Henry Bridges said he’d never move to Minnesota. Today, he’s a senior instructor at Heywood Garage.
As a native New Yorker, Bridges was used to the big city and lots of people. Occasionally, he’d visit family in Minnesota. To him, the difference was stark.
“I thought it moved too slow and there were no people,” Bridges said. “But things change. Minnesota’s my home and so is Metro Transit.”
After arriving in 1985, Bridges worked several jobs as a machinist, including one that helped finish the bricks used to build Target Center. But at the end of every year, he and his fellow employees were laid off, then rehired. The instability took its toll on the father of four and he started looking for a new line of work.
“After seeing an ad, I remembered my childhood watching the bus drivers in New York and being interested in their job, but not the people,” Bridges said. “But like my move to Minnesota, things change!”
Bridges started as a part-time weekend driver while continuing to work as a machinist. But after two years, he saw that he could focus exclusively on building his career at Metro Transit. As an instructor, Bridges helps newer operators learn the trade.
“I love driving bus, but it’s even more rewarding to help other bus operators,” Bridges said.
This year, he's had a new assignment -- teaching operators how to drive electric buses now in service on the METRO C Line. While similar to their diesel-fueled counterparts, electric buses have enough differences to require separate training.
“It’s a great bus and it’s the future of our industry,” Bridges said. “It’s a great time to be in transit.”
Over the years, his work has not gone unnoticed. Bridges received the honor of driving the inaugural electric bus on the C Line's opening day. With lots of cameras at the ready, he was ready for his close-up. “It’s like being a movie star!” Bridges said.
But the best part of his day didn't happen until the bus stopped at the Brooklyn Center Transit Center (BCTC). Oliver, one of the inaugural bus riders, told his dad he needed to meet the driver. His dad said he didn’t stop talking about meeting Bridges until he fell asleep that night.
"It's moments like that, which make me love my job even more," Bridges said.
Bridges meets with a boy named Oliver who insisted on meeting the bus driver of the first electric bus.
Operator at a Glance
Name: Henry Bridges
Hired: July 21, 2001
Routes: Instructor, but drove Route 19 many years
Hobbies: Fishing, bowling and basketball
Family: Three sons, a daughter and soon to be married
If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, come help us run our growing transit system! Learn more about what it takes to become a bus operator at metrotransit.org/drive.