An Expanded Role During COVID-19

Customer Service Representative Lonnie Olson is an expert on STA’s bus system and is well-known for his prowess in planning bus trips for customers. But in the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, his role as a Customer Service Representative expanded. 

Information was evolving at breakneck speed and it was up to Olson and his counterparts to keep concerned callers informed and up to date on STA’s response to the pandemic. 

Would bus service be cancelled? How long would fares be suspended? What disinfection protocols were being implemented to keep buses and the Plaza safe?

“At the beginning of the outbreak, people had lots of questions about how their bus service would be affected and wanted to know what safety measures were in place,” Olson said. “Lately things have calmed down and most people are calling with more typical concerns. But some still want to know when this whole thing will be over and I wish I had a good answer for them.”

Olson is a veteran bus rider himself. But lately he has been getting to work with “Rides for Seniors”, a temporary program that STA is offering to help people age 60+ get to work and other essential destinations in a paratransit van.

“Normally, I’m only eligible to ride paratransit if the weather is too cold and icy to safely operate my wheelchair between home and the bus stop,” Olson said. “I really appreciate that this program allows me to commute to work on a paratransit van and that I am the only passenger onboard during my scheduled trips.”

Maintaining that high level of social distancing is just one of the things Olson is doing to stay safe. He takes this virus seriously and adamantly follows prevention recommendations from the CDC, including wearing a mask in public, keeping his workspace disinfected and frequently washing his hands.

“STA has been very good about making sure we have what we need to help protect ourselves on the job,” Olson said. “They’ve provided us with spray disinfectant and hand sanitizer in our work areas and, of course, everyone is required to social distance and wear masks in public.”

Olson loves his job as a Customer Service Representative for STA. That’s why he’s stayed with it for 30 years and why he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

“As long as I’m healthy, I’m going to come to work and be productive,” Olson said. “This is my home away from home.”

Olson’s “can do” work ethic and genuine concern for both his co-workers and customers are a couple of the reasons he was recognized as a 2015 Washington State Department of Transportation Wall of Fame Honoree. That’s a big deal in transit circles.

“I really enjoy helping people and solving their transportation issues,” Olson said. “It makes me feel good to know that I can do that for people. Pandemic or not, our job is to help provide the best information we can to get people to their destinations safely and in a timely manner.”

If you would like to learn more about STA’s Rides for Seniors program, call 509-328-1552 or click here.

If you have questions about STA services or would like personal assistance planning your next bus trip, call Customer Service at 509-328-RIDE (7433).

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