Sunday, July 10, 2016 3:40:00 PM
After graduating high school, Kevin Johnson began studying chemistry, driving a school bus and considering his career options. With a bleak job market even for those with college degrees, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a bus operator. He started on May 27, 1975 and ended up spending more than 41 years at Metro Transit – a decade longer than his father and, at the time of his retirement, the highest-seniority operator at the company. Johnson said his longevity was largely the result of good pay and benefits – his starting wage was $5.41 an hour – but that he also loved driving and meeting customers. “I had an inside job, but I was always working outside,” he said. “And while you didn’t get to pick the people you met, you did get to meet people.” He was also good at what he did: Johnson’s had a nearly-flawless driving record when he retired. Johnson’s career began at the Old Snelling Garage, where he was first assigned to the old Route 3 that ran on Grand Avenue (he remembers that route mostly for the heavily-perfumed older women). He spent a few years at the old Northside Garage and had a stint at Nicollet Garage before returning to Old Snelling and moving to East Metro when it opened in 1984. He spent much of his career working the extraboard and on urban routes. In St. Paul, Johnson was in familiar territory; he grew up and went to school on the East Side. After years of early-mornings, Johnson said he is looking forward to living without a schedule in retirement. He plans to travel the United States with his wife Marita, golf and spend time with his family, including six children and eight grandchildren. “Whatever I do, it’s not going to entail an alarm clock that’s for sure,” he said. “That things a goner.”
Friday, July 01, 2016 10:54:00 AM
Growing up, Ned Swentik never set foot in a bus. When he was hired as a bus operator in 1985, though, he quickly became familiar. “It was my first day and here they have me driving right off the bat,” he said. “It was kind of exciting.” Swentik ended up spending the next 25 years as a bus operator, learning every route in the system by moving garages every few years and spending nearly all of his time on the extraboard. The variety helped keep him going. “When you move every two or three years, it’s like going to a new job with all new people,” Swentik said. “It kind of gives you a boost.” During his time as an operator, Swentik trained to be a Dispatcher and spent six months as an Assistant Transportation Manager through the Leadership Academy. He spent the last five years working as a full-time Dispatcher, but continued to serve as a miscellaneous operator for all but the last year of his career. As a Dispatcher, Swentik said he particularly enjoyed doing the markup, putting the pieces together to ensure all of the available work was correctly assigned to operators. Aside from his work duties, Swentik is also proud of his efforts to get a garden started at South Garage, growing sweet corn that became a frequent treat at the garage. After nearly 31 years of service, Swentik retired in July 2016. In retirement, Swentik plans to build on his gardening skills by moving to a hobby farm in southern Missouri where he can grow peaches, grapes and plums. Swentik also hopes to help his wife start a horse rescue and to spend more time with his family, including four children and seven grandchildren.
Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus
Friday, April 01, 2016 2:42:00 PM
Jan Homan’s career in transit began on Christmas Eve 1975. Hired as a Cleaner, he spent the overnight shift working alone in the then empty Shingle Creek Garage. After that solitary evening, Homan quickly found his place as a leader and innovator and, above all else, a friend. Over his 40 years at Metro Transit, Homan continually took on new and different challenges. After working as a Mechanic at the old Northside and Snelling garages, he landed his first supervisor job, as a foreman at Nicollet Garage. In 1992, he became the Maintenance Manager at Heywood Garage. It was in this role that Homan helped re-define the inspection process and shift attention toward preventative maintenance. In 2000, Homan became Metro Transit’s Director of Bus Maintenance. As Director, Homan helped Metro Transit adapt new technologies, including hybrid-electric buses, worked to create opportunities for others and continued to lead efforts to improve fleet reliability. In 2013, Homan was named Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus and began leading both the Bus Maintenance and Bus Transportation divisions. Read more about Homan's career at metrotransit.org/ridersalmanac.
Assistant Director-Bus Maintenance
Friday, April 01, 2016 11:13:00 AM
Chuck Wurzinger knew early on that he wanted to do something related to public service. He began as a Cleaner in 1979, then spent the next decade repairing buses in various service garages. In 1989, he became the Cleaning Supervisor for all garages. Two years later, he became a Fleet Service Supervisor for ADA equipment, brakes, air systems, steering and suspension. Wurzinger also trained mechanics, worked on accident and fire investigations and filled several open positions, ranging from Shop Supervisor to Assistant Director. In 2007, he became the Assistant Director for Technical Support, managing a staff of 11, including trainers, fleet service supervisors and an engineer. Wurzinger also led bus, fuel and tire leasing procurements and managed Bus Maintenance contracts and individual bus production runs. Wurzinger retired in April 2016 with nearly 37 years of service. Upon his retirement, he said he never imagined he’d have such a lengthy career in transit, but that new challenges and opportunities motivated him to continue. In retirement, Wurzinger plans to spend time traveling with his wife and biking. “Of course, the biggest hole left by my retirement will be missing everyone I’ve worked with at Metro Transit,” he said.
Friday, April 01, 2016 9:45:00 AM
After serving as a Marine in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict, John Mattson thought he’d go back to school to study engineering and science. But in 1975, on the recommendation of a friend, he applied for a job at Metro Transit, where he could put his “backyard mechanic” skills to use. He spent the next decade working as a cleaner, fueler and helper at the old Northside and old Snelling garages before moving into Facilities Maintenance so his days would have more variety. As part of a small and mobile facilities team, Mattson spent time at several garages. Eventually, though, he found a home at South Garage, where he spent the last 25 years of his career. Though he could have gone elsewhere, Mattson said he took pride in making South the best it could be. “I’ve always considered this my baby and the place where I belong,” he said. Mattson took particular pride in keeping the garage clean, well-ventilated, and lit and battling blizzards that nearly buried the garage during the winter months. Mattson retired in April 2016 with plans to spend time golfing, watching and photographing birds, and monitoring osprey nests along the St. Croix River.
Saturday, February 06, 2016 10:03:00 AM
In 1980, Sabina Miller volunteered to drive her friend to downtown Minneapolis so she could take the test to become a bus operator. Miller’s friend’s dad was currently working as an operator, and her friend’s grandfather had started with the trolley cars, and each had proclaimed the great benefits of working for the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC, the precursor to Metro Transit). So rather than wait in the car for her friend, Miller decided to take the test as well. She passed. So, it is only by happenstance that Miller was hired as one of the first part-time operators. She moved into a full-time role eight months later. Seeing a woman behind the wheel of the bus continued to surprise riders well into the '90's. (Woman drivers were so rare that when Miller was pregnant in 1984, she had to sew her own own maternity uniform; Miller said she will always remember customers’ gasps upon seeing a pregnant bus operator.) Along with a few years as a Relief Dispatcher, Miller spent most of her first 20 years at Nicollet Garage, with a brief stint at the old Snelling Garage. Her final 15 years were spent at South Garage. People would often ask Miller, "Isn't it hard to drive a bus?" and she would tell them, "Driving the bus is the easy part. It's dealing with the people that is hard." Even so, Miller said she will miss the peaceful calm of the early mornings and the deep connections she had with regular customers. The most profound thing that she said she took away from her 35 years of service is that everyone has a story. In retirement, Miller said she is taking the compassion she learned for people to address tremendous community needs, teaching people how to read as a literacy tutor.
Monday, February 01, 2016 10:17:00 AM
Growing up in Minneapolis, Ed Pedersen’s parents would give him 32 cents a day to ride to and from school on the bus – 15 cents for each trip and two cents to buy a carton of milk. Instead, he hitched rides on the bumper and used the profit to buy ice cream sandwiches. He eventually got on board, though, and while studying Criminal Justice took a job as a part-time bus operator. Even then, he said, he hoped it was where his career would begin and end. “Back in those days, it was an awesome thing to get into transit,” Pedersen said. “I planned on retiring from here as soon as I got my foot in the door.” And that’s exactly what happened. Pedersen spent 15 years as an operator – working at the South, Heywood, Nicollet and Old Snelling garages – and the second half of his 31-year career as a relief- and full-time dispatcher for bus and rail. As an operator, Pedersen said he enjoyed the challenge of maneuvering such a large vehicle. One of the most difficult assignment he took was during a 1984 blizzard when he volunteered to take a group of stranded passengers from the airport to downtown Minneapolis, driving the only bus on the road at the time. “When we got there, they (the passengers) were all throwing cash at me they were so glad to be at a hotel,” he said. It wasn’t the only time Pedersen stepped in during a time of need, either. As a longtime extraboard driver, he would drive his RV to work, camping out for several days and picking up work as needed. That experience led to the next phase of his career as a Dispatcher working to ensure all of the day’s routes were covered. Pedersen said he enjoyed the daily challenge and took particular pride in having never being unable to fill a piece of work – something he says came from building good relationships. Pedersen moved to light rail in 2010, where the job was similar but more technologically advanced. During his time as a Rail Dispatcher, he helped implement a system that allowed light-rail operators to schedule and pick work electronically. Whatever role it was, Pedersen said he always took pride in doing his best. “To go home at the end of the day and be able to say you did the best that you could is a very rewarding feeling,” he said. Pedersen retired in February 2016 with plans to spend more time raising animals and crops on his hobby farm in Big Lake. Pedersen also looked forward to having more time with his family, including 11 children and more than 20 grandchildren.
Monday, January 11, 2016 1:27:00 PM
Sharyn Basso was working full-time in retail when she saw an ad for part-time bus operators and realized she could earn the same amount of money while having more time to spend with her two children. So she made the switch, becoming one of the Metropolitan Transit Commission’s first part-time operators. Having some previous experience driving her then-husband’s semi-truck, she transitioned easily. “I could relate to the size, which helped,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid, but it was kind of exciting and very different.” Basso’s confidence grew behind the wheel and she eventually moved back into a full-time role. She ultimately spent 31 years as an Operator and Dispatcher. Her career began at Shingle Creek (now the Martin J. Ruter Garage), where she drove the Route 10 bus she’d grown up taking to school. She also spent time at the Heywood, Old Snelling and East Metro garages. Basso spent the last eight years of her career at South Garage, where she worked as a Mark-Up Dispatcher ensuring operators were in place to cover all the day’s assignments. Basso said she enjoyed driving, particularly in spring and fall, but was drawn to the Dispatcher role by a close friend who showed her the ropes. As an extraboard driver, she also knew what it was like to be on the other side. “I wanted to use my knowledge to help other drivers,” she said. Basso thrived in the role, enjoying the constant variety and challenges that came each day. That activity, she said, is what she’ll miss most about working at Metro Transit. Even so, she is looking forward to having less on her plate in she plans on doing is sleeping until she wakes up. After that, she said, “I’m just going to do what comes.”
Saturday, January 02, 2016 12:30:00 PM
After more than 42 years of service, there isn’t much Leonard Cline hasn’t done when it comes to bus maintenance. After beginning his career as a fueler at Nicollet Garage, Cline moved to the old Snelling Garage and was among the first employees to work out of the Overhaul Base when it opened in 1980. Learning as he went, Cline rebuilt transmissions, fixed windows, fareboxes and upholstery on at least a dozen different types of buses. He spent a decade repairing alternators and starters in the electric shop before finishing his career in the machine shop, where he supported other mechanics by fabricating tools and repairing small components. Cline said he enjoyed the work because it involved problem-solving and offered a lot of variety from day-to-day. As a single parent, working nights also allowed him to stay active in his children’s lives. There was also a lot of camaraderie among those he worked with. “You kind of looked forward to coming to work just to see what was going to happen that day,” he said. While he hadn’t expected to have such a long career at Metro Transit, his path wasn’t altogether surprising. Cline grew up near the old Snelling Garage and his father worked as a streetcar motorman and later as a Janitor for the Metropolitan Transit Commission. In retirement, Cline said he’d like to remain active by becoming involved in the Minnesota Transportation Museum or the Twin City Model Railroad Museum. He also plans to spend more time with family, including his three children and three grandchildren, golfing and traveling.
Friday, January 01, 2016 3:57:00 PM
When Kevin Krepsky started working as a Cleaner, he didn’t anticipate making a career out of transit. But what might have been a temporary stay became less and less so as he worked his way up from the Cleaner role into daytime jobs as a Helper, Skilled Helper and Mechanic-Technician. As his responsibilities grew, Krepsky found gratification from diagnosing and fixing problems. He particularly enjoyed working on the heating and cooling systems, which involved the entire bus. As a Mechanic-Technician, Krepsky worked at several garages, including South, Ruter, Nicollet and the Overhaul Base. He spent most of his time at the old Snelling Garage, moving to a much cleaner, less polluted East Metro when it opened in 2001. “It was kind of strange (moving from old Snelling to East Metro) but we were all looking forward to a change,” he said. (Krepsky’s brother Darrell also spent more than 30 years in Bus Maintenance, retiring in early 2016.) Krepsky spent the last nine years of his career in Facilities Maintenance, fixing and maintaining support buildings. He was the first Facilities Maintenance staff member to work at the METRO Green Line’s Operations and Maintenance Facility, in Lowertown, starting there a year before rail service began. The move was inspired by his interest in trains, as well as an interest in having a new experience. “A lot of people thought because it was a new building that there wouldn’t be much to do, but it was really the opposite,” he said. After nearly 37 years of service, Krepsky retired in March 2016. In retirement, he plans to spend more time with his family, including his wife and two children, and pursuing his hobbies – biking, woodworking and restoring a 1980 Corvette.