Skip to main content For screen readers, our previous mobile pages might be more easily navigated while we continue to improve the accessibility of our website.

 

Posts in Category: Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Lobsang Choephel 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 22, 2019 10:04:00 AM

Train Operator Lobsang Choephel.

Lobsang Choephel fell in love with driving in India, where he drove cabs and spent hours shuttling tourists to and from Delhi in a large coach bus.

So when he arrived in the United States, it wasn’t a surprise that he found himself back behind the wheel.

He worked as a school bus driver and spent nearly a decade transporting passengers and equipment for Abbot Hospital. In 2006, a friend suggested applying at Metro Transit.

After three years as a bus operator, Choephel received more advice. This time, his co-workers were encouraging him to become a train operator.

Choephel wasn’t sure about the idea but decided to give it a try. The first few years were admittedly tough but, after a decade on the Blue Line, Choephel now says he’s found his calling.

“I can’t describe how much I love it,” he said recently from the Blue Line’s Operations and Maintenance Facility. “I’m addicted.”

Choephel is grateful to have found a career he enjoys. And he’s thankful to have found it in Minnesota, too.

In the late 1950s, Choephel’s family immigrated from Tibet to India, where he was raised as a Buddhist Monk. In his early 20s, Choephel found himself searching for new opportunities.

After securing an American Visa, he traveled across the globe unsure but hopeful.

In Minnesota, he connected with fellow Tibetans who helped him find work and adjust to his new life.

Nearly 30 years after landing in the Twin Cities, Choephel and his wife are raising two children and can’t imagine a better life.

“When I won the immigration lottery it was as if I won the actual lottery,” Choephel said. “That was my Powerball.”

We're hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, apply to become a Metro Transit bus operator. All Metro Transit train operators begin as bus operators. Learn more about applying at metrotransit.org/drive.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Angela Wilson 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, July 29, 2019 1:44:00 PM

Angela Wilson moved from Chicago to Minnesota in search of opportunity. She found it at Metro Transit.

“I didn’t know I was going to end up here this long!” Wilson said. “It allowed me to grow with the agency.”

As an operator, Wilson spent 17 years on Route 5, Metro Transit’s busiest route. She’s also spent time on routes 4 and 515.

Recently, she was among a select group of bus operators recognized for going 20 or 25 straight years without a responsible collision. To celebrate the achievement, an interior card with Wilson’s photo will appear on buses for the next year.

While she’s an accomplished operator, Wilson now primarily serves as a dispatcher, assigning operators to trips that originate at Bloomington’s South Garage.

At first, Wilson said she was worried about moving from behind the wheel to spending most of her day at a computer.

As an operator, she enjoyed befriending customers like Ms. Kathy, a 78-year-old woman who boarded at the corner of north Fremont and 33rd avenues at 7:33 a.m. every day

“She’d hug me every time she got on and off the bus and always gave me a card on my birthday,” Wilson said. “So, for her birthday, I got her balloons!”

While she doesn’t interact with customers as much as she used to, Wilson’s friendly demeanor is just as present in her new role as a dispatcher.

“I’m a talker and I like meeting different people,” she said. “Just like on the bus, I greet everyone who comes in. Those relationships help me find drivers to fill trips.”

Before becoming a bus operator, Wilson supported her three children by working at fast food restaurants and big box stores.

The father of her two daughters passed unexpectedly in his forties and her mother’s declining health required more of her attention. Instead of holding multiple jobs, her cousin urged her to apply at Metro Transit. 

“I started part-time and still worked fast food,” Wilson recalled. “When I figured out I only needed this job, I gave my notice.”

As the years roll on, she’s starting to think about retirement and is thankful she was able to build a career at Metro Transit. “This job has put me where I want to be financially,” she said.

Operator at a Glance

Hired: November 1998
Garage: South
Routes: 4, 5 and 515
Hobbies: Spending all my time with my family
Family: 3 daughters, 7 grandchildren, and my mom
Lives: Crystal
Best advice: "Just treat people as you want to be treated."

Celebrating Metro Transit's safe operators

Be on the lookout for these interior cards (the advertisements inside the bus) featuring several of Metro Transit's consecutive year safe operators! These bus operators were recognized at Metro Transit’s 2019 operator awards.

Clockwise from top left: Kent Knutson, South; Carrie Boekhoff, Nicollet; Marshall Freeman, East Metro; John DeCarlo, South.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Henry Bridges 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, June 10, 2019 2:55:00 PM

Henry Bridges said he’d never move to Minnesota. Today, he’s a senior instructor at Heywood Garage.

As a native New Yorker, Bridges was used to the big city and lots of people. Occasionally, he’d visit family in Minnesota. To him, the difference was stark.

“I thought it moved too slow and there were no people,” Bridges said. “But things change. Minnesota’s my home and so is Metro Transit.”

After arriving in 1985, Bridges worked several jobs as a machinist, including one that helped finish the bricks used to build Target Center. But at the end of every year, he and his fellow employees were laid off, then rehired. The instability took its toll on the father of four and he started looking for a new line of work.

“After seeing an ad, I remembered my childhood watching the bus drivers in New York and being interested in their job, but not the people,” Bridges said. “But like my move to Minnesota, things change!”

Bridges started as a part-time weekend driver while continuing to work as a machinist. But after two years, he saw that he could focus exclusively on building his career at Metro Transit. As an instructor, Bridges helps newer operators learn the trade. 

“I love driving bus, but it’s even more rewarding to help other bus operators,” Bridges said.

This year, he's had a new assignment -- teaching operators how to drive electric buses now in service on the METRO C Line. While similar to their diesel-fueled counterparts, electric buses have enough differences to require separate training.

“It’s a great bus and it’s the future of our industry,” Bridges said. “It’s a great time to be in transit.”

Over the years, his work has not gone unnoticed. Bridges received the honor of driving the inaugural electric bus on the C Line's opening day. With lots of cameras at the ready, he was ready for his close-up. “It’s like being a movie star!” Bridges said.

But the best part of his day didn't happen until the bus stopped at the Brooklyn Center Transit Center (BCTC). Oliver, one of the inaugural bus riders, told his dad he needed to meet the driver. His dad said he didn’t stop talking about meeting Bridges until he fell asleep that night.

"It's moments like that, which make me love my job even more," Bridges said.


Bridges meets with a boy named Oliver who insisted on meeting the bus driver of the first electric bus.

Operator at a Glance

Name: Henry Bridges
Hired: July 21, 2001
Garage: Heywood
Routes: Instructor, but drove Route 19 many years
Hobbies: Fishing, bowling and basketball
Family: Three sons, a daughter and soon to be married
Lives: Fridley

We're hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, come help us run our growing transit system! Learn more about what it takes to become a bus operator at metrotransit.org/drive.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Latchman Bhagwandin 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, April 26, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Latchman Bhagwandin waited eight years to enter the United States. Today, he makes sure METRO A Line riders don’t wait more than 15 minutes for a bus.

As a child in French Guyana, he lived with relatives while his parents worked in New York. In 1981, he finally got the call that he would be reunited with his parents in the Bronx.

“I never experienced flurries until I arrived in New York,” Bhagwandin said. “I also never witnessed seeing a car being jacked before my eyes outside my window.”

In 1997, after visiting some relatives in Minnesota, he and his wife decided to move to the Twin Cities.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “Two years later, I started driving for Metro Transit.”

Bhagwandin said he applied after seeing advertisements that cheekily suggested bus operators enjoyed an “office with a view." Even then, he had some hesitations.  

“You hear horror stories about being a driver,” Bhagwandin said. “But after seeing the people who drive every day, I knew they can’t all be true.”

When he got behind the wheel for the first time, he remembers that he struggled a bit. A mentor at South Garage helped him overcome those early hurdles, he said.

“I wouldn’t have made it without Bob Benson’s help,” he said. “From my first day behind the wheel through today, he’s been a resource for me.”

Benson was a longtime garage coordinator at South, retiring in 2019 with more than 43 years of service. 

After 20 years of service, Bhagwandin has operated nearly every route out of South Garage. However, he’s found potentially his last route -- the METRO A Line. The Bus Rapid Transit line opened in 2014 and runs between Rosedale Center and the METRO Blue Line's 46th Street Station.

To speed up service, A Line customers buy their fares before boarding and can get on using front or rear doors. Those and other features, Bhagwandin make it preferable to driving a regular route bus. 

“I wanted to drive the A Line from the get-go,” Bhawandin said. “I plan to drive this route every year I can. It’s an easy-going route. What’s not to like?” 

Operator at a Glance

Name: Latchman “Jerry” Bhagwandin (Bag-wan-din)
Country of origin: French Guyana
Hired: 1999
Route: METRO A Line
Garage: South
Hobbies: Loves to go estate sale shopping to look for art.
Family: Wife and two daughters
Lives: Apple Valley
Best Advice: If you have questions, ask them. Never leave the garage without feeling confident.

Know Your Operator Light Rail METRO Green Line

Know Your Operator: DJ Gonte 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 15, 2019 8:24:00 AM

Train Operator DJ Gonte at the Green Line's Operations & Maintenance Facility in St. Paul.

Growing up in Ethiopia’s capitol city, DJ Gonte didn’t live far from a train station.

Watching the trains pull in and out gave him an early and deep love for railroading. Years later, it would also lead him to what he now describes as his dream job.

Seeking new opportunity, Gonte moved to Minnesota in 1996. He went to school, earned an associates degree in computer networking and took jobs at a computer company and as a school bus driver.

After a few years, he found a role at Medtronic. The company’s Brooklyn Center offices are just east of Metro Transit's Martin J. Ruter Garage.

“I would pass by the front of the garage and say, ‘One day, I’m going to work there,’” Gontesaid.

In late 2009, he realized that vision and began as a part-time bus operator. While he liked the work, Gonte knew from the beginning that what he really wanted was to drive a train.

He got that opportunity in 2014, when the METRO Green Line opened. Gonte was among those who made the inaugural trips on opening day, and he’s been carrying passengers up and down University Avenue ever since.

The job is just as enjoyable and rewarding as he imagined, too.

“I just love it. Every time I go out it’s like a whole new experience,” he said. “When I’m away from work for a few days I’m always excited to come back.”

The job does have its challenges, though. While he’s learned to anticipate the actions of drivers and pedestrians, moving through the corridor still requires constant and undivided attention, Gonte said.

Nearly five years after realizing his dream, Gonte said he’s proud of what he does and has no plans to stop any time soon.

Besides liking his job, he appreciates the benefits and a schedule that allows him and his wife to share parenting responsibilities and enjoy weekends together as a family (Gonte has two children, ages 3 and 9).

"When you like what you do it just gets better and better," he said. 

Page 1 of 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 > >>

Skip footer navigation

CONTACT US
FOLLOW US ON: