It takes a special talent to make people look forward to their daily commute. And by all accounts, Pleasant Hill resident Roger Matoba had that talent. For 29 years, Matoba drove IchiVan (a play on the Japanese word ichiban, meaning number one), transporting Martinez and Pleasant Hill residents to work in San Francisco.
For his three decades of driving excellence, Matoba was recently awarded the Miriam Gholikely Public Service Award by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He was nominated by a group of his passengers, who praised his ability to make the daily commute something special.
For instance, he installed special overhead lights to make reading easier. Though he could legally take 15 passengers, and thus make more money, Matoba kept his group to 12, go give people a little more space. If it rained, he would pick up and drop off riders at home, and if someone was running a little late, he would wait. During the holidays, he would play the appropriate music, and if someone brought a meal to share on their birthday, that person would ride free for a month.
All of this created a family-type environment, a difficult feat when you face the daily onslaught of bumper-to-bumper traffic. But Matoba managed it, and for his efforts, he was recognized by the very people whose days he made a little bit better.