Thursday, July 14, 2016

Poverty … Why?

While leaving the terminal to head home, I was thinking about a very insightful meeting I had. It was with two members of a task force making recommendations to a community about the transportation needs of the under-resourced.  I and another transit patron were asked to share our views on some of their recommendations. One possible idea caught my eye... expanding training on using transit and various alternatives for getting around.

I asked what brought this on, the reason behind why a task force was formed. The response was more than intriguing. A city-wide study was done on community needs. A community, which many see as a solid American middle-income population, actually has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. With about  25% living in the poverty level, it ranked higher than Chicago, Washington D.C.. Also, there are more children in schools from families who qualify for funded school lunch programs, percentage-wise, than other small cities like this one. Transportation and housing were two other higher-ranking needs.

As I watched businesses, government buildings, houses go past me on the ride back to my place, I was wondering how could this be. One possibility came to mind.

In my early life I had a training service for businesses. Based out of this area, I sought to train employees on personal skills to be productive and efficient as people. Those of us in this profession had this view. When you develop your people in your business to be productive, you function more efficiently, you create a higher quality in your product or service. When the quality is higher you can sell it at a greater value, consequently, your profits increase.

As it turned out it was not as successful as I would have liked. My colleagues in the same profession told me this community, generally, is a soft market for training. Employers don't invest in it very much. They see it as an additional overhead cost. My colleagues encouraged me to seek business outside the area, but live here as they did. Those who did seemed to be doing well.

The spin-off factor affects the community though. People with productivity skills not only increase the value of a company's products and/or services, but it spills over into a person's lifestyles. They live more productively, building the whole quality level of the community.

Why would a seemingly nice community suffer from a high poverty level? By not investing in people productivity development in a business, profit margins are lower, and it also keeps people struggling financially which affects the whole community. A triple loss... the business, the employee and the community.

Lesson learned. No train, no gain. We reap what we sow. If we don't sow it, we won't reap it.
Communities with a business mindset of not investing in people, have communities with more under-resourced people. Thus, more live in poverty.
Communities with businesses and organizations who invest in developing their people, have stronger organizations as well as healthier and stronger communities. Thus, more live above their needs.

To me there's a correlation between the level of training and development of people in jobs and the corresponding effect it has on the well-being of the whole community. Employers who disregard developing their people in their workforce, contribute to increasing poverty in the community.
I believe a business should be profitable, but have a keen awareness of the weight of responsibility they carry on their shoulders. They should be keenly aware and responsive to the welfare of community. They should build people who can live more profitably and productively.

...Close to my bus stop. Need to pull the cord and get off here.

(As an additional note, I deliberately didn't mention the community I was referring to, as this, I feel, is relevant to all communities. Here's what a commission on impacting poverty had in its recommendations of which I agree.
"Springfield’s workforce needs greater skills."
" The Springfield region’s relatively low wages produce a situation where our community has a relatively low unemployment rate, but high levels of poverty."
See page 9:  "4. Jobs and Economic Climate.")


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Small acts of kindness add up to a big thing

It's been awhile since writing on this blog. I have had many thoughts, but was sorta waiting for the new bus transfer station to open.

Well, I was at the new transfer station with about a 15 minute wait for my bus. At the time there was only me and a few other guys inside... most were outside as it was a nice spring day.

A gentlemen was looking around seeming somewhat bewildered. The ticket purchase people were on lunch break so he went over to look at the automated ticket purchase machine.

He pressed some of the buttons to see the options for buying a ticket. I asked him what he needed. He said just one ticket. He then asked me if I knew the area. "What are you wanting to do," I asked. He said get to Greyhound and asked "Do you know how to get there?" I said you need to take the northeast bus, line 2, to Walmart and then I think there is a direct line that goes back and forth on Kearney. You would need to hop over to that one from Walmart.

I went to the map rack and pulled a route map for that line which I was not personally acquainted with. It runs three times in the morning and three times in the afternoon I noted. He said getting to Walmart would be good enough, "I can walk the rest of the way," he said. "Is the fare $1.25," he then asked. Well, "yes," I said, "but you would need a dime for a transfer" if you choose to try to catch line 35, the Industrial Express. Getting to Walmart is good enough he responded. Then with a dollar in hand he asked, "Does this machine give change?" No, I don't think it does. I reached in my pocket. I had three quarters, so I gave him one. "Here's a quarter, welcome to Springfield," I added.

I woke up this morning thinking about this. I got more satisfaction in my day for helping this man than anything else that day. He needed some help and I decided to do what I could to help him.

Lesson learned. What is a big thing are the kind small things we do for others when nobody's watching.

On the bus, there's a quiet, meek lady who does kind things for people all the time. I have noticed many bus drivers do small nice things for their passengers. It's everyone doing this on a regular basis, without fanfare, that makes it a great world to live in

In a way, I find greater satisfaction to help someone in a small way. To be unknown in what I do. To live each day with this in mind, means more to me than having my name on a big building. I really like the lifestyle of being unknown, but doing nice things when I get a chance.

Well, that day I was boarding line 2, too. I walked by this man as I was getting to a seat. He acknowledged me in a way that indicated he appreciated what I did. 

I believe being nice, and doing kind things, when no one else will know, is recorded in a book in Heaven. My one hesitation for sharing this is since telling this, I may have taken away my reward. As the Scriptures say we are blessed when we give in secret. I didn't keep it a secret... just told you.  
Maybe though by sharing some small acts of kindness we may encourage others that it's a good thing to do nice things when no one's looking, or we think no one's looking. It encourages others to do the same.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Finding the Unsung Heroes

In the summer of 2012 I began my conversion of being a regular bus rider. In the fall of that year, new leadership took over the reins of transit. Carol Cruise, who worked for Transit about all her life, was retiring as Director that fall.

From 2012 to now Transit has had four different directors. It seemed whatever could happen, happened and a new leader came to the helm. What I wondered was how, with all these leadership changes in this period of time, could they have kept the bus system running smoothly. It seemed, from the outside as a rider, you never would have known this revolving door of leadership changes was taking place. Everything kept going on without any major hitches. There were some route changes early on but the ridership seemed to adjust to them reasonably quickly.

I thought there had to be an unsung hero who kept it all together. So I began looking around and talking to those there during that time.  I sent inquiry emails to Steven Stacye and Diane Gallion. Steven was interim director for a while between directors. As operations director, he oversaw the daily bus operations. Diane Gallion was constantly on the funding hunt for new and better buses, or buses they could get within their budget.
Steven Stacye and Diane Gallion both said the credit goes to the team. Not one person could be credited for keeping things going in stride. It was a team effort. The bus supervisors of Dale, David, Melissa solved the daily problems buses in route may have faced. Michelle upfront, Kathy and Susie maintained the details of the operation.
Both Steve and Diane emphasized to me, you really can't single out one person. They all hung together, worked together, through change after change in the front office director's chair. As a unit, they were unsung heroes. Without much fanfare they did their jobs.

Before Carol Cruise retired, she and her boss Kathy Fritts were over the Transit system. Carol's goal was to build a team that could run transit, knowing what to do, even without direct input from the director. Her desire was to cultivate a team that could run on its own.
When absent, they all could make good decisions on how to handle what came up. She and Kathy were unsung heroes.

The bus drivers all knew their jobs well, and could perform day-in and
day-out, knowing what do... self-directed leaders. They too held together and got the job done. Many give credit to having a quality group of bus supervisors to confer with and seek assistance when needed.

With Christopher Jones, and Kelly Turner now in the Transit driver's seats, as Associate General Manager over Transit and Transit Director, respectively, this seasoned team helped pave the way so Kelly and Chris could give due attention to some new advances coming up.

A great team... who shy away from being singled out and being the one in the spotlight, preferring to be recognized as a team. So the unsung heroes were how everyone at every position, did their job and worked with each other.

Lesson I learned.
Legendary people build others coming along to be the next legend to follow. When focusing on others' success and enabling each other, the success of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The result is a tremendously great company.

During these years of upfront changes, I couldn't find "that person" who was the unsung hero. But they, corporately, uniting as one, were the true heroes.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Day on the bus

It was a very sunny, bright cheery Christmas Day. My schedule happened to be open that day, so I decided to ride the buses around to see what goes on with those who ride the bus on Christmas Day. My presupposed thought was there would be a lot of lonely, distraught people on the bus this day. After taking several of the runs it seemed to be otherwise. The ride on the bus got them to where there wanted to go. It was a welcoming experience for many.

The bus drivers were of good cheer. Twice I saw a driver do a little extra favor for their rider. One young lady had her hands full with her child. So the driver stopped, before the stop, to let her and the child off closer to where they lived. On another bus a couple started to get off too early. The driver told them to wait and got closer to their desired destination, which was between stops. According to the rules we are not to do this, the driver said. "But... it's Christmas, have a Merry Christmas," the driver told them as they stepped off. The spirit of Christmas was in the drivers' hearts... doing the small, exceptional thing to make life one step easier for those on their bus.

On the first bus I rode, someone boarded I knew. She was on her way to her sister's for Christmas that afternoon. Already had Christmas that morning with her kids. Another stepped off at the Islamic Center, most likely finding some of his faith on this day.  At the transfer station it was the normal scurrying from one bus to another. I boarded another bus as well.

The driver stopped to pick up a man waving at him close to the stop. Misjudging the Holiday times, the rider said he almost missed the bus. I heard him tell the driver he decided to take a bus ride. I asked him if he had plans for Christmas. He said he lived alone here, His family was in a small town out of the area. So he thought he would ride around some. He talked about the Christmas dinner he just had at the local Presbyterian Church. They have been doing it every year for 32 years, he inserted. Then as we looped around and came back, two ladies boarded who just came from the same church..."boy, that was good" they said as they got on. I didn't know there was a place for a special Christmas dinner for those not having a place to go.

A sad scene came up as I was leaving the transfer station on another bus. I saw sitting alone up the street to my left a lady with two rolled-up bed rolls, one on either side of her. Sitting on the sidewalk, the look of loneliness, no place to go was on her face. It was one of those scenes if you could have taken a snap shot of it, it explicitly depicted a striking scene of despair in someone's life. That stuck in my mind, even now I see it.

Then as we crossed Chestnut, a four lane street, there was a man on a  wheelchair strolling down the sidewalk. His motorized wheelchair was cruising along. He seemed to be enjoying the nice weather, and I guess he decided to go out for a wheelchair stroll. I see him on the bus frequently. But on this sunny Christmas day he was evidently getting out to enjoy the day. Some have less than others, but make the most of what they have.

On the last bus I took, which was its last run of the day, a chipper lady got on and sat across the aisle from me. She seemed in good spirits, and it was my hunch she may have freely indulged in the "spirits" before she got on. She looked at me and said “Merry Christmas.” I nodded. As she sat there looking around, she began singing “Joy to the World.” ... nothing like a personal serenade on Christmas day. She wobbled off the bus; her weaving walk had a joyful feel to her step. ...seemingly enjoying who she was where she was.

Christmas Day on the bus. The bus for most gave them a way to get where they were wanting to go for the Christmas they had in mind. It was a place where the driver was a person who cared about them while on the bus. It was a place where some could fulfill the joy of the ride for what they wanted to do next. It was also a place where I had a view of one, who seemed alone, looked sad. I wondered if forgotten.

What I learned on the bus on Christmas day.
Life is not so much of what we have, but what we do with what we have, and making the most of being with those we are around.

The ride on Christmas Day dispelled a preconceived notion of all the lonely people that would be on the bus. It showed me that most set out to make the most of it, where they are, with what they have. The bus was an accommodating service to help them make it the "most wonderful time of the year" (as we hear sung around Christmas), the most wonderful day they could.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why not a shuttle downtown

When getting on Line 22 the other day, I saw a survey about bus service... 2015 Transit Passenger Survey.

It had questions about Transit services asking the patrons of the bus service their preferences.  The last question was open-ended for other comments or suggestions.

I have a suggestion: why not add a shuttle downtown.

When the new transfer station is in place, the routes east, north, and south may have a longer distance to travel, making it harder to make it back to the transfer station on time. The new location is moving a few blocks west from where it currently is downtown. The thought kept going through my mind... would this be a timely time for a shuttle-type service downtown.

What if buses took the quickest route to the transfer station when entering downtown, then add a shuttle to blanket service downtown.  A shuttle could fill the gap, and provide a way for getting around easier when downtown. It could be good for the bus passengers, and good as an attraction to going downtown.

The new transfer station will be on Main at Olive. A shuttle could be running continuously from the transfer station around the downtown area and back. For example, it could run east on Olive, south on Jefferson, west on McDaniel, north on Campbell and back on College to the transfer location. (Well, this is the picture I see... )

Passengers could get to their destination downtown easier coming in from all directions.
Downtown patrons could scoot around downtown area without getting in cars and finding another parking spot.

Why not make it fun, informative and a downtown attraction.
(I took some time for a little brainstorming here.)
--It could be made fun (like the Branson train ride) with info about the Transit System, helping people find their way. (Theater majors from the local colleges could be enlisted to be a bus host.)
--Businesses could have special offers for their eating places, movies, entertainment, etc. on the bus.
--It could create an intriguing, by-design, image for downtown.
--It could get downtown more promotion and draw, with business, downtown association, transit working together for uniqueness, transportation efficiency, and increase the people flow to downtown.
--and the passengers would have added value to their service for their downtown destination.
The more I thought about it the novelty and bustling benefits of it kept coming to mind.

The bus system could be made attractive by making it fun, while promoting downtown, and increasing service for bus patrons with a destination of downtown.

Lessons learned. Make the core strong and build out from there.  Any situation, looked at in a life-enriching way, can have benefits that outweigh limitations. Refueling resources are the refreshment of refreshing ideas.

Well, one of my answers to the last question of the survey.

Another idea is I liked the way the routes overlapped more prior to the 2013 changes. It provided more flexibility in options to get around.

The survey is on the CU Transit website. If you have preferences, now is the time to speak up. The new transfer station completion provides a window of opportunity to get the services you may have always wanted, but never really said out loud.

Here's the link to it on the website. From what I understand it will be up for a few weeks, and then information compiled.

(Or if you have any ideas, tell me and I will pass them along:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Motion Sickness plagues the under-noticed major minority

For about 4 seasons on the bus, I never had a problem with motion sickness. Recently though, on a new, longer, two-door bus it occurred. Wondered why I had a headache and was dizzy when I got off? Then on the same bus a week later it happened again... this time the full thing... bad headache and nausea... feeling dizzy, and the feeling you have to throw up all the time. A non-ceasing horrible feeling.
It hung on several days.

Was puzzled on why it jumped back in my life now. On planes, boats, reading while riding in a car, yes, I would get some motion sickness. All my life. When it reoccurs, after not experiencing it for a while, it seems to stay on longer, come back easier. This last episode lasted longer than most.

So I told the Transit Director about it and he was very gracious to look into it. He checked out everything on the new bus to see what might have caused it. (I hadn't had any real problem in these four years on all the other buses.) He couldn't find anything different. He really did go the extra bus mile to find out if there was something in the dynamics of the bus causing it. Well, have to give him 5 stars for his concerted effort.

Then, I wondered why I have to be the one with motion sickness. I liked the new bus, others seemed to like it, but my physiological person was having a tough time with it. 

I did some research.  I found out I was not the only one in the world. It is projected about 33% of the population are motion sickness prone. Half of those pretty severe, serious, or frequent. Being plagued by it all my life, I thought I was one of the few less fortunate. Then the more I looked into it, the more I heard other stories, had friends who knew others, even ran across a bus driver with motion sickness challenges.

It became evident many have this, most don't tell and there is not much being done to help them.

A person develops an avoidance of what brings them motion sickness, even a dread of facing what has caused it before. It's a psychological avoidance, and probably why many with motion sickness tendencies may avoid mass transportation systems.

In my search I found some good articles about handling motion sickness.  One suggested when boarding a bus, let the bus driver know you have motion sickness issues.
So I did.

(Two parts below: Driver attitude, awareness, a few recommendations.)

Here's what I got from four drivers. One was quite considerately thoughtful. She had to make a 180 degree turn on the bus when it goes to Walmart and turns to head back inbound from outbound. I told her I had motion sickness problems and asked her if she would take the turn slow. She did. She was just fantastic as it gave my inner ear and eye time to line up. (Motion sickness is caused when the inner ear and vision have conflicting information on movement. When you see where you are going it helps.) Kathy, Sunday's 22, also had a customer-responsive suggestion, and said, why don't the drivers let you off across from the bus stop before they make the turn. I got to give her 5 stars for creating a solution and being super considerate.

I told the driver on the bus, from which I got sick before, that I had motion sickness problems with this bus and could he drive steady. His response was," I will drive the bus like I always drive. I got to stay on time." (Had some thoughts on this answer I won’t say.) Decided to give him a half of one star. No awareness.

Got on another bus. Told him. The driver, Wes, has a happy, jovial disposition. Just being around him makes me feel good. "A merry heart does good like a medicine. It will heal you" the proverbial wise man said. Wes gets 5 stars. (I actually started feeling better while on his bus, shortly after a previous ride on the bus nagging at my nemesis.)

When I boarded Dottie's bus I told her. She said she also had motion sickness issues. Of course driving is what she does. (Of all I know with motion sickness risks, including myself, they prefer to drive a car, versus ride. As a driver you avert motion sickness' potential effect on you.)

We got to talking about remedies. Dottie said for her it helps to stand as she rides the bus. There's motion sickness over-the-counter medicine, natural oils you can put on your outer skin area behind the ear lobe. I found a product called Motioneaze... all natural botanical oils. It blocks the motion sickness message of the inner ear to the brain. (Motioneaze's active ingredients are Lavender, Peppermint, Frankincense, Chamomile, Myrrh, Ylang-Ylang and Birch.)
Then there is acupressure on the underside of the wrist. You can get bands to wear for this. One person I know said it works for her.

Dottie was a verbal encyclopedia on motion sickness with above average personal knowledge, and a true compassion to those with motion sickness. (She obviously gets 5 stars plus.)

Which leads me to another thought. People who have it are the best consulting resource a transportation company can have... to educate drivers on how to drive with less disruption to motion sickness prone people, and help the organization find better ways to help those with motion sickness problems. We help the handicapped, visually impaired, but the motion sickness people are a seemingly under-noticed, disadvantaged group. We don't know why we get sick. We don't like to get sick and wish we weren't. Knowledge and understanding of us sure would be a benefit to us.

To wrap this up, I would recommend three things.
1. Motion sickness people have helps in the world to help them manage motion sickness(as mentioned above). Other things I learned when riding a bus is it is better to sit facing forward(avoid the side way seats) looking forward and in the direction the bus is going. Keep your eyes glued on watching where the bus is moving, turning, stopping. Watch what the bus driver is doing and anticipate his/her actions in your brain. Sit where cool air hits your face, if possible. Fresh air helps too. Air odors can also cause motion sickness symptoms... especially those fume type smells. In some cases though, the body makes adjustments after a while. On cruises they find those with less severe conditions may adjust after a few days.
2. Bus systems train their drivers on driving techniques that create less hardship on motion sickness prone passengers. And have policies and procedures that aid the motion sickness person. Involve those on your staff who have motion sickness challenges to come up with solutions that can help motion sickness prone people. Those who have it know what helps and what doesn't.
3. Bus manufacturers study motion sickness and engineer buses that are less likely to agitate motion sickness conditions. Motion, air circulation, odor, visibility of motion all affect this and I am sure studies reveal even more.
Maybe produce courtesy guidebooks, training for drivers on driving techniques that help lessen motion sickness. (i.e., "How to drive a bus in a way it doesn't make people sick.")

In my search I could not find an organization that represents the condition of motion sickness people... as there are for the handicapped, visually impaired, etc. Considering a third of our population suffers from motion sickness, an advocacy and educational voice is of merit. An organization called 23andMe, Inc. is known for doing one of the most extensive studies on motion sickness. One out of three experience it, they reported. "70 % risk of motion sickness is due to genetics," they said their study showed.  

Motion sickness people seem to be an under-noticed major minority. The numbers suggest close to 100 million people in the United States have bouts with motion sickness... that's a bunch of people.

Lesson I learned.... If what you do doesn't serve the needs of those you serve, the rest of what you do doesn't matter.

The moral of the story. When people cooperate... such as those with motion sickness with bus transit authorities including bus manufacturers, along with research groups... this would work to a positive, productive solution. When people cooperate to work together to solve a problem, a solution can be gained that will be of mutual benefit.

A merry heart does work good like a medicine.

Happy, positive, solution-driven people working together can improve the quality of the rider's experience and the service of the transit system.

(Oh my... just saw on my route both buses who are my nemesis buses, new, two-door buses. Not looking like a fun bus day. As I said above, we dread to face it. Trying to be, as I said, to be happy and positive. Hard sometimes. What I said above I feel is fair, balanced  and constructive. So the world can be a better place.)


Monday, January 26, 2015

Transit, the entrepreneur, the rider, the creative … a remarkable ride

Below I am posting again, “A community of One and the Entrepreneur” (March 14, 2014). I feel it is an idea worth revisiting. Several small task forces of transit, bus riders, entrepreneurs, community marketers (the creatives), merging ideas could produce transit trendsetting results… that’s fun, well-funded and superbly functional.

The Ozarks is known as a one-of-a-kind attraction. Why not make transit a one-of-a-kind transit system. That stands out, that others talk about, that’s remarkable.

Exceptional things, get exceptional attention, that attracts exceptional funding.

(Posted March 14, 2014, Transit Transformed … Community of One and the Entrepreneur.)

Grabbed 2 downtown, then hopped on 5 to the Hammons Tower. Took care of some business quickly and came out to catch the other 5 coming back to downtown. While sitting there on the bus bench enjoying the beautiful spring-like day, the thoughts of how people get money to do things was going through my mind. I wondered how many business dollars are generated alone through this big, tall, black business tower behind me.

Dollars are harder to get these days and Transit is fighting for the available dollars too. All across the country I hear it is getting more competitive to get the same Federal, State money being allocated to public transit(with less to go around). Having access to public transportation is viewed by many as equal to our right to free speech in America. But how can it be funded?

While sitting there my mind went back to a conversation I had many years ago with one of the founders of Evangel University, Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft. He was asked to go to a college in the East to help them pay off a million dollar debt. This was probably 30-40 years ago. He took a year’s salary of one dollar. And in one year had them well on the way to having the debt paid off. I asked him how he did it. He said he got everyone working together as one team. He asked the faculty to eat lunch with the students, included the faculty to interact with the administration to solve problems, enlisted student insights, got outside suppliers involved, and created an atmosphere, and function, of one unit all working toward the same goal.

Then I began creating parallels. What if that could be done in a city and everyone worked as a community of one for providing public transit?
What if the bus drivers with some business experience met to come up with new ideas of securing, or building revenue streams to fund the bus service. The Transit leadership/staff interact with this drivers’ think-tank group and kick around possibilities.

Get the community involved in another think-tank, include bus passengers and non-bus passengers. Stir that in the mix.

Add three of the areas accomplished entrepreneurs to be a think-tank group to come up with innovations for funding public transportation that could be a perpetual, self-generating system for new revenues, but still have low fares for the bus passenger. Combine the minds of entrepreneurs accustomed to working with 9-figure budgets to vision new ways to do things… ways relevant to our culture today and where it is going.
(Maybe they would work for a dollar a year each to see if they could come up with some funding innovations… innovations that would constantly generate revenue, make transportation available to all, and produce a fun, functional, nationally-noticed, eye-catching transit system.)

Use the entrepreneurs as the point men (persons... there are great women entrepreneurs as well) to bring all the concepts together. Homogenize all factors to one unit of thought in that the community, transit services became as one in mind, spirit, heart.

Napoleon Hill, in researching entrepreneurs in the early 1900’s, said they found great success when all people involved in a situation worked in harmony, as one mind, with each other. Joint minds birthed a master-mind which produced outstanding invention to solve problems.
Jesus said we “will do greater things”… He was referring to His Disciples that as a unit they would surpass His accomplishments (as One in Spirit).

As One we can believe for and expect Greater things.

I boarded 5 heading downtown. On the way, I saw all the construction going on transforming some of the old office buildings into a new concept of downtown. We may be entering a season of greatness for all.