Metro’s unofficial ambassador to seniors

Regional TransitOnce a month, on his own time, part-time Metro Transit operator David Waggoner (East Base) takes friends from the Issaquah Senior Center on bus trips that, he feels, profoundly improve their lives. “Just because you belong to a senior center doesn’t mean that the next thing is that you’re in a coffin and next you’re in the ground,” he said recently. “The best thing for seniors is travel.” InTransit_1501JanFeb_Waggoner

He has taken friends on bus rides from Issaquah to downtown Seattle, Northgate, the North Bend outlet stores, and Sea-Tac Airport. “It’s amazing to see them learn how to take the Route 554 and Link light rail to the airport. When they realize they don’t need a family member to take them to the airport, they’re so proud that they can get there on their own.”

When Waggoner started driving buses, for Metropolitan Transit in 1967, he could let riders off in Seattle but couldn’t pick up new ones because Metropolitan drivers weren’t allowed to steal fares from Seattle Transit as they drove into the city. The fares he collected went into a pouch, because the “Silversides” buses he drove, with giant shift levers on the steering columns, had no room for fareboxes.

If not for the Vietnam War, he might have been absorbed into Metro along with Metropolitan Transit. Instead, a 26-year Army career saw him serve a tour in Vietnam; drive everything from military buses to trucks, armored personnel carriers, and tanks; and even fly Huey helicopters.

He acknowledges that a modern bus is a lot easier to drive than some of the machines in his past. “Even though buses are longer now, they’re a lot easier to operate. In the 1960s there wasn’t power steering and you were double-clutching everything.”

Today, he celebrates current transit technology. In fact, he’s so excited about the convenience of using ORCA that he regularly invites the ORCA-To-Go team to set up shop at Issaquah City Hall where everyone, not just seniors, can buy or add money to their ORCA cards. “It’s such a wonderful program,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about carrying cash and the transfer is built right into the card.”

When working with seniors, he says, the best thing Metro operators can do is to speak more slowly instead of louder. “They can hear you. It’s just hard if the words come out too fast. I’m a prime example of that.”

When he’s not driving Metro routes 214 and 252 or giving transit lessons to seniors, Waggoner serves as a master docent at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, where he has volunteered since 2000, helping to build the country’s first children’s aquarium that shows every growth stage in a young salmon’s life, from eggs to fry to smolt.

He attributes his passion for public service to his thankfulness for growing up in the United States. “I want to give back to other people everything that’s been given to me.”

(Originally appeared in Metro Transit In Transit newsletter, Jan-Feb 2015)

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