It’s just after 4 p.m., and a rainy Portland-area commute is getting started. So is the chatter at C-Tran’s dispatch center.
In a single room at the agency’s Vancouver headquarters, dispatchers monitor several radio channels at once, watch computer screens mapping C-Tran buses’ locations, communicate with drivers about traffic conditions and mechanical problems and answer phones. Above it all, a small stereo — playing The Beatles and other old standards on this day — adds to the well-orchestrated cacophony.
An anonymous voice comes over the radio to check in, one of about 90 C-Tran drivers out on the roads. He doesn’t identify himself. He doesn’t need to.
Leon Muffett answers back without hesitation.
Muffett was one of two dispatch supervisors coordinating the afternoon commute last week, along with Viola Vernon. The two have worked together for the past 14 years, since Muffett started the dispatch job after a brief stint as a C-Tran driver. Vernon, one of C-Tran’s longest-tenured employees, started in 1981, working for what was then known as Vancouver Transit.
Five people make up C-Tran’s core dispatch supervisor team. But Vernon and Muffett — two of the most experienced — are known to some around the office as “The A Team.”