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Name That Station


Artwork at Hermann Park/Zoo stationA few months ago, we gave you the chance to submit a name for one of our new rail stations.

Now, we're inviting you to three open houses where we will unveil the finalists. Which name would be your choice for the light-rail station in your neighborhood?

Come take a look and voice your opinion before the names go up on a platform. In addition to seeing the list of suggested names, you can also view the final artwork that has been selected for the new stations - a celebration of our culture with innovative use of color, space and texture within the urban setting.

Pictured at left is artwork at the Memorial Hermann Hospital/Houston Zoo station on the Red Line.

Here are the open houses:

Southeast Open House

Wednesday, July 6

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Palm Center Conference Room, 5330 Griggs Rd.

North Open House

Monday, July 25

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

North Community Outreach Office, 2613 Fulton

East End Open House

Tuesday, August 2

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

HCC Southeast Campus, Felix Fraga Academic Center, 301 N. Drennan

New Orions Arrive at METRO

New Orion VII buses arrive at METRO 

Three new Orion 40-foot buses have arrived at METRO - part of the 100 new buses we are buying every year to maintain our fleet.

The first one arrived on May 17 - and by fall, all 100 will be here. Made by the same company that makes the Mercedes-Benz, the Daimler Orion VII buses are manufactured in Oriskany, New York, and then driven down to Houston.

The first few buses will be operating out of our Kashmere Bus Operating Facility, said Doug Peck, director of bus maintenance support.

Once the buses arrive, they are inspected to make sure no damage occurred on the road. Then we install radios - for both voice and data - and our fare collection system. 

There are a few slight differences between these newest models and our previous ones. The Propulsion Control System, or the "brains" of the bus, is at the back of the bus, while the HVAC unit with the Energy Storage System, the "heart" of the bus, is the bigger hump on the top of the bus. The older models had these systems reversed.

The newer buses also have identical heights for the rear and front passenger doors.

In a few weeks, some of you will be riding these new buses - so look for them, and enjoy! The first one to roll out is No. 5800.


David Benedict Sayers: September 1970 to June 2011

David SayersThe METRO family laid to rest today one of its own - David Sayers, bus operator, who was tragically killed in an accident last Thursday  while driving his bus back to the garage. He was 40.

In a Muslim service held at Brentwood  Baptist Church, Minister Robert Muhammad of Mosque No. 45 remembered Sayers' brilliant smile.  

As a member of Muhammad's mosque, Sayers would flash his infectious smile, and Muhammad said he would find himself smiling back, no matter what mood he was in.

At the end of the service, which included comments by President & CEO George Greanias, ladies dressed in white passed out peppermints to the congregation, who unwrapped and ate them  as instructed by the minister.

"This is David.  A righteous man who leaves a sweet taste in your mouth.  As this day passes, and as time passes, just like this candy melts in your mouth, we will remember the sweet taste of David, how he helped someone along the way," said Muhammad.

Peggy Nickel Berry, a bus driver and line instructor who has worked at METRO for 30 years, remembers training Sayers when he started at METRO three years ago.

"David had a smile that was unbelievable. It lit up everything. He was just that type of person. When he saw me, he would embrace me and hug me. He was a wonderful guy, a wonderful driver - not because I trained him, because he was already that," said Nickel Berry. "The first day he drove by himself, he ran his schedule (on time). "

Monique Auzenne, executive assistant at Hiram Clarke, the garage where Sayers worked, said he was a joy to work with.

"Sometimes I needed some boxes to be picked up - they were too heavy for me as a woman to pick up.  I would ask Bumper sticker in memory of David Sayershim, and he would just come over and do it. A real gentleman," recalled Auzenne.

Kenneth Edwards, a bus driver from Hiram Clarke, said Sayers was "a real nice guy. Laid back. Real quiet."

Once a co-worker met Sayers and his wife for the first time, and needed a ride to pick up his car. Sayers took the time to give his co-worker a ride, said Edwards.

Sayers celebrated his eighth wedding anniversary on Father's Day. He leaves behind his wife, Valerie Lensey; their daughter Davin; and stepchildren Erami Colbert, Maurice Lensey and Kourtney Thomas.

To the right, you'll see a bumper sticker we placed on about 1,000 buses in Sayer's memory. May he rest in peace.

Free Ticket for Musical "Blues in the Night"

Woman singing - a character from the musical, "Blues in the Night"If you've got a METRO Q® Fare Card, we've got a great deal for you.

Enjoy the Ensemble Theatre's musical production of Blues in the Night and get one free ticket when you buy one and show your Q Card.

Playing through July 24, this Tony-nominated Broadway musical explores the mystique of big bands in the 1930s, starring a neurotic band leader and a carefree clarinetist. The jazz band rides the rails, performing in dives, always hoping for a big break.

The play, by Sheldon Epps, features the intoxicating music of Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox and more.

You can take METRORail to the show  - get off at the Ensemble/HCC station.

So if you're looking for some top-notch entertainment this holiday weekend - and you want to save a few bucks - show your METRO Q® Fare Card for a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Ticket prices range from $25 to $35.


Irritating Drivers in Favor of Walkable Cities

A pedestrian-friendly street in ZurichIn Europe, officials are trying to put the  squeeze on  drivers while making cities friendlier for bikers, pedestrians and public transit.

On-street parking is becoming scarce. Tram operators in Zurich can change traffic lights in their favor, making cars stop. In some areas, the speed limit is so slow, officials have removed crosswalks and crossing signs, giving pedestrians the freedom to walk anywhere. 

This shift in public policy to favor pedestrians and public transit is having good results: cleaner air, less traffic and more walkable cities, according to the New York Times.

"In the United States, there has been much more of a tendency to adapt cities to accommodate driving. Here there has been more movement to make cities more livable for people, to get cities relatively free of cars," Peder Jensen, head of the Energy and Transport Group at the European Environmental Agency, told the NYT.

Jensen said his office building has one parking space for a car - and that's reserved for handicapped parking - while it has 150 spaces for bikes. In contrast, American building codes usually have a required minimum number of parking spaces for cars.

New apartment complexes along the light-rail lines in Denver have reserved their first eight floors for parking, making it "too easy" for residents to get into their cars, says Michael Kodransky, global research manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York.

European cities realize they must curb car use to reach World Health Organization guidelines on air pollution. American cities accept that they won't reach those standards, says Kodransky.

Click here to read the entire NYT piece.

How Will 2010 Census Data Affect METRO Board Composition?

Skyline with freeway in foregroundThe 2010 Census data does not mandate expansion of the METRO board from nine to 11 members.

That's according to an analysis by Richard Murray, professor of political science at the University of Houston, who served nine years as the director of UH's Hobby Center for Public Policy. Murray was commissioned to study 2010 Census data released in March, to determine if changes are necessary in the composition of the authority's board. The results were unveiled by Chairman Gilbert Garcia at yesterday's board meeting.  

At issue is a section in the Texas Transportation Code, which calls for an expansion of METRO's board from 9 to 11 members, if there has been sufficient population growth in METRO's Harris County tax/service area outside of the city of Houston.

If so, the law says that Harris County would appoint one additional member, and the majority of the board would make the other appointment - the chairman of the board.

The report concludes: "The relevant percentage is thus: 1,354,172 (the population of Harris County in METRO's service area, excluding the city of Houston's population) divided by 2,035,179 (the population of Harris County, excluding city of Houston's population) equals: 66.54 percent.

"To reach the 75 percent threshold, the Harris County population that is in METRO's service area but not in the city of Houston would have to be at least 1,526,384 (75 percent of 2,035,179). The 2010 data reflect a shortfall of 172,212 in the relevant population.

After some discussion, the board agreed to seek a ruling by the Attorney General to verify the report's interpretation of the statute.  

Click here to read the full report.

I Love Buses... I Really, Really Love Buses!

Meet Debbie. She's cute, she's a recent MBA grad...and she's just ventured into online dating.

Oh, and she's in the midst of a serious love affair with buses.

<a href=""><img src="/Themes/default/images/video.gif" border = "0" width="410" height="280"></a><br /><a href = "">View Video</a><br />Format: wmv<br />Duration: 2:49

Ride METRO to Soccer Semifinals


Player kicking soccer ball.Tomorrow night, Houston is hosting the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals at Reliant Stadium.

Thousands of fans will attend the games. At 6 p.m., the United States competes against Panama and, at 9 p.m., Honduras and Mexico battle it out. Both games are sold out to a crowd of 65,000.

 METRO wants to make the commute easier.

We're adding extra bus shuttle service in the Texas Medical Center to handle the surge in rail traffic. We'll add buses to the 322 TMC shuttle service during peak traffic hours. Buses will run every nine minutes from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

METRO Ambassadors will greet you on selected platforms, answering any questions and making sure you hop on the right train. Find them at Memorial/Hermann Hospital/ Houston Zoo; Dryden/TMC; TMC Transit Center; and Smith Lands.

Rail users will have the option of using bus shuttles after the game to ease overcrowding on the trains.

Enjoy the game - and ride the rail. We'll be ready for you.

Whacking a Giant Pinata


George Greanias, METRO President & CEO, hits a gas pump pinata for "Dump the Pump" event

A  giant hand-made piñata in the shape of a gas pump dangled from the ceiling of the METRO lobby, as officials - along with customers - took turns smacking it with a baseball bat until candy and METRO Money tumbled from its belly.

The event last Thursday was part of national "Dump the Pump" day, sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to raise awareness and encourage folks to park their cars and take public transit instead.

METRO President & CEO George Greanias hit the piñata, along with Vice Chairman of the Board Allen Watson. After about five minutes of officials, stakeholders, riders and some employees whacking the red, black and white gas pump, the bottom collapsed. Inside were 50 pounds of candy, METRO Money, and METRO souvenirs. Greanias is pictured above, smashing the paper fuel pump.

"Using public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices," said APTA President William Millar, in a statement, adding that public transit also helps the environment and reduces our dependence on oil.

If you drive 20 miles roundtrip and switch to public transit, you will reduce your daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds a day, according to APTA. Put another way, using public transit saves the equivalent of 900,000 automobile fill-ups every day - about 4.2 billion gallons of gas a year.

Check out our Commute Calculator to see how much money you can save. Watch a video of the event here. Runs 1:04.



<a href=""><img src="/Themes/default/images/video.gif" border = "0" width="560" height="280"></a><br /><a href = "">View Video</a><br />Format: wmv<br />Duration: 1:04

The Columns Are Coming...The Columns Are Coming


Construction scenes along the North Line


Today's post was guest written by Margaret O'Brien-Molina, senior media specialist.

If you ride the rail to the end of the line at the University of Houston-Downtown (UH-D), you may be wondering who is leading the southward march of concrete columns down North Main and towards the downtown skyline. 

The answer is short, but for those doing the work - it's anything but simple.  The columns, once capped - will support new light rail and tie into the already existing UH-D station.

The marriage of tracks will allow METRO to introduce Houston's very successful Main Street Red Line service to the north. Make no doubt about it, this North Line project, one of three already underway, is on a fast track and moving ahead full throttle.

"It is gratifying to see these signs of progress, but they come at a price in terms of travel through the area for the short-term.  We are asking for patience with the construction, and METROVision meetingare doing everything we can to expedite the process," said George Greanias, METRO president & CEO, after driving through the zone to a transit planning meeting at the HCC Northline campus.  (In the photo on the right, Greanias discusses the future of transit at a METRO Visions meeting at Northline HCC campus.)

The North Line rail expansion adds 5.3 miles to the Main Street Red Line and will include eight new METRORail stations, one of them aerial, and two bridges that will lift light-rail cars over a zone used by freight rail cars.  

Getting the work done safely and on-schedule is a complex job requiring coordination with the federal government, state, city, railroads, a university, businesses and residents.

 Bruce Krantz, METRO's senior program director, says it's a matter of staying focused. 

 "You work through problems, and ultimately accomplish what you need to accomplish. But it is a give-and-take process, working with stakeholders and seeing that our contractor, Houston Rapid Transit, meets  and delivers on expectations," he said.

The work is changing the look of Houston's sky line from North Main Street, as columns for a new bridge east of the Hernandez Tunnel, crossing over the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) tracks, is being constructed.  As of June 1, shafts had been drilled and poured for 33 of the 45 columns.

Caps are already being placed on the erected columns and the work - complete with crash walls - is expected to be wrapped by the end of August 2012. The structure is impressive but if you just want to get around the construction you can download your own map North Line Bridge Detour.

The existing Main Street Bridge, a little farther south, is being prepared for a major face-lift beginning mid-July. The modifications, under the careful management of METRO North Line project director Frederic Childs,  are the second go-round for this century; the first were necessary so the Red Line could travel to UH-D. 

The construction, in the Naylor Street area, is expected to last about 15 months. The plans for the renovations to the existing Main Street Bridge are being reviewed by the city, the county and the Army Corps of Engineers. The roadway work has already begun, and METRO is finalizing bus routes through the area. Expect to see alerts about detours and changes soon.

All of this work requires an intense level of cooperation and planning with the University of Houston-Downtown campus.  Roadway construction is already underway in the Naylor area in preparation for the closing of North Main from Naylor to UH-D.  The North Line rail expansion project begins at the end of the existing Red Line UH-D station.

The alignment continues north along the west side of the Main Street bridge, passes under IH-10 before going to an aerial structure that passes over the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).  

The path is at-grade south of Hogan and continues north on Main, then turns east onto Boundary. The alignment turns north onto Fulton and continues at-grade under IH-610, and then again goes to aerial structure passing over the Houston Belt &Terminal Railway (HB&T). The alignment then returns to grade and terminates at the Northline Station near Houston Community College (HCC).

The North Line is expected to open for passenger service sometime in mid-2014.




METRO & City Agree to Buy Jointly to Save Money

METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia, Mayor Annise Parker and METRO President & CEO George Greanias signing the agreement.METRO and the city of Houston signed a historic agreement today designed to lower costs for both entities.

The inter-local purchasing agreement allows the city and METRO to buy products or contract for services jointly, standardizing common items and allowing both to benefit from more favorable terms and conditions.

"In these tough economic times, we have to be more creative and efficient in spending taxpayer dollars," said Gilbert Garcia, METRO's chairman.

Contracting opportunities include:

  • Law enforcement accessories (body armor, ammunition, rain gear)
  • Auctioneering services
  • Gasoline and diesel fuel
  • Office supplies
  • Police vehicles
  • Non-revenue vehicles
  • Desktop computers and laptops
  • Maintenance, repair and operational items


"One of METRO's priorities is strategic partnering. This agreement is not only a win for METRO, it's a win for the city and most importantly, it's a win for the taxpayers," said METRO President & CEO George Greanias.

In the picture above, left to right: METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia, Mayor Annise Parker and METRO President & CEO George Greanias sign the first-ever inter-local agreement at City Hall.


A Time-Based Public Transit Map

Map of 1900 Main and all Starbucks within five minutes, using public transitYou and a friend want to meet at a coffee shop in 15 minutes. Both of you are using public transit. Where can you go?

With a new time-based transit map, you'll be able to instantly find all the coffee shops within 15 minutes of the two locations. It's called Mapnificent, an app that shows you areas you can reach with public transit in a given time.

The app, using Google Maps, was developed by a 23-year-old German programmer, Stefan Wehrmeyer, who says on his home page, "I develop awesome web applications, try to change the world somehow and do other fun stuff."

No kidding. This app is pretty cool. 

It's available in major cities in the US and worldwide. I tried to use it this morning at work with Explorer, the only browser on my computer - and was disappointed. It doesn't support Mapnificent. But the following do: Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari.

Even without browser support, you can still explore the website, - and you'll see how easy it is to use. Drag the pin around to your address, or type an address.

Here's another way to use the app. Let's say you've got a new job in Chicago.  Now you're trying to find an apartment within 30 minutes byStefan Wehreyer, developer of Mapnificent app public transit. Place the marker on your workplace, and set the slider to 30 minutes - and the map lights up with all the areas you can reach with public transport in that time frame.

Now you're wondering how far away restaurants or museums are from your apartment. It can show you in different colors the areas within the time limit you set.

Watch the video here.  Read what The Economist says about it.

Above is a map of downtown Houston  - showing all the Starbucks within five minutes of 1900 Main St. using public transit. The red balloons depict the locations. Wehrmeyer, the mastermind behind this app, is pictured on the right.

Help Us Shape Public Transit in Houston

Train at stationTomorrow and Thursday you'll have a chance to meet the top transit experts at the New METRO and share your ideas of what this region needs to become more mobile.

METRO Vision Long Range Plan workshops  will be held Tuesday, June 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Cy-Fair Library, 9191 Barker-Cypress Rd., Cypress; and HCC Northline, 8001 Fulton.

President & CEO George Greanias is scheduled to speak at the Cy-Fair Library, while Kimberly Slaughter, senior vice president of Service Design & Development,  will speak at HCC Northline.

On Thursday, June 9, Greanias will speak at the East Aldine Management District, 5333 Aldine Mall Route Rd.; while Slaughter will speak at Trinity Episcopal Church at 1015 Holman.

These workshops will review issues and gather feedback from the public - and all of that will help create  a blueprint for transit projects into the next quarter century. We'll be discussing improved bus service, bus rapid transit, streetcars, light rail and commuter rail.

The four workshops this week are part of two dozen workshops during  the months of May and June, giving the public a chance to shape our transit future.

If you've got kids, feel free to bring them. We'll have a Kids' Corner in the room where they can color and draw while you keep an eye on them. You can also check out our interactive map, where you can drag and drop a customized route for our consideration.

Drop by and give us your thoughts. You don't have to stay for the entire session.  Your input is important to us.


Service Changes This Sunday

Bus and train iconsIf you take the 4 Beechnut, you'll be happy to know we're extending the route from Beechnut/Dairy Ashford to State Hwy 6, but in order to do that, we are also removing service from Dairy Ashford, Brookglade and Dairy View.

That's just one of 21 routes that will be affected in the service changes that will occur this Sunday, June 5. Our changes include extending routes to customers living in unserved areas, adding trips to ease overcrowding, increasing frequency, adjusting trips to increase reliability and adding weekend service.

Some highlights:

  • 32 Renwick - adding Saturday service.
  • 98 Briargate - extending to Missouri City Park & Ride.
  • 163 Fondren - adding more trips between Hillcroft TC and downtown in the morning to relieve overcrowding.
  • 132 Harwin - increasing frequency to every 45 minutes from every 60 minutes during midday on weekdays.
  • METRORail - adding a northbound trip at 11:20 p.m. and a southbound trip at midnight, Monday through Thursday, to match rider demand.


Let us know what you think about these tweaks. We hope these service changes will serve your needs better.




Long Commutes Lead to Divorce, Neck Pain, Insomnia

Ericka Sandow, social geographer from SwedenFor those of you who commute 45 minutes or longer every day, it could be killing you.

A study recently released by a social geographer at Umea University in Sweden found that couples in which one partner commutes 45 minutes or longer are 40 percent likelier to divorce.

Erika Sandow (pictured to the left) mapped long-distance commuting in Sweden and found that even though income and careers often benefit, the social costs take a toll.

In Sweden, 11 percent of workers take at least 45 minutes to get home from the office.  Sandow's findings also showed that men benefit more than women from long commutes, and women often took part-time jobs or lower-paying jobs to move with their partner, who had the longer commute.

Women who do commute long distances suffer more stress and time pressure than men who commute long distances.

Slate, the online daily magazine, wrote an in-depth piece last week on how one's commute can kill you, citing this Swedish study along with other studies that show commuting makes us feel lonely and contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle, with less time exercising or fixing meals at home.

Brown University researchers discovered that the act of commuting makes us less healthy, not the total hours of the workday. For example, an employee with a 12-hour day and short commute will boast healthier habits than a worker with a 10-hour day and 60-minute commute.

Economists at the University of Zurich quantified the experience of a long commute and concluded that for an extra hour of commuting time, you would need compensation of 40 percent more in salary to make it worthwhile. Traffic on freeway

The average one-way commute from home to work in the U.S. is 23 minutes, according Gallup-Healthways. Overall, 19 percent of American workers devote more than an hour  to commuting every day.

 If you have a long commute, relieve some of the stress by letting METRO do the driving for you. Click here to check our Commute Calculator and watch your savings add up. Learn more about commuter choices here - including our Guaranteed Ride Home.

Getting Prepared for Hurricanes


Car driving in heavy rain

Is your name on the H-list?

This year, we're expecting Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily and Franklin.

Let's hope Gert, Harvey, Irene and Jose don't make it.

Those are the official 2011 Atlantic hurricane names, generated by the National Hurricane Center. So get familiar with these names. Today marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, and forecasters are predicting an above average year for named storms in the Atlantic basin.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts we'll have 12 to 18 named storms. Of those, six to 10 will become hurricanes with winds exceeding 74 mph, and three to six will have winds exceeding 110 mph.

As residents of the Gulf Coast, we know the drill about being prepared. One of the advantages of a hurricane over a tornado is that we have days to decide - evacuate or stay - and days to make last-minute preparations before a hurricane hits land. Mississippi residents had a 20-minute warning signal before a tornado swept through their towns.Satellite image of hurricane

"The tornadoes that devastated the South and the large amount of flooding we've seen this spring should serve as a reminder that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere," said Craig Fugate, administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  "As we move into this hurricane season, it's important to remember that FEMA is just part of an emergency management team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the private sector and most importantly, the public."

So before you make your summer travel plans, go to METRO Responds and follow our tips on being prepared. Find out what items to pack in an emergency kit - and don't forget food and water for your pet.

If you or a loved one will need transportation in an emergency evacuation, be sure to pre-register now by calling the Office of Emergency Management at 211.  Click here to learn more.  

And of course, subscribe to this blog, fan us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest hurricane emergency METRO news and schedules.

METRO Marketing Team Takes Home the Crystal


Montage of soccer ball, Transit Boyz, zoo wrap; and marketing team 

METRO's small but nimble marketing team proved its strength by capturing three prestigious Crystal Awards, one of the most coveted awards in the advertising world.

The American Marketing Association Houston chapter - the largest chapter in the country - honored outstanding companies and agencies last Thursday at a downtown gala, where more than 500 entries competed for honor in 81 categories.

METRO took home a Crystal award for a rap video featuring three employees' kids, The Transit Boyz; another Crystal for a three-dimensional soccer ball decal displayed on our rail platforms to promote ridership for the MLS All-Star game with Manchester United; and a train wrap featuring animals at the Houston Zoo, encouraging patrons to ride the train to the zoo to ease parking issues.  

"It's particularly gratifying because we do a lot of work with a very small staff and a tight budget," said Raequel Roberts, vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "It's an affirmation of our creativity that we're able to achieve recognition like this."

Karl Koch, manager of creative services, called it vindication.

"This actually showed us we are doing a good job, we are doing the right thing. I think the AMA awards mean more to us because they are also based on results," said Koch.

Out-of-town judges reviewed five aspects of each entry: the situation or challenge faced by the entry; the objective; the strategy/tactics; message alignment; and results.

"Results are double-weighted, and that's the most important thing," said Darla Bell, METRO's manager of strategic analysis and a board member and past president of the AMA Houston chapter. "With the Crystals, you've got to prove that what you've done did the job for you. It's more than a beauty contest."

METRO was the only entrant that won three awards, surpassed by two companies that won five and six awards. All the other winning entries won one or two Crystals each. This year marks the third consecutive year of METRO nabbing one more than the year before, starting with one award in 2009; two in 2010 and now three in 2011. Someof our marketing staff: Raequel Roberts, Rob Fritsche, Brian Rogers, Karl Koch, Darla Bell, Sydney Scardino.

If you haven't seen Transit Boyz, check it out below. It was a collaborative effort -  written and produced  in-house, except for the audio recording. The singers, three sons of employees, were paid with Happy Meals and doughnuts.

"It was great to produce an award-winning product with almost zero budget," said Rob Fritsche, senior copywriter/producer.

When Koch designed the animal train wrap, he needed to go out and shoot pictures of an actual giraffe to get the angle of the animal looking out at the viewers.

So the staff headed to the Houston Zoo and shot for an hour, getting the second youngest giraffe - Miles  - in various poses. "He didn't ask for a lot - just lettuce," quipped Koch.

"I'm really proud of the staff, and I'm proud of everyone involved. The project managers did a really good job keeping everything together. JoAnne Lingenfelter, marketing manager, was great with the zoo spot," added Koch.

The photo above, left to right: Raequel Roberts; Rob Fritsche; Brian Rogers, graphic designer; Karl Koch; Darla Bell; and Sydney Scardino, copywriter.

Click below to watch the one-minute rap video with the Transit Boyz.

<a href=" Transit Boyz.wmv"><img src="" border = "0" width="560" height="280"></a><br /><a href = " Transit Boyz.wmv">View Video</a><br />Format: wmv<br />Duration: 1:02

A Special Remembrance for Service Members


Soldier saluting American flag

For many of us, the traditional meaning of Memorial Day has gotten blurred by the luxury of a three-day weekend and all the activities we pack into that.

Originally called Decoration Day, it is a day to remember those who have died in our nation's service.  Since the Iraqi war began in 2003, 4,442 U.S. soldiers have died. In Afghanistan, 1,571 U.S. military deaths have been recorded, according to the Washington Post's latest update of May 26. Click here to see the Faces of the Fallen.

Here are more stats to consider:

World War One:  117,000 U.S. soldiers died.

World War Two:  416,800 died.

Korean War: 33,686 died in battle; 2,830 in non-battle.

Vietnam War: 58,196 died.

This Memorial Day, the city of Houston is encouraging residents to take time to remember our fallen soldiers at a special service on Monday, May 30, at 9:30 a.m. at the Houston Veterans Administration (VA) National Cemetery.

Symbolic highlights will include a flyover by the United States Coast Guard, a performance of Taps, a cannon salute, a riderless horse procession by the Houston Police Mounted Patrol , Amazing Grace performed on bagpipes and a rifle salute.

METRO is helping ease traffic by offering a convenient bus connection from the North Shepherd Park & Ride to the VA cemetery. Catch the 108 Veterans Memorial bus for only $1.25. The route will run every 20 minutes from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If you can't make it, remember to observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day. That's a resolution that passed in December 2000, asking all Americans to pause and informally observe a moment of silence or listen to Taps.

A Not So Random Act of Kindness

Max Bonton has driven a bus at METRO for 28 years. Max Bonton, bus driver who is kind to his passengers

He takes his job seriously, handling the bus, his route and his customers with utter professionalism. Even the way he dresses is impeccable, and until recently, still chose to wear the dashing navy conductor's hat trimmed with a black patent visor and a shield that reads:  "Safe Driver."

Someone noticed Bonton's polite behavior and took the time to report it to METRO. The passer-by wasn't even a passenger on his bus - but Bonton caught her attention when she drove on Chimney Rock at the same time every morning.   

"I have passed the bus at the above location and time almost every day for a year now," wrote Christi Roquemore. "I have been so impressed with the driver or drivers. There is an old Asian lady that rides daily. I have seen the driver help her and once, even get out and help her cross the street. She is now using a walker, and the kindness shown to her warms my heart every day. Please commend this driver (or drivers). This, to me, is the spirit of Houston!"

The 60-year-old Hiram Clarke bus operator downplayed his good deed.

"Customer service is whatever it takes to make your customer happy, within our rules and regulations. Sometimes you have to go on a little bit further than what we as operators normally do," said Bonton. "I try to work on it every day I go out."

The recipient of his daily acts of kindness is an 87-year-old immigrant, who attends English class daily, rain or shine. 

"I step in the door, so when she puts the walker into the door, I'm holding on the walker for her," said Bonton.  "She's so pleasant. She waves to everyone and says, ‘Thank  you.'"

Supervisor Robert Augustine said this driver's action doesn't surprise him.

"Ever since I've known him, he's always been very conscientious about his job. He takes pride in what he does," said Augustine. "You can tell he's a pretty caring person. He takes a lot of satisfaction in what he does. He's got a real good record."

The veteran driver routinely helps new operators, making sure they get off to the right start, added Augustine.

Bonton was recently honored with a certificate for "All Star Bus Operator," in recognition of showing kindness towards his elderly patrons.  We could all learn something from Bonton, who has learned well the lessons of the heart.

 Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. 

                                                                                                             - Seneca

Memorial Day Holiday Schedule

American flag

METRO will operate on a reduced schedule, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday next Monday, May 30.  

Here is the holiday schedule:  

  • Buses and METRORail will run on a Sunday schedule.
  • Park & Ride service will not operate.
  • METROLift's Reservation and Customer Service offices will be closed. All Monday subscription trips will be canceled. To schedule a trip for Monday, May 30, or Tuesday, May 31, call the reservation line at 713-225-6716 on Friday, May 27, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also log on and use MAC-WEB, the METROLift Automated Computer System.
  • The RideStore and Lost & Found will be closed.
  • The Customer Care Center will be available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. by calling METROLine at 713-635-4000 or 713-635-6993 (TDD).