After 29 years in transportation, Huss honored with career award

by Robin Huiras

The Minnesota Public Transit Association honored the efforts of Roger Huss on Tuesday– exactly 29 years after he signed on as assistant director of transportation at the University.
While that presents an interesting numerical coincidence, the success of the University transit programs since Huss took the job is hardly coincidental.
Huss received the Distinguished Career Award at the Minnesota Public Transit Conference in St. Paul’s RiverCentre. Featured speakers included Gov. Arne Carlson and gubernatorial candidates Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, Norm Coleman and Jesse Ventura.
“The distinguished career award is quite prestigious because it is a nomination submitted by peers,” said Judy Holman, communications director for the Metropolitan Council.
Parking and Transportation director Bob Baker said two words — loyal and dedicated — sum up Huss. “He’s been in this business a long time and he knows it inside and out,” he said.
Huss began his career at the University as the assistant manager of transportation. Receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University in 1967 at age 24, Huss worked at General Mills and served in the Army Reserve before returning to his alma mater.
“Tuesday is 29 years to the day that I started — the first day of fall quarter 1969. What an era that was; a time so different than today.”
Coming out of active training during the height of the Vietnam War, Huss entered into a new position the University, managing his own staff and budget. Three years of University growth changed Huss’ position and his responsibilities.
Working closely with the University’s Physical Planning Office, Huss helped to develop bus Route 52. Known as Twin Cities Lines in the early 1970s, Metro Transit collaborated with the University to create a commuter line. Under Huss’ guidance, Route 52 has grown in 28 years to its current size, serving more than 1 million passengers annually during peak years.
Another of Huss’ early contributions to University transit was developing the first park-and-ride lot. Conveniently located on the intercampus bus route on 29th and Como avenues, the facility serves hundreds of commuters daily.
“In the heyday over there, we parked over a thousand cars a day,” Huss said.
Steadily increasing enrollment at the University in the 1970s caused a lack of parking availability. Promoting mass transit by creating special car pool lots at a cheaper rate was another of Huss’ developments. These lots have grown with the University, quadrupling to nearly 1,000 spaces since the mid-1970s.
“We’ve gone a very long way to continue to promote car pool parking,” Huss said. “It’s the lowest cost parking on campus, we make it economical and we make it available.”
Holman said many people were pleased to see Huss win the award, as it not only recognizes innovations in transportation, but the caliber of Huss’ career overall. His efforts have saved the University substantial amounts of money.
Privatization of Route 52, and later Route 13, has saved the University more than $350,000 annually since 1989. This saving is the result of the University’s current commuter service, Medicine Lake Lines, outbidding other lines to carry University passengers.
“Huss’ effort in the most recent bus contract was very diligent,” Baker said. “He made sure we got the highest level of service for the lowest price.”
Whether dealing with contractors, co-workers or clients, Huss commits himself daily. Known to walk to bus stops and chat with passengers, improving the transit system and offering the highest level of customer service is always on his mind.
“Customer service is Roger’s name,” said Ralph Rickgarn, long-time friend of Huss and coordinator of student behavior in Housing and Residential Life. “He’s a caring person who goes out of his way to meet the needs of the riders.”
The development of a new bus pass, coined the UPass, tops Huss’ current agenda. This pass would be available to all students and give unlimited access to all area bus systems. Although the pass was not approved by the student service fees committee for this school year, Huss said his department will push it to be in place by fall 1999.
Always thinking of the future, Huss’ main focus is on the present and the people he helps daily.
“It is very rewarding to see the folks waiting for the bus,” Huss said. “Bus riders are special. Anybody can get in a car; it takes an extra effort to ride the bus. They are the unsung heroes.”