Friday, March 18, is Transit Operator Appreciation Day, an opportunity to thank and recognize the people who help us get from a place to place, by land, sea, rail and streetcar, vanpool, and Access van.

A celebration with Seattle roots is now a global event, thanking the most visible part of our mobility system: our operators.

The people who greet you as you go to your job, your doctor’s appointment, the store, to dinner and a movie, and to T-Mobile, Lumen, Climate Pledge and Husky Stadiums where you can cheer on the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, Reign, Storm, Kraken, and Huskies

When your hands are busy holding a child or groceries, it’s the bus driver that puts out the ramp to help.

It’s a captain taking your family—and now your cat and dog—safely across the water to West Seattle or Vashon.

The operator who is the “engineer” you wave to as you get off Link Light Rail, or the First Hill or South Lake Union Streetcar.

Through our Access program, the operator assists your grandparent get to the senior center or provides the ride for your friends with mobility challenges to get where they need to go in King County.

As regional recovery continues, this day is a reminder of the work our operators do—ensuring that every day, everyone who rides with them has a safe, reliable transportation experience—isn’t easy, they just make it look easy.

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The origin of Transit Operator Appreciation Day begins in 2009, when transit riders Hans Gerwitz and Shannon E. Thomas decided they needed a way to thank the drivers who helped them get around Seattle and suggested a Bus Driver Appreciation Day:

“What really makes the buses accessible though, has been the drivers. They’re not only skilled, but generally friendly and thoughtful. They can be strict when they need to and clearly must focus on the task of driving, but often offer cheery salutations and goodbyes and helpful assistance to passengers. There’s a systemic understanding that the job extends beyond piloting and includes customer service.

Recently, drivers have brought smiles to our faces often enough we’ve thought we should have brought cookies to share with them. Which led us to wonder if there’s a Bus Driver Appreciation Day, when riders leave small gifts with their fare.”

We know many riders thank their operators every day, but we’re asking you to join us on March 18 in celebrating the people who are behind the wheel (or tiller) 24/7/365! While we know they’d appreciate the sentiment, please no cards, cookies, flowers, or balloons. They’ve got to focus on their important jobs.

A great way to thank your favorite operator—not only on Transit Operator Appreciation Day, but at any time—is by filling out a Driver Commendation Form or giving a shoutout on social media (and don’t forget to tag us! Twitter/Facebook/Instagram). Please note the details of your bus trip, water taxi, light rail, streetcar, or Access ride. (If you’re on a bus, be sure to give us the route and four-digit coach number). We’ll make sure to get your compliments to the correct operator!

Behind the scenes
In honor of all they do for passengers every day, we want to highlight some of the things you may not know drivers do both behind the scenes and while driving you from place to place.

They operate under a rigid schedule to keep us moving.
Our drivers show up to work exactly on time every day, rain or shine, and are ready to go. They inspect their bus, both for mechanical-related reasons and to ensure it’s clean. They operate it with safety and timeliness always in mind and do it all with a smile on their face.

They work early and late hours, on weekends and holidays.
Being a Metro driver means being there for our passengers even during holidays. Our drivers are behind the wheel while the fireworks go off on the Fourth of July, and join Santa in working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because getting people where they need to go doesn’t stop on holidays!

They go above and beyond for everyone, including our transit-dependent riders.
Drivers support disabled and elderly riders when they need some assistance or patience in a fast-paced environment.  They assist customers with using the ramp when they’re wheelchair-assisted and can help secure them in place. And drivers wait and watch for disabled persons to make it safely across the road even after they’re off the bus. In fact, Metro has won the “George Turner Award” in recognition of our operators best exemplifying a positive attitude and keen awareness of the elderly and disabled.

From the shouted “thank you!” that come from the back door, to the waves as you walk past the bus, and the thousands of commendations you take the time to send, it’s no secret that this community appreciates transit operators. Your support helps keep the vehicles moving on Transit Operator Appreciation Day and every day of the year!