Marilyn Hood thought she’d dedicate her career to social work. And after graduating from Bethel College, she started down that path, working at a center that supported women who’d been raped or sexually assaulted. But with two children and dreams of buying a home, a job ad for what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission caught her attention. As a bus operator, she could make double what she was earning as a counselor. Hood applied, began as a part-time operator and, within two years, went full-time. Hood would go on to build a 32-year career in transit. But while she found herself in an unexpected line of work, her passion for helping people never faded.
Hood’s time at Metro Transit is roughly divided into thirds. For the first part of her career, she served as an operator at the Shingle Creek and Heywood garages. As an operator, she enjoyed having regular routes where she could get to know her customers. “It was the human contact that was really important to me,” she said. When she told a manager that she was considering a move to teaching, she was persuaded to instead join the agency’s nascent team of instructors, who would be charged with helping new operators get their start. As one of Metro Transit’s first full-time instructors, Hood wasn’t just teaching but also writing the first lesson plans that would guide her and her peers work. It was a good fit, too. “I totally enjoyed teaching,” she said. “The creativity, working with people from around the world and figuring out what makes them tick. It was really intellectually stimulating.” As a self-described introvert, she also learned how to stand in front of a group without revealing any apprehension. “I imagined myself as Meryl Streep, which allowed me to feel like I could be up there and be competent, confident and able to make a difference,” she said.
A decade after becoming an instructor, Hood found herself at a retirement for a safety specialist who described their job as the best they’d ever had. Intrigued, she applied and got the job. As a safety specialist at Heywood Garage, Hood investigated accidents, monitored on-street performance, rode along with bus operators, provided input on new bus purchases and was involved in arbitration and legal proceedings. As she did as an instructor, she also helped break new ground, introducing classes built around videos from real accidents and other course materials. As a safety specialist, Hood especially liked having the chance to support operators who were involved in a collision but still showed promise. “I always wanted to be the advocate and this was one way to do that,” she said. During her time in safety, Hood also helped plan and organize the agency’s annual Bus Roadeo,
Hood retired in July 2018 with plans to move to Texas, her home state, and commit herself to humanitarian work. “I feel really fortunate to have worked in an organization that offers opportunity, diversity and support,” she said.