Congratulations to our Riders First Award Winners!
You made Transit Month the best one yet!
Mike Delia — Award for Outstanding Operator of the Year
While some of us may ride on MUNI, far fewer can say they’ve moved across the country for the system. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Mike said it was always his dream to become a transit operator. He began driving transit to help put himself through college, and then applied to MUNI with an explicit desire to drive some of the “older stuff” in the agency’s legacy fleet.
Nowadays, Mike can be found on the F-Line, sporting a custom operator cap resembling that of MUNI operators during the 1950’s and 60’s. Affectionately known as “Mr. Boston” by many of his regular riders, Mike exemplifies the true spirit of a great transit operator: taking extra steps to help riders by calling out transfers and points of interest over the car’s public address system; sharing his knowledge with curious transit enthusiasts and visitors from around the world; and touching the lives of countless passengers with his friendly demeanor. On lucky occasions (and always at safe locations), Mike can be found making a kid’s day by letting them ring the car bell.
For all of these reasons and more, it is our honor to present Mike with this Riders First Award for Outstanding Operator of the Year.
Melody Starling — Award for Spearheading Innovative Youth Engagement Efforts at BART
In her time as the Youth Transit Ambassador at BART, Melody has made an outstanding impact on the transit agency. She is currently leading the agency’s efforts to engage youth riders in a myriad of ways, from designing creative BART mascots to tabling at Bay Area conventions and gatherings. Melody is helping run BART’s call for anime artists, which has received more than 500 submissions, and working to design unique mascots that engage a younger audience of transit riders. As a part-time consultant, Melody is growing awareness about BART, building trust in public institutions, and working to bring youth into decision-making processes.
In April, Melody connected BART leadership with the Transit Twitter Besties, a highly active group of young transit enthusiasts who provide the District with invaluable feedback and advice. We’d be remiss not to mention the famous BART TikTok, which Melody runs, produces, and created a comprehensive strategy for. In just a few months, Melody has grown @sfbart to become the largest local U.S. transit agency TikTok account based on engagements (views/likes). Melody lives and breathes transit, and every day she works to improve BART for all of its riders.
SFMTA Transit Scheduling Team Planners — Award for Swiftly Adapting MUNI schedules to Meet Rider Needs
Rebuilding a transit schedule is a complex process with many moving parts and doing so multiple times over a short period is no small feat. Yet this is what the SFMTA Transit Scheduling Team has done numerous times to better match the needs of riders and transit operators alike. (Need more information)
William Bacon and Michael Eiseman — Award for Leadership in Fare Integration and Developing the BayPass Pilot Program
The BayPass Pilot Program is a pioneering initiative launched in August of this year. Through the program some 50,000 students at UC Berkeley, SF State University, San Jose State University, and Santa Rosa Junior College are being provided with free, unlimited travel throughout the Bay Area for a 2-year duration.
The program represents a major step forward towards fare integration in the Bay Area and is already helping students move seamlessly throughout the region.
Data collected from the project will ultimately be used to help policymakers understand the impact of fare-integration and the social benefits it unlocks. As the two co-project managers for the BayPass Program, Mike and Bill were instrumental in the [design and rollout (fact check)] of the BayPass Program. The project would have not been possible without their efforts and we want to thank them for their hard work and dedication.
Darrell Owens — Award for Superb East Bay Transit Advocacy
Darrell has been an outspoken advocate for equitable and robust transit policies in the East Bay. A transit rider himself and member of the East Bay Riders Union, Darrell has been vocal in his support for service restoration following the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably AC Transit Line 80 which ran along Ashby Avenue..
Additionally, Darrell speaks about transit, dense-housing policies, and their symbiotic relationship as a regular voice in East Bay newspapers, and through his Substack articles, op-eds, and Twitter posts. Darrell currently serves as a Policy Analyst for Cal YIMBY and is the Co-Executive Director for the nonprofit East Bay for Everyone. We would like to commend Darrell for all his work advocating for East Bay Riders and the needs of his local community.
Pam Foley — Outstanding Elected Official Award
As San Jose City Council Member for the 9th District, Pam Foley has been staunch in prioritizing safe streets in her vision for the city. Chair of San Jose’s Vision Zero task force, Pam strongly presses for a built environment conducive for children, bicyclists, and individuals with mobility issues.
Some of the projects she has supported through the task force include enhancing crosswalk designs, securing $1 million for traffic and safety improvements for her district, efforts to slow traffic, and the establishment of a city-wide transit first policy to make VTA light rail and buses run quicker.
SJSU Transportation Team (Tiffany Rodriguez & Tiffany Martinez) — Award for Supporting Sustainable and Affordable Student Mobility
The San Jose State University Transportation Team has played a significant role in advancing student mobility.
Hayden Miller — Award for Remarkable Youth Transit Advocacy
Hayden has been an incredible force for good for transportation projects in San Francisco and beyond. A key pillar of Transit Twitter, he keeps equity in mind in discussions over routing and stop locations. His public comments reverb across the Zoom audio nearly every SFMTA meeting, and now he advocates for walkability and public transportation on the San Francisco Youth Commission. Working alongside fellow transit advocates through grassroot advocacy, Hayden has worked to ensure critical Muni bus lines that were suspended during the pandemic are restored, additionally seeking to make permanent over 15 miles of new transit lanes created during the pandemic.
Chances are you have seen him at an event or two — maybe the Rider First Awards last year when he was just a sophomore in high school, the Yes on L kickoff, or at Muni diaries. We are excited to see what he accomplishes next and are glad to present him with this Rider First Award.