By Focus Staff
The City of Knoxville recognized “Transit Driver Appreciation Day” on last Wednesday at Knoxville Station’s bus platform. Mayor Madeline Rogero proclaimed March 18th as “Knoxville Area Transit Driver Appreciation Day” in Knoxville.
She honored two of KAT’s bus operators, Belinda Wimes and Donnie Collins, as representatives of the 150-plus operators that maneuver the city streets every day. Wimes and Collins have driven a combined 3.1 million accident-free miles!
Wimes is a 23-year veteran with KAT. She has worked as a trolley driver, a LIFT driver, a bus driver, and at one time worked as a relief supervisor. Wimes is a believer in good customer service, always going out of her way to ensure her passengers have a good ride. She’s also reached beyond her regular bus driver duties and has participated in a review of bus purchase specifications, offering an operator’s perspective. She has driven 1.8 million miles accident-free.
Collins is a 17-year veteran with 1.3 million miles accident-free. He is something of a KAT goodwill ambassador, known for his patience, his caring for his passengers, and he calmly handles all the challenges he encounters on a daily basis. He has an exemplary attendance record as well as a 15-year safe driving record. When route changes were recently proposed, he went out of his way to keep his passengers informed, by personally collecting their suggestions and input.
Most operators drive vehicles 40-feet long while picking up passengers, answering questions, staying on schedule, giving directions, and more, while dealing with unpredictable traffic, bad weather conditions and some tight spaces.
Mayor Rogero thanked the KAT team for its efforts during last month’s inclement weather. The mayor noted that “there’s clear evidence that people depend on KAT during bad weather.” Calls into KAT tripled during one of the snow storms.
“Building on KAT’s culture of service and dependability is driving up ridership,” Mayor Rogero said. “More and more people are discovering that riding the bus is economical and pleasant. They get to check their emails or read a book or newspaper instead of battling traffic,” she said.
The public was able to pick up special bus ‘thank you’ notes to fill out and give to favorite bus operators throughout the day.
KAT carried 73,771 more passengers in 2014 than 2013. Over a two-year span, the system carried 191,783 more passengers in 2014 than in 2012.
KAT buses run 2.5 million miles a year and carry nearly 3 million passengers each year. On an average weekday, KAT buses travel 8,323 miles, and on Saturdays, KAT averages 5,694 miles.