When Operator Melanie Benson pulled up to the bus stop on Lagoon Avenue Monday morning, as she’s done hundreds of times over the years, a few familiar faces were there to greet her.
There was also a plaque to be presented, commemorating Benson’s 45 years of service at Metro Transit – many of them on Route 23, where she’s on a first-name basis with many regular riders. Benson’s career began on Oct. 11, 1976, soon after graduating from Macalester College and having an “epiphany” while waiting for a bus.
“It’s happy and jolly and wonderful,” Benson said after a round of hugs with managers from Nicollet Garage, where she works. “I love this job and I’ve appreciated everyone I’ve met. It means everything.”
Benson is Metro Transit’s longest-serving bus operator, and the agency’s seventh-longest serving active employee. Each milestone has brought a bit of celebration – on Monday, her bus was decorated with balloons, posters and several customers who have ridden with Benson over the years.
That joyful energy, Benson, said, is why she’s not giving much thought to life after Metro Transit.
“We don’t use the 'r word’ around me,” Benson said. “As long as I’m enjoying myself, I’m staying on the job. And I’m certainly enjoying myself.”
Drivers start at more than $21 per hour – even during training – and receive outstanding benefits, including health care, annual salary increases, a pension plan, an unlimited-ride bus pass and a $1,000 hiring bonus. To learn more and apply, visit metrotransit.org/drive.