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 OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Not all of the Bay Area's stars are on stage, screen and television -- some of them are revitalizing communities around transit stations; pushing for better transportation services for disabled and elderly persons; rescuing motorists stranded on the region's freeways and bridges; and coming up with innovative and inexpensive ways to manage congestion around one of the state's busiest hospitals.
 As "Beat the Back-Up" week approaches and the region turns its attention to solutions to traffic congestion, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is pleased to introduce the superstars of Bay Area transportation, the winners of its 17th Annual Transportation Awards Program. The following individuals, organizations and projects will be recognized at a special breakfast awards banquet on Sept. 22 at 8:30 a.m. in the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter Auditorium, 101 8th Street, Oakland:
 MTC's Grand Award will go to Arabella Martinez, founder and director of the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, for her work in spearheading the development of a "transit village" in the vicinity of the Fruitvale BART station to spark urban development and rejuvenate the economy in that East Oakland neighborhood.
 Long known as an inspirational leader among Oakland's large Latino population, Martinez has successfully used her experience and influence to bring together community organizations, residents, merchants, and City of Oakland and BART officials in a cooperative, community-oriented planning process for a project which marks major, forward-looking policy change in transportation and city planning.
 U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, in Oakland last month to award the project a $470,000 federal grant, said "This project embodies the dreams of this community. Because of the dedication of citizens throughout the Fruitvale community and because of the dedication of Arabella Martinez, the dream will become a reality."
 This award, created three years ago to honor former MTC Commissioner Doris Kahn of San Francisco, is presented annually to the person or organization whose efforts have resulted in significant improvements in transportation services for the elderly and persons with disabilities. This year's Kahn Award will be presented to Napa activist Jan Browne for three decades of work to remove transportation barriers. Browne, who contracted childhood polio in the 1950s, has been instrumental in achieving full access policies for Santa Clara County Transit, SamTrans, and Muni. She has chaired Napa County's Paratransit Coordinating Council for a number of years, and currently chairs MTC's Elderly and Disabled Advisory Committee. Browne's influence on accessibility policies has been significant. "She has done inestimable good for seniors and disabled persons in Napa County and the region by bringing a level of sophistication and understanding to her advocacy," said MTC Planner Alan Eliot.
 The Special Transportation Employee Award this year will go to AC Transit General Manager Sharon Banks. In her two years of managing AC Transit, ridership and cost-effectiveness have improved in spite of the agency's diminishing resources and expanding requirements. Banks works virtually 24-hours a day to reach all of the district's employees and patrons, a job that includes riding with drivers and passengers to hear their views on how to improve service.
 Sgt. Sally Mitchell of the CHP and the Seven Freeway Service Patrol Tow Truck Operators will receive a joint Award of Merit for their efforts in making the region's new roving tow truck program a success. Sgt. Mitchell, the full-time field supervisor of the program that provides free roadside assistance to stranded motorists, stresses safety and professionalism in training and supervising the drivers and CHP personnel. The seven tow truck contractors -- Pito's Towing of Oakland; Redhill Towing and Autobody of San Rafael; Hank's Tow of San Leandro; Bay Point Tow of Concord; Atlas Towing of San Francisco; Campbell's Towing of San Jose; and Great AmericaTowing of San Jose -- have received outstanding marks from the public. "It couldn't be any better," said one satisfied motorist. "The Highway Patrol and the mechanic (FSP driver) that helped us did a superb job. They deserve a medal!"
 An Award of Merit will go to San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) for its outstanding transportation program. The busiest hospital in the city has only roughly 1,000 spaces on or near the premises for both 6,400 employees and thousands of patients and visitors. With no specific budget to solve this problem, SFGH Transportation Director Greg Johnson applied for grants, and worked with neighborhood and employee groups, as well as city agencies, to ease the parking crunch. The comprehensive Employee Transportation Program that evolved includes bike racks and plans for shower facilities; improved signage around the site; shuttle service; in-house, computerized ride matching; on-site transit ticket sales; reduced parking charges for carpools and vanpools; and flexible work hours. As a result of these creative efforts, the number of employee solo drivers dropped from 75 percent last year to 53 percent this year.
 Another Award of Merit will go to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District for its comprehensive marketing campaign, including its colorful and educational "Humphrey the Whale Bus." Local environmental artist George Sumner painted a 40-foot Golden Gate bus to resemble a humpback whale in order to educate children about endangered animals and public transit's role in preserving the environment. Since February 1993, the bus has traveled to schools in the Golden Gate service area to provide children with a hands-on experience in using the farebox and reading timetables. Additionally, Golden Gate's clever "Pollution Solution" and "Stress Test" advertising campaigns have encouraged people to think about their transportation choices.
 Tom Karnes, the founder of BayTalk Computer Users Group, will receive an Award of Merit for designing and operating a computer bulletin board for disabled citizens that features transportation information. The information on the system, such as MTC's newsletter Transactions, agendas of MTC's Elderly and Disabled Advisory Committee, minutes of Muni and BART meetings, and news about Americans With Disabilities Act regulations, is accessible to visually impaired users through voice output programs attached to their computers. BayTalk has 80 dues-paying members, and is used regularly by another 550 persons.
 Nadyne Ricks, a senior citizen who has run the transit information booth in San Francisco's City Hall for 14 years and sells over $50,000 worth of Muni Fast Passes, Passports and maps each month, will be honored with a Certificate of Achievement for her role as San Francisco's unofficial "goodwill ambassador of public transit." Ricks' entire compensation comes from the 25 cent commission she earns from each Fast Pass sale, therefore there is no cost to the public for her services.
 Harry Osibin, Public Affairs Director of LIVE 105/KITS FM radio, will be recognized for his efforts in bringing transportation-related topics to the attention of the young adults who are the primary audience of this rock-and-roll station. Osibin produces and hosts the "Earthbeat" and "Green Hour" shows that feature interviews with transportation and environmental experts.
 A Certificate of Achievement will go to San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy, for his biweekly column called "Streetwise." Cassidy tackles real-life, everyday issues related to transportation and uses humor and anecdotes to educate and entertain his readers.
 Tandem Computers also will be honored with a Certificate of Achievement for its innovative and extensive employee transportation program called TRAX. The program offers Tandem's 3,500 employees a wide variety of options to driving alone to work.
 CalTrain's Operation Lifesaver Program, run by the Peninsula Joint Powers Board and Amtrak, will receive a Certificate of Achievement for bringing a vital safety message to children and adults about rail-grade crossings. Since last November, this program has been presented to approximately 1,700 students at no cost to the schools involved.
 A Letter of Recognition will go to Oakland resident Sue Hodges, for her work in promoting accessible transportation for elderly and disabled persons. Hodges volunteers a great deal of time conducting training sessions on subjects such as the Americans With Disabilities Act and environmental illness/multiple chemical sensitivities, and working with transit agencies on a number of issues related to mobility.
 Sebastopol activist Katie Scarborough of the Sonoma County Transportation Coalition will be honored for spending many hours of her own time raising grant funds for organizing a community transportation forum in Sonoma County designed to increase awareness of the transportation planning and funding process.
 Sonoma County Transit (SCT) will get a Letter of Recognition for its Hispanic Outreach Program, which was designed to increase transit accessibility among Sonoma County's Hispanic population. The program includes translation of all transit materials, Spanish classes for bus drivers and special presentations to migrant farm worker groups.
 Robert Oakes, transportation reporter for the Contra Costa Times, will receive a Letter of Recognition for his thorough and insightful coverage of transportation issues. His news and feature articles have contributed significantly to the public's understanding of services and facilities available to them, complex planning and funding decisions and new transportation technology.
 Dave Gurvich, a veteran tow truck driver for Caltrans, will receive a Letter of Recognition for his skill and bravery in rescuing motorists stranded on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Over the last decade, Gurvich has helped hundreds of citizens under what are often times dangerous conditions.
 MTC is the transportation planning and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
 -0- 9/9/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: We hope that the early release of our award winners' names will help you give a human interest angle to the "Beat the Back-Up" campaign. Please call for more information on individuals and programs of interest to the readers or viewers in your area./
 /CONTACT: Susan Terry, 510-464-7785, or Helena Holgerson, 510-464-7894, both of MTC/

CO: Metropolitan Transportation Commission ST: California IN: SU:

TM -- SF011 -- 0432 09/09/93 15:40 EDT
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Date:Sep 9, 1993

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