Lynnette Olson began taking the bus at a young age, becoming so used to riding that she didn’t feel the need to get a driver’s license until she was 18 years old. Her older brother worked in bus maintenance and, while working as a gas clerk on Nicollet Avenue, she regularly chatted with operators on break who spoke positively about their work. So as a single mom eager to find a steady job with good benefits it wasn’t altogether surprising that she’d apply to become a bus operator. She was hired in 1984, and ultimately built a nearly 34-year career at Metro Transit.
Olson’s first stop was at what was then known as the Shingle Creek Garage, now known as the Martin J. Ruter Garage. Her early career also included time at the Heywood and Nicollet garages. At the time, she was among a small number of female operators, which led to some doubts about her abilities. “It was kind of a grueling place to be a woman,” she said. “But I grew up with five brothers so I knew anything the guys could do I could do. It didn’t deter me at all.”
Among her memorable early experiences was working nights on Route 9, when large groups of men would exit Moby Dicks, a Hennepin Avenue bar, and crowd the front of the bus hoping to get her attention. The night Olson was assigned to bring a group of fraternity members and their dates to a Medina ballroom also stands out, in part because she drove the 60-foot bus into a dead-end parking lot and had to back up, inch by inch, over the course of several hours. “I could’ve driven the bus home backward after that,” Olson said.
After having her second child, Olson set driving aside and spent ten years as a janitor at South Garage. The move allowed her to work during the day and spend time with her kids in the evening. Spending more time at the garage helped her get to know her co-workers, including, another long-serving operator, Jerry Olson, who she later married.
While it made her nervous, Olson returned to driving to have more control over her schedule. The move also brought variety back to her working life, something she craved to keep the job interesting. While she worked several different local and express routes, her career also included a four-year stint on Route 535, where she became a familiar face to several customers. Some were so close, she said, that they delivered cards when her mother passed away.
That experience was just one of many, she said, that underscored the role Metro Transit has played through all her life changes. “This job has been a real blessing,” Olson said shortly before retiring. “Everything that’s happened throughout my adult life, it’s been in the background.”
In retirement, Olson planned to spend more time with her family, including her two children and several grandchildren. She also looked forward to traveling, gardening and organizing thousands of pictures collected through the years.