CTA Encourages Riders to Thank Their Bus and Rail Operators on Transit Driver Appreciation Day 2020

March 13, 2020

"Get on board” with CTA on March 18 to celebrate the 11,000 CTA bus and train operators and other personnel who work hard to keep Chicago moving each day by using #TDAD

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) hopes a “thank you” from its customers will be inbound today for bus and rail operators, as the nation’s second-largest transit system celebrates Transit Driver Appreciation Day 2020 #TDAD. Transit companies across the country designate every March 18 as the day for customers to express their gratitude to bus operators, rail operators and other transportation personnel. 

No matter the challenge—weather, traffic or time of day—CTA bus and train operators strive to provide safe, reliable and affordable transit service for 1.5 million customers across the City of Chicago and 35 surrounding suburbs each weekday . These dedicated, hard-working employees care about their customers and take their jobs seriously. Today is an opportunity for our customers to thank them.

“For more than 70 years, the CTA has been the lifeblood of Chicago, moving our city forward and getting riders to work, school and other activities each day,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “I ask our customers to join me in offering a well-deserved ‘thank you’ to those operators serving on the front lines of the CTA.”

On March 18, CTA will feature some of our many outstanding bus and rail operators on the agency’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels. Among the rail employees being profiled is operator Alex Roemer, who has not only won skills competitions among other rail operators, he’s had the distinction of driving Santa around the city aboard the CTA Holiday Train.

We’re also highlighting, among others, CTA graphic designer Joe Nelson. He’s known worldwide for his building murals, when he’s not making posters, maps and other materials for CTA.

During Transit Driver Appreciation Day, CTA suggests several ways customers can “thank” their operator:

  • Provide an in-person greeting
  • Giving them a “shout-out” via social media, using the hashtag #TDAD (Transit Driver Appreciation Day) on their social media accounts
  • Offering praise to particular employees by filling out an online contact form or by calling CTA Customer Service at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282).

For more information about Transit Driver Appreciation Day 2020, visit our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter (@CTA) or Instagram.
On this particular day of recognition, meet a few of CTA’s most outstanding bus and rail operators, customer service representative, and vitally important support staff:

BUS OPERATORS:

John Grizzard – 103rd Street Garage

John_Grizzard_1On this Transit Driver Appreciation Day, we’d like you to get to know some of our employees and how they came to CTA. For example, most of us choose our professions. But, sometimes, the profession chooses us. That’s precisely what happened to John Grizzard, one of CTA’s top bus operators.

“I was between jobs when I applied some 32 years ago,” recalls bus operator John Grizzard. “God blessed me when I got the call in late August of 1987. “My first child was due in September, so everything fell into place for me.”

More than 30 years later, John is still grateful for his job. He especially loves the opportunity to learn different parts of the city and develop relationships with his riders.

“I love it when people say, ‘I recognize you,’ and then they realize I’m their bus operator.  The best one was when I was in a mall and I heard a child say, ’Mom, Mom, that’s my bus driver!’”

When we say John is one of the city’s best bus operators, we’re not exaggerating. He’s a two-time “CTA Roadeo Champion,” the winner of an annual driving and skills competition among our elite operators.

John remains at the top of his profession, but he’s already mentoring the next generation of operators. His advice to them is simple: “Stay positive, be friendly and don’t worry about things you cannot control.”

That’s wisdom that helps everyone navigate the road to success and happiness.

Theo Jackson – 103rd Street Garage

Theo_Jackson_1On this Transit Driver Appreciation Day #TDAD, we’d like to introduce you to a CTA employee who loves transportation. In fact, talented bus operator Theo Jackson has given 25-plus years of his life to the industry. But, when it came time to retire, Theo pulled back on the throttle and took his career full-speed in a new direction, one that landed him at the CTA!

Before getting riders to their destinations aboard his bus, Theo catered to flight passengers and pilots by overseeing the food, beverage and catering needs of American Airlines. Theo soared to the heights of acting General Manager. After that, many other executives might take a seat and kick back, but not Theo. Instead, he decided to get behind the wheel of a CTA bus. It was an excellent fit for his personality.

“I like that I’m my own boss when operating my bus,” says Theo. “I set the tone when I’m on my routes, and when I’m meeting people from all walks of life.”

That love of people is evident even in Theo’s spare time. He loves to travel, ride his motorcycle and mentor youth. But his interests, like a winding road, always seem to lead him back to CTA.

“We’re a family. When you are riding my bus, I truly care and CTA cares as well. They train operators to get you to your destination safely, on time - as much as possible – and to be courteous and professional.”

Theo continues to excel at his job and he’s got the honors to prove it. He twice competed in the CTA Bus Roadeo competition among the best operators in the agency. On his third attempt, he became a finalist and finished in the top five out of all bus operators from CTA’s seven garages.

It’s no wonder Theo is excited about continuing his transportation career here at CTA. And so are we!

Christine Orr – Kedzie Garage

Christine_Orr_2CTA Bus Operator Christine Orr loves to go for a ride, whether it’s with passengers or by herself. On this Transit Driver (Employee) Appreciation Day #TDAD, we want to show our gratitude for outstanding operators like Christine by telling you more about her.

Christine loves to drive a bus because it allows her to get people to their destinations, safely and promptly. To her, a bus ride is an opportunity to explore the city she loves.

“To see different areas and the beauty of each neighborhood, and the city, those are a plus for me,” says Christine.

But don’t let Christine’s warm greeting, friendly smile and positive attitude fool you. Behind that pleasant demeanor to co-workers and customers is a super-competitive woman. In high school, she decided to become a bus operator. Now that she’s scratched that off her “to do” list, Christine’s got a new goal. She wants to be the best operator in town, and she’s already well on her way.

Each year, CTA holds a driving skills competition among its best bus operators. In only her second competition, Christine was a finalist. Her 4th place finish was pretty impressive, especially because of the challenge she faced.

“I was the first operator to start the competition and my nerves were in high gear having to go first,” says Christine. “I was very happy with that 4th place finish, and especially being the only woman to finish in the top 5 out of 35 bus operator participants. I will keep trying for the grand prize, which is to win the national competition.”

When she’s not operating a bus, Christine is still on the road… on her motorcycle. “Riding clears my mind, relieves stress and gives me a sense of freedom.” 

But, whether she’s on four wheels or just two, Christine lives her life by a simple motto: “Remember, kindness and a smile will make someone’s day.”

RAIL OPERATORS:

Alex Roemer – Rosemont Rail Yard

Alex_Roemer_1In the spirit of “Transit Driver Appreciation Day” (#TDAD), we’d like to introduce you to Alex Roemer. More than just a CTA Rail Operator, Alex considers himself an official Chicago ambassador.

“The best thing about my job is being able to help people,” says Roemer.  “On the Blue Line, we have visitors from all over the world coming into O’Hare Airport. We are on the frontlines, welcoming them to our great city and starting their time here on a positive note.”

The professionalism of Chicago train operators really made an impression with young Alex, especially when he caught the train with his mother at the Paulina station and rode downtown.

“It wasn’t just a skill, but almost an art form to me. I never thought I would become an operator, but when the opportunity presented itself, I pursued it enthusiastically!”

Alex’s hard work and ambition have paid off in big ways. He’s the 2019 winner of our CTA Transit Jamboree skills competition among our best rail operators. He also won the Jamboree competition among Towermen in 2018. They’re the ones who help navigate our different train lines around the Loop.

There is one thing Alex has done that very few operators ever get the opportunity to do: He’s driven Santa around the city as the operator of the CTA Holiday Train.

“As I’m coming into the stations and see everyone’s face light up with pure excitement and happiness, that’s a feeling words can’t explain,” recalls Alex fondly. “It’s a highlight not only of my career, but my life! I absolutely love it.”

The next time you see Alex Roemer on the Blue Line or the Holiday Train, make sure to thank him for trying to make your ride enjoyable and memorable.

Matthew Thomas – Forest Park Terminal

Matthew_Thomas_1Working at the top of your game for more than 16 years is impressive in any profession, especially when you’re driving a train or a bus. So, on this “Transit Driver Appreciation Day” (#TDAD), we’d like you to get to know CTA Rail Operator Matthew Thomas.

Hard work, dedication and a desire to serve the public do not only describe Matthew; they are traits that run in his family with the same dependability Matthew operates his trains!

“I became a rail operator off the guidance of my stepfather, who worked for CTA and has since retired from the company,” says Matthew. 

Matthew continues to make his family proud. He’s a past winner of the CTA Jamboree Rail Rodeo skills competition among our best train operators. When he’s not demonstrating his expertise at the controls of his railcar, he’s passing along knowledge to the next generation of operators.

“What I like most about my job is training new hires and watching the transformation they go through,” explains Matthew. “They do not know how to operate a railcar when they begin, but by the time they complete training, they are professional rail operators.” 

In his 16 years working for CTA, Matthew has developed some fond memories, including when he met the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Mayor and other dignitaries.

When he’s not riding the rails, Matthew loves working out and visiting other parts of the world, far beyond the CTA routes he travels. But, his love for the job, and getting riders safely to their destinations, always bring Matthew back to CTA.

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES:

Martavia West – Rosemont Station

Martavia_West_2A smile and a friendly morning greeting can really start your day off right. It’s that positive, sunny attitude that makes CTA Customer Service Representative Martavia West popular with customers and an award-winning employee!

Martavia says she wanted to work in customer service at a CTA station because she likes meeting and talking with people. Her warmth and friendly nature can put anyone in a good mood.

“What I like best about my job is the impact that I have on people’s lives daily,” says Martavia. “For example, when I come back from a vacation, my customers ask me, ‘where have you been, it wasn’t the same without your smiling face.’ That makes me feel good.”

This seven-year CTA employee is so special; one of her biggest fans is Santa Claus! When the big man comes to town to ride the rails around Chicago, Santa personally requests Martavia to work on the CTA Holiday Train.

So, it’ll come as no surprise that Martavia is the 2019 winner of CTA’s Rail Rodeo Jamboree competition to find the best customer service representatives.

“I participated before, but did not place in the top five,” explains Martavia. “To try it again, and this time, win first place, was amazing.”

So, if your day has gotten off to a stressful start, try to find CTA’s Martavia West. Her smile will help you forget your troubles!

RAIL MAINTENANCE:

Malgorzata “Gosia” Kruszecka – Rosemont Rail Yard

Malgorzata_-_Gosia_-__Kruszecka_1Today is “Transit Driver Appreciation Day” (#TDAD). But in addition to rail and bus operators, many people work behind the scenes at CTA to make sure your trains and buses keep running through any weather or condition they encounter. So, we’d like to offer our thanks and appreciation to rail mechanics like Malgorzata “Gosia” Kruszecka, who is one of our best!

To say that trains run through Gosia’s blood would be an understatement. Some of her family members used to or currently work in the railroad industry, on the construction or transportation side. So, she had an interest in the field from a young age.

“I tested out different jobs, but eventually, I ended up as a rail mechanic,” says Gosia. “And I liked it!”

This seven-year veteran is one of the best in her field. This past fall, Gosia won our CTA Jamboree competition among rail maintenance employees who are at the top of their game. She not only works to keep her skills fresh, but also has a simple way to keep her mind sharp and focused.

“I love to read books. I can do this in any form: paper, e-book reader or listening to audiobooks while I drive.”

The key to success for Gosia and her team at the rail shop in Rosemont is simple: they take their jobs seriously, even if they don’t get a lot of the front-line visibility of our rail operators.

“A mechanic’s performance is not visible to the customers until something is happening and the train is stuck,” explains Gosia. “That is why the quality of your work needs to be at the highest level. We understand that a rider’s safety and time are in our hands.”

SUPPORT STAFF/GRAPHIC DESIGN:

Joe Nelson – CTA Corporate Headquarters

Joe_Nelson_2You’d be drawing an inaccurate conclusion if you paint every CTA employee as a “train geek.” We have many talented, creative people who love to work here and who do not drive a train or a bus! On this “Transit Driver (and Employee) Appreciation Day 2020” (#TDAD), we’d like to introduce you to graphic designer Joe Nelson.

For the past 11 years, Joe has used his graphics skills in our customer information department to create internal and public-facing materials for the CTA, such as maps, books, brochures, announcements, advertisements, bus and train wraps, and even décor designs for the CTA Holiday Train and Holiday Bus.

“I’ve always been an artist and graphic design spoke directly to my love for puzzles and building,” says Joe. “It's a rewarding craft and I feel like I get to tell different stories and try to make them cool!”

But outside CTA, Joe is known as “Cujo,” an internationally recognized mural artist extraordinaire! Joe’s creations span the globe, from Chicagoland to destination spots that CTA trains and buses do not yet reach… such as Italy, Ireland and Kenya.

“I love to paint, maybe more than I like to design! The freedom and challenge of painting big walls outdoors offers a good contrast to working in an office on a computer.”

Despite his fame, Joe has no designs on leaving CTA anytime soon. He loves his co-workers and being a part of successful projects. And he’s not shy about sharing that enthusiasm.

“The CTA is seriously one of the best transit systems in the world. Use it, explore Chicago, there is so much to see! “

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