Commuter of year takes bus everywhere

transit services

Staff photo by Sam Yu

Penelope Miller has taken a bus ride to fame.

Since 2008, the Frederick resident has faithfully used mass transit, and her ridership now has won her Commuter of the Year recognition for 2016 from TransIT Services of Frederick County. Miller, an administrative assistant at the Maryland School for the Deaf, regularly takes a TransIT bus to get to and from her job.

Deaf herself, she wrote in an email that she supports using the bus for environmental reasons and out of necessity. She does not own a car. The bus system gives her independence that would not be possible using a taxi or Uber without an interpreter, she said.

“The bus service serves anybody with hearing loss well, especially those who seek to successfully maintain their independence in the everyday world,” Miller wrote. “I think it’s natural for a person with hearing loss to adopt an attitude of resourcefulness whenever possible.”

Miller is the second person to receive TransIT’s award and the first TransIT rider to win. The first award, in 2015, went to a bicyclist.

Kendall Tiffany, TransIT’s community relations manager, said the annual award is to recognize commuters doing something other than driving alone. Their actions help reduce pollution and traffic congestion.

“Commuter of the Year is to recognize somebody who is doing something different. … It’s someone who is unique,” Tiffany said.

Miller, who nominated herself, told TransIT she has educated co-workers and others about bus service options, especially when their regular transportation falls through.

“She encourages other people … to use the system. … It helps people in the community overcome the hurdles,” Tiffany said.

Miller has used the mobile ticketing app Transit ezFARE to communicate with the driver more easily, Tiffany said. Route details can be displayed on a cellphone.

Tiffany plans to nominate Miller to win this year’s Clean Air Partners’ Champion award at the conclusion of 2016. The Partners award goes to one person in recognition of a significant contribution with lasting impact on the region’s air quality through community outreach, implementing hands-on environmental awareness activities and demonstrating initiative.

The Clean Air award includes nominees from the Washington metro area and the Greater Baltimore region.

Miller said the bus has opened her social life in addition to getting her to work. Weekends and after work, she uses the bus to get to events and appointments.

“I’m frequently downtown after work, since there are several bus stop options in the area I may alternate between, depending on my post-work plans,” she wrote.

Even if Miller does buy a used car in the future, as she hopes, she wrote, “I intend on using the bus services more than half of the time out of respect to Frederick County’s local economy and my personal budget concerns.”

Using the bus, she said she was able to participate in two cleanup events recently in Frederick: the Rock Creek cleanup that followed the groundbreaking ceremony at Frederick Town Center; and for the second time with the Bring a Broom event, sponsored by the Downtown Frederick Partnership.

“I’ve always been interested in environmental matters, since I was a little girl, and being loyal to the TransIT services and other green-minded projects is the least I could do as a citizen of [good] intentions,” Miller wrote.

Tiffany was glad to see that School for the Deaf elementary students who learned of Miller’s honor were interested in what her award was all about.

“There’s a big teaching moment,” Tiffany said.

Commuter of year takes bus everywhere

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