Federal Transit Administration.

And yesterday, a new federal rule was proposed that would ban distracted operations on rail cars.

Once adopted, the rules would clearly restrict, and in some cases, forbid the use of cell phones and other handheld devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) by safety critical workers, including locomotive engineers, conductors and switchmen.

"Operating a passenger or freight train demands the full and undivided attention of crew members at all times," said LaHood in a statement. "Lives depend on it. We want to make sure that railroad employees know not to use handheld devices on the job because doing so jeopardizes safety."

The new rule would ban the use of an electronic device - whether personal or company-supplied - if it interferes with the worker's or another worker's performance of safety-related duties.

There are exceptions for the use of watches, calculator use, medical devices, railroad radios and cameras used to document safety hazards, violations or certain emergencies. Read details of the rule proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Back in September 2008, an engineer operating a Metrolink locomotive in Chatsworth, Calif., was texting - and crashed into a Union Pacific freight train. The horrific accident left 25 people dead.  

LaHood says this newly proposed rule would help prevent accidents like that.

Read more here.

Here at METRO, we have a strict policy on any cell phone use when operating a METRO train or vehicle. Any employee caught driving a METRO vehicle and using a cell phone at the same time will be suspended for 30 days upon the first offence. If caught talking/listening/or having a cell phone on the second time, he or she will be fired. However, if employees are caught texting while operating a METRO vehicle, they will be fired immediately.


It's a Wrap...All the Way to the Zoo

Houston Zoo ad wrap on train of meerkatsIf you've ridden the train this morning, you may have noticed small, furry creatures, standing at attention.

Some of our trains are partially wrapped with meerkats, urging patrons to go to the zoo.

It's all part of our marketing campaign reaching out to Hispanics.

"We're in the middle of an outreach campaign to the Hispanic community, and the Houston Zoo is a popular destination among Hispanics," said Raequel Roberts, associate vice president of marketing, media & corporate communications. "Riding METRORail to the zoo makes sense, particularly considering the crowded parking in Hermann Park."

The Spanish-language wrap says: "Comparte tiempo con la familia. Toma el Metrorail al zoologico."

The translation: "Spend some time with the family. Take METRORail to the zoo."

The train wraps are part of a campaign that will include television commercials with Abuelita (grandma) and zoo decals on the train platform. Watch for English-language train wraps coming soon, along with another Spanish-language one - showcasing these popular zoo animals - the giraffe, lion and elephant.

Now's a great time to introduce your kids to METRORail by taking the animal train to one of their favorite places.



METRO'S Letter on CAF Trains to the FTA

CAF trainToday was our deadline to give the Federal Transit Administration our formal response to its inquiry on whether we complied with "Buy America" regulations with plans to purchase trains from a Spanish company known as CAF.

Click here to read Chairman Gilbert A. Garcia's letter to the FTA, view a brief interview with METRO Board director Carrin Patman, and read our news release.



Future of the City: Less Cars, More Transit

Richard Florida, author & director of th Maratin Prosperity Institute, University of TorontoTrends are emerging as our society struggles to recover from this economic crisis. It's what author Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute of the University of Toronto, calls "The Great Reset."

"An economy is remade in ways that allow it to recover and begin growing again," writes Florida in The Atlantic.

That new way of life will be a lot less dependent on the automobile. Car culture will no longer be in our DNA, as the New York Times reported in October 2009.

"Car culture no longer exerts the powerful pull it once did. More and more families are deciding to share cars, and young people are putting off buying them and using public transit, bikes, their feet or Zipcars (membership-based, easy-access short-term car rentals) instead," writes Florida. "It's not just that oil and gas have become expensive, it's that traffic and gridlock have become a deadweight time cost on us and our economy."

With an unemployment rate at a stubborn 10 percent, you would think more people would be off the roads, since they are not going to and from work. Instead, the average commute rose in 2008 to 25.5 minutes, wiping out years of decreases, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which gathers the data.

When mass transit is easily available, more people are choosing to take it. In Manhattan, 82 percent of workers go to work by public transit, bike or by foot. In Boston and San Francisco, about half of all workers get to the office without cars. Highway traffic

Still, we have a long way to go. More than 75 percent of all Americans drive to work alone. Florida suggests that to ease congestion employers need to offer flexible schedules and telecommuting.

And he argues that the only alternative to easing gridlock is make people pay to use the roads.

"We pay to take the subway, ride the bus, or take the train. Why should the roads be essentially free? If we want to make traffic better, we have little choice other than to make people pay for the roads they drive on."

Read the entire article here. Do you agree with him?




Acting President/CEO's Goals for METRO

METRO's Acting President/CEO George GreaniasIn an interview with KUHF-FM (88.7) today, METRO's Acting President and CEO George Greanias said he wants to enhance the transparency of METRO and rebuild trust with the community.

He said it's essential we accelerate rail construction but not forget we have bus service.

In his first week on the job, Greanias said his priorities as the interim leader of METRO are to get federal rail money, further improve bus service and start building partnerships throughout the region.


Click here to listen to the interview.  The photo posted is from KUHF. 

World's Most Punctual Train

Dubai trainWho has the most punctual train in the world?

Look on the other side of the world.

Dubai Metro has been punctual more than 99 percent of the time, making it the most on-time driverless train in the world, reports MassTransit.

"We are very proud to say that Dubai Metro punctuality rate is ahead of major driverless metro systems, including the North East Line in Singapore and the Docklands Light Rail in London," said Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of the board and executive director of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority. "Our Metro has achieved a 99.69 percent punctuality rate in the first six months of operation from September  9 last year to March this year."

Dubai's Metro carried about 80,000 passengers a day in its first six months. The number of passengers is expected to rise to 35 million passengers this year.


METRORail is City's Most Energy-Efficient Transit

METRORail in front of skylineConcerned about your carbon footprint? Start riding METRORail - the most energy-efficient way to get around the city.

The Red Line produces fewer gas emissions per passenger mile than most light-rail systems nationwide, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

In a newly released report, Public Transportation's Role in Responding to Climate Change, the FTA writes that the average light-rail line emits 0.36 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger mile.

Compare that to our Main Street line, which emits just 0.312 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger mile. Our buses emit 0.536 pounds per passenger mile. The average car emits 0.964 pounds per passenger mile, reports Houston Tomorrow.

Our light-rail cars are more efficient than Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). DART emits 0.534 pounds of carbon dioxide per light-rail passenger mile.

The highest emission rate is the system in Kenosha, Wisconsin, emitting 4.266 pounds per passenger mile  - four times more than a car's emissions.

The most environmentally-friendly transit system in the country? San Francisco's heavy rail system, which uses hydropower, emitting 0.085 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger mile.  





METRO Bus Driver Wins Top Award

Montage of Frank Gonzales in bus at competition; at IAH arriving home yesterday as champion

Frank Gonzales stepped into a 40-foot bus with the intention of becoming a champion seven minutes later.

The 50-year-old METRO bus operator was competing in the 35th International Bus Roadeo, an event held in conjunction with the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) Bus and Paratransit conference in Cleveland, OH, this week.

On Sunday, Gonzales' 19 years' experience and finely-honed skills paid off as he beat out 38 other competitors to win first place.

"I had in my mind I was going to win," said Gonzales. "I went in this year with a positive attitude. I said, ‘I'm taking it.' It's not like driving on the streets. It's more skilled driving. It's precise; you have to drive it to a T - having the bus at the right time, at the right place, at the right speed."

Gonzales had seven minutes to navigate the bus around an obstacle course that included backing up, making a left turn, right turn, two reverses, snaking the bus through a serpentine route. One challenge included driving the bus through a narrow lane of tennis balls - without touching the balls.

He also had to do a pre-trip clearance and found seven of eight defects - and a bomb behind one of his mirrors.

"The International Bus Roadeo champions showcase professionalism and top-notch skills," said APTA President William Millar in a statement. "They not only exemplify excellence to the entire industry; they also set the standard for their peers in providing first-class services to the millions of public transit riders throughout North America."

Gonzales also won first place in Customer Service competition in which actors played difficult customers, testing a driver's ability to stay calm and handle a crisis.

One of Gonzales' "customers" was a lady who spoke nothing but Spanish - and Gonzales responded in Spanish.

"She wasn't going to pay; she was going to get on the bus free. She wanted to go to the hospital. She jumped on the seat and said she was going to call her husband. Another lady had a water gun and was squirting the passengers," recalls Gonzales.

The veteran driver handled the crises with aplomb.

"I'm a people person. I know how to defuse situations when they become difficult," says Gonzales. "I usually make them smile before it's over."

Supervisor Jo Ann Petitt says bus drivers don't get any better than the Best Driver in North America - Gonzales' new title.

"He's always got a smile. He's an excellent operator. You can't top him," says Petitt.

Overall, METRO's combined score with its maintenance team garnered it second place, trailing the State of Florida (Broward County & LYNX), which captured the Grand Champion Award.

The best bus driver in America says he loves his job because he loves working with people. You can find him driving the 66 Yale route.

Addicted to Texting? Take Mass Transit, Urges LaHood


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at ITS conferenceThe nation's top transportation official said today that safety remains his No. 1 priority and urged drivers to switch to mass transit if they can't put down their cell phone while driving.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made those remarks at the closing session of ITS America's 20th annual conference conducted at the George R. Brown Convention Center. ITS America is an advocacy group for using technology to improve mobility.  

"If you're hooked on your phone and hooked on your Blackberry, and you need to use it every minute in the day, get on a bus, get on a light rail, take mass transit," said LaHood. "It's safe, it'll get you there, it's comfortable."

LaHood said texting while driving is deadly.

"You're going to end up either in a crash or injuring somebody or killing somebody," he said. "When you're looking down for four seconds while texting, your car will actually go the length of a football field."

Other sobering stats he mentioned: Almost 6,000 people were killed in 2008 in crashes that involved distracted driving, and more than half a million people were injured.

Texting distracts on three levels - visually, manually and cognitively, taking one's mind off of what you're doing.

LaHood said he recently attended a conference at MIT, and asked students to research technology that will help with distracted driving.

One of the students -a dad - told the story of how he was talking to his son, who was driving. The son dropped his cell phone and while continuing to drive, reached down to pick up his cell. He crashed into a tree and died.

Although he praised Ford's use of technology in its new Taurus that  alerts drivers when something is in their blind spot, or behind the vehicle, or when they are tailgating a car, LaHood frowned on voice-activated technology in cars.

"Voice-activated distractions in the car are distractions. They're cognitive distractions that take your mind away from driving safely," said LaHood, adding he plans to meet with CEOs of car manufacturers to discuss this issue.

He promised a rigorous five-star government-rating safety program to be unveiled later this year that will rate the crash worthiness and crash avoidance capabilities of new cars.

"We're counting on you to be full partners with the Department of Transportation. Together, we can discover new technologies and deploy them in innovative ways," said LaHood. "America's chance for change is here. Together, we can seize it."





METRO Matters: Doing Business with Us

Deborah Richard on METRO Matters TV showIf you're an entrepreneur who's wonders how to do business with a big government agency like METRO, be sure to watch our latest episode of METRO Matters.

Deborah Richard, vice president of business services in construction and engineering, heads up METRO's Small Business/Disadvantaged Business Program.

She offers tips on how you can become certified and partner with the big guys to do business with METRO.

Click here to watch. Or if you prefer to see it on television, here are air times on Comcast's Channel 17, Houston Media Source:


Mon   5/10/10     7:45 p.m.

Wed  5/12/10     4:30 p.m.

Fri     5/14/10     9:30 p.m.

Mon   5/17/10     9:45 p.m.

Wed  5/19/10     8:30 p.m.

Fri     5/21/10     9:30 p.m.

Sat    5/22/10     11:45 a.m.

Mon   5/24/10     7:45 p.m.

Wed  5/26/10     6:15 p.m.

Fri     5/28/10     7:45 p.m.

Mon   5/31/10     7:45 p.m.

Wed  6/2/10       6:15 p.m.

Multi-agencies Demonstrate Uprighting 18-Wheeler

Overturned 18-wheelerIf you've ever run out of gas or blown a tire while driving on the freeway, you know how frightening that can be with traffic zooming by.

Today, as part of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) conference taking place this week, a demonstration occurred on how public and private agencies work together to help keep freeways clear when breakdowns occur. ITS America is a trade organization of more than 400 public agencies, private corporations and academic institutions involved in the research and development of technology to improve mobility and sustain the environment.

When a breakdown happens, the average response time for help to arrive is six minutes. It's the result of a carefully choreographed dance which includes the following: METRO's Motorist Assistance Program (MAP) arriving on the scene to divert on-coming traffic; SAFEClear's program of sending a private tow truck to remove the disabled vehicle; a police officer at TranStar watching live, streaming video and authorizing a tow truck to remove the vehicle.

The first demo illustrated what happens when a mom - with her baby - runs out of gas on the freeway.

The second demo illustrated how an 18-wheeler truck - already overturned on its side - is lifted by heavy chains and two huge wreckers and uprighted in a "catch and roll" technique, where a huge tow truck behind the disabled 18-wheeler "catches" the truck as it lands upright so that it doesn't make a lot of noise.

In a real-life scenario, it takes about 15 minutes to pick the truck up and set it on its wheels again. 18-wheeler being uprighted

"Technology can be applied to help people move safely and efficiently through the region," said METRO Chief of Police Tom Lambert, co-chair of the ITS America conference. "You're going to see today in action how people work every day in this community together to help clear disabled vehicles and accidents to get people moving."

The demos will be repeated tomorrow from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the parking of the George R. Brown Convention Center.  

The photos posted here were taken by Carolina Mendoza, media specialist at METRO. Watch video of this event on


Running Out of Money for Highways

Cars on highwayA newly released report warns that car travel is outpacing our roadway capacity, and Congress needs to pump new dollars into our network of roads to stave off gridlock.

Transportation Reboot: Unlocking Gridlock, by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), identifies urgent capacity expansion projects crucial to rebuilding the economy and maintaining a competitive edge.

"We are experiencing system overload," said John Horsley AASHTO's executive director at a news conference on Monday. "While congestion levels declined with the recession, congestion is now returning, costing millions in lost time and productivity. Capacity increases are needed in transit, rail and particularly in highways."

One project cited in the report is the U.S. Highway 290 corridor here in Houston. If you drive on 290, you're familiar with the bumper-to-bumper traffic there. It is one of the most congested highways in Texas, and experts predict the highway will serve burgeoning growth. Close-up of car in traffic

Texas needs about $300 billion in new dollars to provide roads for an expected population growth over the next three decades, said Bill Meadows of Fort Worth, a Texas Transportation Commission member.

The Texas Department of Transportation supports toll roads and investment from private developers due to a chronic shortage of gas tax funds, reports MassTransit magazine.

"Texas continues to grow rapidly," Amadeo Saenz Jr., executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, told AASHTO News. "Finding ways to successfully implement transportation solutions that increase capacity and improve mobility within our major metropolitan and urban communities is a high priority for Texas."

Click here to read the full report.

Cheap Eats Along the Red Line


Drawing of young waitress serving fast food on trayNo need to brown bag it if you know where to go on the Red Line for lunch spots that are delicious and inexpensive.

Just ask Bobby Moon, manager of audit-contracts here. The unofficial "King of Cheap Eats," Moon eats out five days a week - and never spends more than $20 a week.

He was featured on this blog several years ago - and now has an updated list of faves that are within one to two blocks of the rail.

"Why should we bring a lunch when it's so cheap? It's just something to carry. Today, we're going to spend a whopping $2.15 at Randall's - a Grab and Go turkey, ham or chicken sandwich with their loyalty card. I'm going to throw in an 88-cent avocado."

Moon's favorite is Treebeard's. "I've got to go to Treebeard's every week. I have to have it - red beans, rice and sausage," says the gourmet chef.

Moon spends from $2.15 to $6.75 on a day's lunch. Today, he brought me a sandwich from Randall's - $3.49 regularly - but only $1.99 if you buy two or more.

Here are Moon's picks for lunch on the Red Line:


  1. Treebeard's @ Market Square, 315 Travis. Small cup of red beans, rice and sausage. $3.15.
  2. Randall's deli - Grab ‘n Go sandwiches in the showcase. Turkey, chicken, ham on French bread. Buy 2 for $4.30 with card.
  3. Le's Givral, 2704 Milam near METROBank. Vietnamese grilled barbeque pork sandwich (bahn mi thiet), $2.71, plus free iced tea.
  4. Boba Café - Holman and San Jacinto, next to HCC Central. Chargrilled hamburger, dress it up yourself. $4.10.
  5. Supreme Sandwiches, next to Subway and Eats at Milam and Rusk. Small po-boy, bag of chips or potato salad and can drink. $3. Large po-boy combo, $4.
  6. Chipotle (at the old Rice Hotel). Three soft chicken tacos, $6.44. Everything added free except for guacamole for $1.75 a dab.
  7. Frank's Pizza on Market Square. Large slice of combo, $3.50.
  8. Adrian's Local Café, 1730 Jefferson. Regular hamburger (huge), $4.87.
  9. Falafel Factory, Prairie & Main. Gyro pita sandwich and Lebanese salad, $6.75.
  10. Star Dumplings in McKinney Place underground in the tunnel. Six steamed meat dumplings and hot and sour soup, $5.41.
  11.  Prince's Hamburgers, in McKinney Place in tunnel. Hamburger, $5.36.

After his cheap lunch, Moon works it off.

"Use METRORail to get there and walk back to your office to get your daily exercise done at the same time," says Moon.

Do you have any favorite, inexpensive lunch spots along the rail? Share them with us.





The Anti-METRO Kool-Aid


Cartoon figure of Kool-Aid man with pitcher of Kool-AidRobert Muhammad has written an interesting perspective on what is happening here at METRO with recent media reports on lawsuits and allegations.

Read his blog, The Connect the Dots Crew Blog.

Full disclosure: Muhammad is a consultant to METRO, in addition to being a minister, urban planner and host of a radio show on KPFT 90.1 FM, Connect the Dots.  

Muhammad also participated in a METRO documentary last fall - a roundtable discussion on regional transit. (Scroll down to the fourth documentary)

Restoring Public Confidence

Chairman Gilbert Garcia at special board meeting, 4/22/10METRO's Chairman of the Board announced yesterday that an investigation into allegations of improper spending by METRO President & CEO Frank J. Wilson is complete and no evidence of impropriety was found.

Last month, METRO hired UHY Advisors, a business and tax consulting firm, to examine allegations that public funds were used because of an inappropriate relationship. Read the press release here.

"Their findings speak for themselves," said Garcia. "UHY found no evidence of improper spending or reimbursements or any other prohibitive actions related to our CEO Mr. Frank Wilson. The inquiry was thorough, and it was complete."

Read the entire report here.

In addition, Garcia announced measures the board believes will restore public confidence in the agency.

They include:


  • The hiring of the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski to perform a compliance review to ensure the agency is adhering to all laws and regulations that apply to METRO.


  • The formation of a compensation committee to review the salary and benefits packages of METRO's senior management. This committee will be chaired by Allen D. Watson, the METRO board vice chairman.


  • The formation of a new formal records retention policy, consistent with state law. Garcia outlined his expectations in a letter to Wilson and asked that the policy be presented at the board's next scheduled meeting. 

"Our goal is very simple," said Garcia. "We want to provide first-class transportation for the community. We want to earn the public trust. We want to work with the community. We want to improve the internal moral of METRO because we have good people here at METRO. We want to secure the federal funding to complete the five rail-line mission that we have."

Celebrate and Protect Our Earth


The earth suspended in space with hands above and below itFrom coast to coast today, transit agencies are observing Earth Day.

In San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) is unveiling a new pedal power program where police use bicycles to patrol. In Albany, New York, anyone wearing green today gets a free ride from the Capital District Transportation Authority.  

Here at METRO, if you've ridden the bus or train today, you've done something positive to go green - a step President Obama suggested in an Earth Day speech.

Click here to view the entire speech and see a list of resources and tips you can use to make your world greener.

Here at METRO, hybrid-electric buses make up almost 21 percent of our fleet. We have 1,254 buses.  Here's our current inventory of hybrids:


  • 40 New Flyers
  • 4 converted New Flyers
  • 122 MCI commuter (coach) hybrids (45-feet)
  • 96 Orions (40 feet)

Diesel-electric buses use less diesel than diesel buses, thus saving fuel costs. Hybrid buses also produce reduced engine wear and emit about 50 percent less nitrous oxide. Hybrids also

There are other ways METRO is going green. As part of our water conservation program, we recycle water used to clean our bus fleet - saving 7,308 gallons of water every time we wash the fleet.

We also routinely recycle all scrap metal, tires, batteries, wood palettes and motor oil. Older buses are retired as "scrap" instead of resold.

To light our facilities, we use green-tipped fluorescent lamps, which contain lower levels of mercury. Earth

Click here to find out what other transit agencies are doing nationwide to help protect our environment.

To find out what the transportation industry is doing with its green efforts, check out Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's blog.

Click here to read how people from around the world are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

What steps have you taken at the office or home - or on the road - to go green?

We'd love to hear from you.