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.
Friday, January 01, 2016 3:55:00 PM
Shortly after graduating from high school, Darrell Krepsky took a job as a third-shift cleaner sweeping buses at the old Northside Garage. He assumed it would be a stepping stone to something else. But it wasn’t. Within weeks, Krepsky moved into a Fueler position. Shortly after that he became a Mechanic-Technician, a role he held for more than three decades. “I was learning more and more, and at some point there became no reason to leave,” Krepsky said. During his career, Krepsky worked at every garage except for old Snelling and East Metro and on several generations of buses. He spent nearly a decade working on powertrains and 15 years as an AC mechanic. Krepsky said he enjoyed the daily challenges the job presented and the variety of the work. “I always took pride in what I was doing and always tried to do my best,” he said. The other major appeal was the people he worked with and the friends he made over the years. When he retired in January 2016 with more than 35 years of service, he said those friendships are what he will miss most about the job. But Krepsky has plans for his next chapter. In retirement, Krepsky hopes to find a part-time job doing something completely different than he’s done in the past and to spend more time trapshooting. He may also visit Italy, where his wife Cathy’s grandparents are from.
Friday, January 01, 2016 2:15:00 PM
Growing up in Minneapolis, Gregory Gaustad regularly rode the bus to trade school downtown. And while he never thought he’d be the one behind the wheel, life led him to that exact spot and kept him there for the next 36 years. “I never really gave it much thought – it just kind of happened,” Gaustad said shortly before retiring in January 2016. Gaustad’s career began at the Old Northside Garage; he spent a decade at Nicollet Garage and closed out his career at Heywood Garage. Gaustad said driving came naturally and that he enjoyed the variety he got from being an extraboard driver assigned to different routes each day. Among his more memorable moments came in 1987, driving through a flooded area on Route 17. “You could see the water coming up the stairs and then down the aisle,” he said. “I had to get a little creative and go around.” Gaustad said his career was otherwise relatively quiet and uneventful. But he enjoyed visiting with his fellow operators and passengers, whose chit-chat made the days go a little faster. One reason for the relative calm was Gaustad’s patience and safe driving abilities – he recorded 28 years of safe driving during his career. In retirement, Gaustad plans to spend more time Up North ice fishing, deer hunting and with his family, including two daughters and one son.
Friday, January 01, 2016 10:32:00 AM
Silas “Sy” Sharp never shied away from work. After serving in the Korean War, he spent his days working as a heavy equipment operator with the City of Minneapolis and his nights at the Minneapolis Athletic Club, full-time jobs that took 16 hours of his day even as he studied management at the University of Minnesota. In 1963, on the advice of a club member who worked in transit, he took a job in bus maintenance at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission, or MTC. For 22 years, he held full-time jobs with both the city and MTC. Sharp retired from the city after 30 years, and in early 2016 retired from Metro Transit with 52 years of service – the longest tenure in agency history. “I didn’t get much sleep sometimes – I averaged about three hours of sleep, four maybe,” Sharp said shortly after his retirement. “I’m the type of guy, I just love working.” At 28 years old, Sharp began his career as a cleaner sweeping buses at the old Northside Garage in Minneapolis. He later became what was known as a “hustler,” fueling and moving buses around the garage. His strong work ethic and history as a Sgt. in the Army led him to be recruited as a garage foreman, the first of several management positions he held in Bus Maintenance. Sharp also worked as a foreman at the old Snelling Garage and as the Maintenance Manager at the Nicollet and Martin J. Ruter garages. Sharp is particularly proud of his tenure at Nicollet, an underperforming garage he was tasked with turning around. “There were a lot of people here who said it couldn’t be done,” Sharp said. “I said, ‘There’s no such thing as can’t,’ because that’s what I was taught. That it can be done if you apply yourself. And Nicollet went from being one of the worst to the best. I was very proud of that.” In retirement, Sharp is spending more time with his family, including wife Mary, three daughters, two sons and 12 grandchildren, enjoying a new home in Florida and fishing.
Tuesday, December 01, 2015 2:28:00 PM
To continue receiving unemployment assistance, Bonnie Green needed to prove that she was making efforts to find a job. So when her husband, already working as a bus driver, suggested applying for the same job, she took the advice. To her surprise, she got the gig. “It wasn’t like it was a lifelong dream or anything, but I said ‘You have a job, and I need one,’” she said. Even so, Green didn’t think it would last. When she started in June 1979 she intended on staying only long enough to avoid being charged for the army green uniform the job required. “It would have cost me $250, and that was a lot of money for an ugly uniform I’d never wear again,” she said. Though it might not have been her original plan, Green ended up spending more than 33 years behind the wheel. Green retired in 2006 and returned in 2009 for another six years of driving (her first retirement came on April Fools’ Day, allowing her to brush that initial exit off as a ruse). A lifelong St. Paul resident, Green was the first part-time operator at the old Snelling Garage; when that garage closed, she move to East Metro. She drove every route in and around St. Paul, and was particularly fond of the old Route 5, with service between St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights, and the old Route 29 that went through West St. Paul. Green said she stayed with the job because she enjoyed driving, getting to know her fellow operators and visiting with customers who seemed to appreciate her friendly demeanor. “A lot of people are really grateful for any little help you can give them,” she said. Among her more memorable moments was the time she pulled up to a women in labor, covering her legs with a sweater until an ambulance could arrive. And while initially intimidated by the size of the bus, she turned out to be a natural, recording more than 25 years of safe driving. Green retired in December 2015 with plans to visit several national parks and stay active by going to the gym, golfing and bowling.
Sunday, November 01, 2015 10:27:00 AM
Just out of high school, Delroy Shafer faced a decision: he could complete Dunwoody’s electrician program or start working full-time and get his education on the job. He got to work, beginning as a Cleaner at the Metropolitan Transit Commission on Aug. 17, 1979. So began a 26-year education in Bus Maintenance. “Once I got here, I just decided I’d stay and train on the job,” Schafer said. “And I really picked up a lot, not just from experience but from working with people who really had a lot of talent.” Schafer did eventually go back to school, though, taking night classes to earn his electricians license. In 2007, he started working in facilities, doing electrical work at rail platforms and other transit properties. In the final three years of his career, Schafer worked as one of two Facilities Supervisors leading a team of around 20 people charged with maintaining Metro Transit’s support facilities. With a combined total of around 2.4 million square feet, there was a lot to keep up with. But the work was rewarding and allowed him to stay involved in one of his favorite parts of the job – trouble-shooting and resolving issues. Inspired by growing up in a union household, Schafer was also an active member of the ATU. Before the opening of the state’s first light-rail line, Schafer was part of a team that toured other properties and worked with management to craft rules for light-rail’s union workers. He was the first union steward to work on behalf of light-rail union members. While involved in the union, Schafer met his wife, Kellie Miller, who retired as the Manager of Scheduling in August 2015. Looking back, Schafer said he was grateful to have worked alongside so many skilled and knowledgeable people – including brothers Wayne and Dan – and to have had a reliable income that allowed him to put his two children through college. “Metro Transit is really the land of opportunity,” he said. “There are just so many different roads you can take in this company…this place provided pretty much everything.” Schafer retired in November 2015 with 36 years of service. In retirement, he planned to spend more time fishing and boating at his northern Minnesota lake home and to pursue a couple of projects – restoring a 1971 Yamaha dirt bike similar to the one he’d had as a teenager and a 27-year-old Boston whaler boat.