Published January 20, 2015
Volume 23, Number 1

New Executive Director at Wheels Rides Into Town

By Zoe Francis

Hacienda employees and residents can grab a ride on Wheels any time and anywhere at absolutely no cost.
Hacienda offers the handy ECO Pass, which allows access to Wheels buses, not only as a benefit for employees and residents, but as a way to promote a green lifestyle.
“It’s part of their sustainability plan,” Michael Tree, Wheels’ executive director, said of the pass. “They have a lot of people living and working in a relatively small area. It’s a good platform to promote biking, walking and busing to keep traffic congestion at a minimum.”
Wheels is the regional bus system that serves the entire Tri-Valley. The agency’s formal name is the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority.
Hacienda has offered the ECO Pass perk since 1989 to encourage people to use transit.
“It allows you to get on and off the bus whenever and wherever,” Tree said. “You don’t have the hassle factor of finding change or going somewhere to buy a pass. You get that pass and it’s yours. You use it wherever you want to go on the system. It’s an awesome arrangement.”
Not only does Wheels have multiple stops within Hacienda, it also has stops at BART and ACE stations so that commuters can easily catch their trains.
Hacienda’s ECO Pass is just one Wheels benefit Tree is eager to promote as the new head of the transit authority. He recently moved to Livermore to take over in early November as the new executive director.
“I’m really excited to be here to provide the best possible public transportation system that we can put in place,” Tree said.
Tree and his family moved here from Montana, where he was general manager of the Missoula Urban Transportation District.
“I had my eyes on the Bay Area,” he said of his latest career move. “It has fabulous transportation options when you think of BART and AC Transit and (Wheels). It’s not only a beautiful place to live, but it has world-class public transportation. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Tree is a native of Porterville, not far from Fresno. He served a two-year missionary stint in Chile after high school, then attended Fresno State University. He finished at Brigham Young University, where he earned a business administration degree.
He held the dual roles of city manager and head of the transportation agency in Twentynine Palms and then was general manager of the Porterville transportation agency. While in that job, he earned his master’s of science in transportation management from San Jose State University.
“I was on a TV monitor and beamed right into the classroom,” he said of that college experience. “It was nice because I didn’t have to be at every class, but I did go up often.”
Tree is determined to make sure Wheels is offering enough routes and stops to make it easy for riders to use the system.
“I hope to make it more efficient,” he said. “I’d really like to focus on how to help those who are commuting get to where they need to go quickly and efficiently.”
He also wants to make sure the system is livable.
“When a bus doesn’t come frequently, it becomes tough to ride the system,” he noted. “A livable system comes frequently enough and in the right places so that people can actually enjoy the system for their daily lives.”
Tree encourages everyone to give Wheels a try, even if they have never before been on a bus.
“When you use the bus system, there are a lot of benefits to you personally as well as to the community,” he said. “If people just take one day a week to ride the bus, they’ll save money. Choosing to ride the bus and enjoy your ride not only has a cost saving to you, but has a real positive impact on the community. It’s a more enjoyable community to live in when it’s not congested or smoggy.”
Learn more about Wheels at wheelsbus.com.
Visit hacienda.org/form/details/wheels%20eco%20pass to apply for a free ECO Pass.


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