Hazel Wing compares her job to that of an air traffic controller.
As a station starter for RTD, Wing watches four monitors at her desk, tracking buses as they arrive or depart Union Station and Civic Center. She makes sure buses pull into the correct gate on time. She makes sure they leave on schedule but not too early, either. She nudges and cajoles 300 buses via text to the bus radio. If there’s a breakdown, she finds the replacement vehicle and keeps the customers moving.
“Sometimes it’s nice and calm, and other times it’s way hectic,” Wing said. “But I think I thrive on that because it gives me energy. And I like to see my customers happy when they are able to get on the bus and make their way home or wherever they’re going.”
Wing thrives on energy. That fact goes back to her high school days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Growing up, she watched her father sing and play guitar in a band called The Four Falcons. Her cousin played music, too. Hazel dreamed of being a rock star. She liked Chrissie Hynde (from The Pretenders). She liked Pat Benatar, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, too.
So Wing concocted a plan. She would join the military. She’d find a way to get stationed in London and mingle with rock stars. And she would work her way into the scene.
The military turned out to be a great idea. She learned a new mindset about taking responsibility for her work. But the military was not her free ticket to London. Or rock stardom.
But it did give her the right mindset for success, years later, at RTD.
In the military, Wing said, “I grew up. I learned how to be self-sufficient.”
Wing says she learned to deliver what was asked by her superiors. “There was no crying. You had to man up, so that's what I did.”
Wing was a calibration specialist. She checked and adjusted readout counters, multimeters and oscilloscopes. Her service included a couple of years in Germany, where she learned the language. As with her station starter job today, Wing was behind the scenes but felt fully connected to the overall mission. She never lost sight of the fact that precision instruments were critical to soldiers on the front lines.
After the military, Wing worked in retail. But her job at Super Kmart didn’t provide enough to support her son, then 18 months old, as a single mom. Wing trained for her Commercial Driver’s License at Mi Casa Resource Center. She took a job driving trucks for a construction company in Castle Rock but, as winter approached, decided she’d rather help “move the city” and put in an application at RTD.
Nearly 20 years ago, she started driving a bus for RTD. Her desire to learn more led her to the RTD Leadership Academy and, later, she was invited to participate in the MAX program, allowing her to take weeklong trips to exchange best practices and observe how other transportation agencies function in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle.
“RTD will take care of you,” she said. “If you do your job and respect the organization, the same way you respect your sergeant in the military, they will respect you. RTD is a big company and you can learn so much. You don’t have to stay in one position – you can advance yourself.”
Wing advances herself, and chases energy, during her long break between split morning and afternoon shifts. Her day begins at 5:30 a.m. and ends, if all goes well, at 6 p.m. So that allows plenty of time midday for rides on her red Cervelo road bike. She has time for 50-mile rides out to Chatfield Reservoir or to Boulder and back – four and a half hours of riding. And, of course, listening to one of her favorite songs, such as Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” or The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
“I’m very humbled from all that I’ve learned from RTD,” Wing said. “And I think that if you have that sense of responsibility as a soldier and you bring it to another business, you've got a head start. I’ve learned a lot, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”