Since the start of the pandemic, Train Operator Sarah Gibson hasn’t been seeing as many passengers as she used to.
But there are still enough familiar faces to keep her spirits up – the veterans traveling to and from the VA, the shoppers going to 46th Street or Lake Street to get groceries, many of them using walkers or wheelchairs.
“They’re out there every day and you can tell they’re always very appreciative – they’ll nod their head, wave, smile, if you can see it,” Gibson said. “It’s nice knowing we’re there to provide a service for people who really need it.”
While her work has taken on new meaning over the last year, Gibson has long enjoyed getting people where they need to go.
After starting a career as a massage therapist, Gibson began driving school buses to earn extra income. Eventually, she found that she liked being on the bus more than she liked being at the gym and adjusted her hours accordingly.
She started at Metro Transit in 2012 with hopes of focusing her attention on a single job with good pay and benefits. Before the METRO Green Line opened in 2014, she took another leap and transferred to light rail.
“How often in life you get to drive a 300-foot vehicle worth millions of dollars?” she said. “I had to do it.”
While there were challenges, Gibson’s success as a bus operator carried over to light rail.
Gibson has never had a responsible collision as a bus or train operator. She was a top finisher in the Bus Roadeo and took third place in Metro Transit’s 2017 Rail Rodeo, competitions that test an operator’s skillset.
In 2019, she became the first woman to win the Rail Roadeo, earning the chance to compete in an international competition later that year.
Gibson surprises plenty of people when she tells them about her career and hopes her accomplishments will be an inspiration to other women. In at least one case, Gibson knows she’s already made an impression.
“At 100, my grandma doesn’t remember much,” she said. “But she always remembers what I do. It wasn’t that long ago that women weren’t allowed to hold a job like this, so she can’t believe it.”
Transit Driver Appreciation Day is March 18
Bus and train operators are serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing an essential service to those who must use transit. To recognize their service, Metro Transit will celebrate Transit Driver Appreciation Day on Thursday, March 18. To participate, consider writing a commendation, sending a card or letter to any garage or showing your support on social media.