Public transportation systems throughout North America celebrated the holiday season with decorated buses, free fares, and charitable giving events. Here are a few examples.
Employees of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) collected 9,849 pounds of canned and nonperishable food, along with $9,360, for the Union Gospel Mission of Dallas during their annual “Friendly Food Fight” among agency departments, divisions, and consultants. DART employees look on as President/Executive Director Gary Thomas, right, presents the donations to Bill Thompson, executive director of the mission.
The 15th annual food-drive competition to help provide for the homeless men and women of north Texas collected 4.92 tons of goods during the first half of December.
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The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) helped make the season bright for 4,000 area children during its Annual Holiday Shop on Dec. 21 and 22. Each year, MARTA works with the Federation of Charities and United Way to invite area families to select from thousands of holiday gifts such as toys, bicycles, and gift certificates for essential items.
Giving back to the community is a MARTA tradition and, year after year, employees contribute generously to ensure that even more children are able to enjoy the holidays. The MARTA Employees’ Charity Club, which established the Holiday Shop 15 years ago, coordinates the agency’s community outreach efforts. In 2011, MARTA employees pledged $675,000 to support more than 400 charities.
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The Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in State College, PA, decorated a tree with information about the CATACOMMUTE program—ridesharing and vanpools—as part of the Festival of Trees sponsored by the Centre County United Way. Before Christmas, CATA collected 431 pounds of non-perishable food during its one-day Food for Fare event in partnership with the State College Area Food Bank and accepted Toys for Tots donations at both of the system’s offices.
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For the sixth year, employees of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) donated toys and cash for distribution at a charitable event in the system’s service area. BART Police officers played Santa Dec. 17 at the Monument Community Partnership’s 12th Annual Las Posada Navidena event in Concord, CA, distributing 800 donated toys.
“So many families are in need this year,” said BART Board Member Gail Murray, who represents the city of Concord. “We are thrilled we will be able to put smiles on the faces of 800 youngsters affiliated with the Monument Community Partnership this holiday season.”
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The Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System (BNPTS) in Normal, IL, reported the largest response in the nine-year history of its Stuff the Bus event for the Children’s Home + Aid Crisis Nursery. Spurred on by a kickoff donation by AT&T of $10,000 and a new Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet computer, the Bloomington-Normal community donated thousands of items, which BNPTS packed into one of its buses for delivery. The Crisis Nursery helps children ages 6 and under in times of need.
“This event provides the Crisis Nursery with enough supplies to take care of children in need for an entire year,” said Mick Farrell, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 752, which partnered with the transit system for the first time in 2011.
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Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix provided special benefits to riders of METRO light rail Dec. 9-18 with the operation of a specially decorated Holiday Train.
The train, decorated both inside and out with seasonal décor, promoted the idea of using light rail for holiday shopping trips. Riders could discover hidden, locally-owned restaurant and retail gems along the route by visiting m.shiftarizona.com--a site developed by Valley Metro Rail in partnership with Local First Arizona--to help residents understand how and where to spend local this holiday season and year-round.
The system also invited passengers to follow the route of the Holiday Train on @METROrail’s Twitter feed and enter giveaway events by uploading photos.
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With the help of its specially decorated ReindeerBus, shown, and ReindeerCommunityShuttle, TransLink in Vancouver, BC, collected more than 3,000 Christmas gifts from its riders and employees through its 25th annual Toys for Tots campaign, accepting donations at Coast Mountain Bus Company’s transit centers; the SeaBus terminal; transit police facilities; West Vancouver Transit; the Lost Property Office; and TransLink headquarters.
This effort began in 1986 with a small group of BC Transit (as it was called) bus drivers at the Surrey Transit Centre and, within a few years, the idea had taken off. The two special buses operated on regular routes and provided service to specific locations.
West Coast Express commuter rail joined in with its “Santa Train,” collecting almost 4,000 more toys donated by passengers on two dedicated runs. Customers exchanged a new, unwrapped toy for a round-trip ticket. The toys, along with $1,260 (Cdn.) and more than 80 kilograms of food, have been donated to agencies in communities served by the train.
TransLink employees also raised more than $1,100 (Cdn.) for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
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AC Transit in Oakland, CA, gave a holiday gift to its riders: free fares on its decorated “Holiday Bus” until Dec. 31, 2011. The festive bus ran on a different route each day throughout the holiday season.
“These are tough times for this agency as it is for everybody else,” said Interim General Manager Mary King. “But the Holiday Bus is a token of gratitude to our riders. It’s a small thing but it is a way for us to contribute in this season of sharing, and we intend to do so as long as we are able.”
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The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) in Williamsburg, VA, packed a trolley-replica bus with more than 200 pounds of donated non-perishable food items for a local agency, FISH of Williamsburg, through its “Stock the Trolley” event.
WATA presented tokens good for a free round trip to the first 50 people who donated food and continued to receive donations at its main office location.
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Employees of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and agency contractors donated hundreds of gifts to seven service agencies in the Denver metropolitan area through Operation Give-a-Gift.
Santa Claus joined Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and RTD representatives at the donation event. This year’s campaign supported Alternatives to Family Violence, Sacred Heart House, Denver Children’s Home, Anchor Center for Blind Children, Little Sisters of the Poor-Mullen House, Chateau Des Mons, and Freedom Service Dogs.
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Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Agency of Harris County (Metro) decorated five buses from its fleet with reindeer, snow, elves, and other holiday symbols, then placed them on display at various transit centers throughout the service area.
Agency employees participated in Metro’s second annual holiday bus-decorating contest, in which the winning wheels won the honor of escorting Metro’s Blue Santa back home after delivering gifts at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
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The Riverside Transit Agency in Riverside, CA, partnered with firefighters in Temecula, CA, and Pennypickle’s Workshop (the Temecula Children’s Museum) to stuff a trolley with donated toys for children ages 2 to 15. This program is part of the museum’s annual Winter Wonderland event where children of all ages have an opportunity to play in real snow, visit the Snow Princess, take holiday portraits, make crafts, enjoy games and entertainment, and snack on s’mores and hot cocoa.
The “Spark of Love Toy Drive Fund” was created in 2004 at the California Community Foundation to provide toys or sports equipment for underserved children during the holiday season in Southern California. With help from donors, partners, and sponsors, the campaign collected more than 500,000 toys in 2010.
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Employees of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) presented bicycles and helmets to all 113 first-graders at Cesar Chavez Elementary School during an assembly on safety.
The employees and friends of MTS collected money for the bikes, helmets, and other gifts as part of an annual program to bring holiday cheer to first-graders at a selected elementary school in the MTS service area.
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The St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission (Metro Bus) in St. Cloud, MN, joined New Flyer, Townsquare Media, and local grocery stores the week before Christmas to collect more than two tons of food and $236 in cash donations for local food shelves run by the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities Emergency Services.
Metro Bus used one of its 35-foot New Flyer buses, manufactured at the St. Cloud plant, to collect donations at six stores through the “Fill the Flyer” campaign. The system also accepted food and money on all its buses and at its transit center. "The majority of donations came from shoppers at the stores,” said Metro Bus Executive Director David W. Tripp. “Employees at the New Flyer plant also made a huge contribution to the drive.”
New Flyer—which not only manufactures buses but also is a large employer in the St. Cloud area—ran a friendly competition among its 12 work stations to see which group could donate the most pounds of food per employee. The winning group presented the entire donation — more than 1,500 pounds—to representatives of the charities.
Pictured in the photo, from left: Salvation Army representatives Bill Kimball and Maj. Steven Koehler; New Flyer employees from the winning work group, CAD/RETRO: Allen Ahlbrecht, Chuck Hiscock, Doug Barthel, Casey Wolford, Mark Hennig, Jacob Schlangen, Chip Beronius, Leisa Fix, Roberto Gonzalez, Peter Soregi, Robert Link, Lisa Hommerding, and Fred Novak; Kristin Darnall, Catholic Charities; David Tripp, Metro Bus; and John Uran, Townsquare Media.