Just about everywhere he goes, people recognize Lee Estis. As one of the bus operators promoting operator hiring on billboards across the metro, it’s not hard to see why.
“I’m transit famous now,” Estis joked. “People come up to me at the grocery store, just about anywhere.”
When he started here, however, he was a little concerned of being seen by anyone in uniform.
“I thought some people from the neighborhood might ridicule me about the job,” Estis said. “But my mother said, ‘Be proud. Bus operators serve our communities.’”
On the very first day, he found out that she was right. Family and friends shared with him how proud they were, including his wife and two daughters, plus a busload of customers.
“I even saw my mother on my very first day,” he said. “She wanted to tell me how proud she was.”
As a new operator, however, he learned the importance of having a good mentor – especially in those first few years.
“I struggled a little bit the first year on the job,” Estis said. “But I was fortunate enough to have a few operators who chose to take me under their wing.”
Today, he serves as a mentorship coordinator in the bus operator apprenticeship program that began about 3 years ago. Every week, he connects the newest bus operators with mentors to help them navigate the challenges of taking on a new career. Together, they help the new operators work towards earning a journeyworker certificate.
“I’ve got the coolest job in transit,” Estis said. “We’re teaching superpowers here.”
This role is on top of serving as an active bus operator. He knows it’s important to spend time behind the wheel of a bus and not behind a desk. And as he approaches his 10-year anniversary, Estis looks forward to all the possibilities a career at transit can offer.
“I feel like I’m just getting started,” he said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Fast track your way to a new full-time career. No experience in bus operations is required and training is paid. Bus operators receive outstanding benefits like health care, annual salary increases, a pension plan, and an unlimited-ride bus pass. And, as many Metro Transit managers start their careers as operators, there's also room for growth.