Christy Bailly didn’t plan to make a career in transit. After finishing high school and moving to the Twin Cities, she went to the University of Minnesota for a year then set out to make a career, working at an employment agency, in retail and designing clothes. When her father, a 20-year bus operator, suggested getting a job with a pension and insurance, she applied to work in the Transit Information Center. At the time, she thought of it as a “short stopover” on her path to something different. Her time in the TIC may have been brief, but her career in transit was not. Over the course of four decades, Bailly took multiple opportunities to assume more responsibility and improve conditions for operators like her father, who motivated her throughout her career. In April 2021, Bailly retired as the Director of Bus Transportation.
Bailly’s dedication was evident from her earliest days in the TIC. Shortly after she was hired, she underwent knee surgery and relied on co-workers to carry her up the stairs to work. Once there, she flipped through 3-foot wide books, her leg elevated and on ice, to help customers plan their trips over the phone. Her persistence and warm demeanor made an impression on supervisors who suggested she consider a role in management. That day would come, but not until after Bailly spent time as an order filler/dispatcher for Project Mobility, a paratransit service. Bailly’s job was to review trip requests, calculate travel times, create runs for operators and let customers know when they could expect to get picked up. When paratransit services went to private providers, Bailly helped monitor their service and provided feedback. It was in that role that Bailly learned about the supervisors who helped manage regular route service, an exposure that would set the stage for the next phases of her career.
Eager to make a case for herself, Bailly learned as much as she could by sitting down with several managers and carefully studying rulebooks on her own time. To her surprise, though, she didn’t get the job. A week later, she got a second call – one of the two people in front of her wouldn’t be immediately able to take the supervisor position, which was now being offered to her. Bailly spent the next 11 years as a supervisor, a role that allowed her to become an advocate for drivers like her father. “I saw what the job did to my father, how it became so stressful at the end, so my main goal was to make the job better for drivers,” Bailly said. In practice, that meant spending hours patiently listening to operators, joining them at the hospital after an assault and making the case for the creation of the Peer Support program, which she considers one of her signature accomplishments. Bailly never shied away from the job’s difficulties, either. Throughout, she worked nights and didn’t hesitate to respond to potentially volatile situations. Meticulously dressed in a linen suit, clipboard in hand, she would often arrive at a scene before police and take control of the situation. “Maybe I was a little too brave but that was just my style,” she said. “I talked my way into things and out of things pretty well.” Bailly also worked closely with Service Development to improve schedules, helped make the case for supervisors to get computers, then a novelty, and developed an automated logging and reporting system for supervisors call DSL, along with the Operating Condition Reports that allowed operators and staff to elevate their concerns.
Bailly’s enthusiasm led to roles as an assistant manager and manager in street operations, and as an assistant director of field operations. After six months as the acting director of Bus Transportation, she was asked to apply, earned the promotion, and spent the last 11 years of her career leading the department. During her time in leadership, she continued to advocate for drivers by promoting new training and safety programs and creating a stronger support system for operators who are assaulted. Bailly was particularly proud of a campaign to reduce farebox conflicts by encouraging operators to see their roles as fare informers instead of fare enforcers. Other accomplishments include earning her Emergency Management Certification and spending more than 12 years on APTA’s Security and Emergency Management working group, the creation of a team of communications specialists who communicate with riders in real-time, and a training program educating operators about human trafficking.
In retirement, Bailly planned to spend more time advocating for the protection of wolves and the environment, traveling, reading, and visiting family. Looking back, she said she was glad that she took her father’s advice and that she made the most of the opportunities that arose during her career. “When I started, management was the last thing on mind. I thought I’d get in, get some pension, make my dad happy and get out,” she said. “But it got in my blood right away. Working with operators, customers and the community, making a difference…the love just grew and grew.”