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Three Rider Stories to Help You Keep Your Cool this Summer


Let’s face it. When the weather heats up, so can our aggravation – even on public transit. The fact that we live in a place where you can literally fry an egg on the sidewalk is enough to rattle the nerves of anyone. We thought a few inspiring rider stories might help you keep it cool under the collar as the temperatures rise. Maybe they will even inspire you to say hello to the person sitting next to you on your next transit trip…

Student beats the odds with transit

Ever complained about your commute? We have – we admit it. But the truth is there are plenty of people out there who rely on public transportation to get them from point A to point B. Gila Bend resident Jose Garcia is one rather remarkable example.

Jose Pic

Jose has epilepsy and is unable to drive. Transit was the only option he had to reach his dream of going to college for his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. On some days, that meant catching the Ajo/Gila Bend Connector at 3:40 a.m., transferring to the I-10 West RAPID at Desert Sky Mall, hopping on light rail from downtown Phoenix, and then taking the Orbit Jupiter shuttle to get to his final destination at ASU’s Tempe campus. The trip took more than three hours each way.

“I’d take advantage of the time to either catch up on my reading or listen to music,” Jose said. “Having the extra time to study for exams was the best thing about riding transit.”

Jose graduated from ASU with honors in December. He says transit played a huge role in his success and without it he may not have received his diploma. His goal is to become an interpreter, ideally in the justice system. We think Jose’s dream is just a few transit trips away.

Bicycle accident victim finds will to ride again

Shawn Stanford is a paralegal at the Attorney General’s office. For several years he has ridden his bicycle to and from work, more than 28 miles on most days. He enjoys the money he saves from gas (more than $6,000 a year) and what it does for his health (he’s lost 35 pounds and is in better shape at age 55 than at his high school graduation). So when he was struck by a vehicle in February 2013, his lifestyle was shattered nearly as much as his body.

Shawn Pic

Shawn was bicycling northbound on 19th Avenue near Camelback when he was hit by a car that was turning into a parking lot. He had followed all the rules of the road – unfortunately the car’s driver was not paying close enough attention. Shawn suffered from a broken pelvis, a hematoma in one arm, dislodged disks in his spine, various strains and a bump the size of a baseball on his head. He believes without his helmet he would have been more seriously injured or even killed. He has lingering aches and pains that will probably never fully go away.

“My injuries took several months to fully heal and my mental state was not the same after the accident,” Shawn said of his experience. “I still get a little edgy at times while riding, but I love it so much that I can’t really picture not being on a bicycle.”

Surprisingly, he credits his fear with helping him get back on his bike.

“Realizing that you might not be seen can actually help you ride more cautiously, more alertly, more safely,” he said.

Shawn continues to ride his bicycle to work and plans to do so until he is no longer physically capable.

Vanpool group rescues family from fire

Not all heroes make the evening news and that was definitely the case for a Valley Metro vanpool group from the Maricopa County Department of Transportation. This group of amazing vanpoolers rescued two people from a house fire while on their way to work. It happened just over a year ago near 75th Avenue and Lower Buckeye.

Vanpool Group

“I noticed a large cloud of smoke coming from a nearby neighborhood,” said John Duran, one of the vanpool members. “We quickly saw a house that was on fire and immediately drove to it.”

John and two of his vanpool passengers (Mike Abraham and Mike Perez) jumped out of the van and ran towards the house. The others stayed behind to contact 9-1-1 and to help keep traffic away.

Fire pic

“The garage was consumed in flames and there were several explosions,” John added. “You could see heavy smoke inside the house. If there was anyone inside, we knew we had to get them out of the house.”

And that’s just what they did. They pounded on the door and the windows until a young man answered, followed by an elderly woman who was just waking up. Both were escorted to safety after Mike Abraham was able to get the door open. Both may not have made it had it not been for John and his colleagues.

“It was incredible how well we all worked together to help those people,” John added. “Since that day we’ve been very, very close and know we can count on each other in any situation.”

Photo caption: From left to right, Mike Perez, Alex Romero, Mike Abraham, John Duran, George Cons and Ed Cortez

Keep it cool this summer

So there you have it. Three incredible rider stories that will inspire you to get to know the person sitting next to you, instead of looking oddly at him for carrying an umbrella when it’s 115 degrees outside. And actually – that umbrella is a really good idea. In fact, there are a few things you should do to keep it cool while riding transit this summer (check out some great tips here). It’s important to remember that as hot as it gets over the next few months, the pay-off arrives this fall. In the meantime, be kind and try to make a new friend as you travel to your next destination.

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