Growing up in south Minneapolis, Bradley Larson took the bus to go skiing in Inver Hills and, later, to a job at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. A nearby neighbor was also a retired bus operator. So after working as a computer technician and taking a few odd jobs, including a stint as a school bus driver, he came around to the idea of working at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. “I wasn’t sure, but I heard the pay was good, and there was benefits, which is what I was looking for,” Larson remembered. “After a while, I got a decent raise, better hours and that was that.” Larson wound up spending more than 30 years with Metro Transit, retiring in 2019 out of South Garage.
Larson’s began his career as a bus operator at what was then known as the Shingle Creek Garage. It was a tough start: there were no power brakes or power steering and, as a part-time operator, he was often assigned some of the oldest buses in the fleet. Larson also faced a long commute. His affinity for the work grew over time, though, and, eventually, Larson had worked the extraboard at every garage. “I was all over the place,” he said. “I thought, ‘I don’t know St. Paul, but I’m going to give it a try.’ It ended up being a pretty good experience. I liked the variety and was able to pretty much learn the whole system.”
After 15 years as a bus operator, Larson transferred to light rail to be among the first train operators on the METRO Blue Line. He remembers it being a nerve-wracking experience. But just as he’d done as a bus operator, Larson grew more comfortable the longer he stayed. “Once I got the feel for it, I had no problem operating those trains at all,” he said. In 2014, Larson took on another challenge, joining the first group of train operators to move to the METRO Green Line. Before service began, he operated test trains through the corridor. Such uncommon experiences became a regular part of Larson’s work – he was the first train operator to test three-car train sets and was once asked to try a four-car train set in the yard. He was also tapped to participate in a mock breakdown on the Highway 62 flyover and was regularly asked to pull-in trains experiencing mechanical issues. “I just kept getting asked to be involved in a lot of the little projects we had going on,” he said. In his decade as a train operator, Larson never had a responsible collision.
At the end of his career, Larson returned to South Garage, where he spent his final five years as a bus operator. Asked what he’d miss most about Metro Transit, he said it would be the people. “A lot of people would call me crazy because of the off the wall comments I’d make, but I didn’t really care because the whole room would be cracking up,” he said. “We all had a great time together, and that’s what I’ll really miss.”
In retirement, Larson planned to spend time boating on the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers and traveling.