Patrick Brown didn’t think he wanted a job that involved a lot of public interaction. But with a six-month-old child and another on the way, he needed to find work that would allow him to support his growing family. A hiring sign hanging on the side of the old Northside Garage gave him the idea of applying for a job as a bus operator. He reported to the old Snelling Garage, passed the hiring test and was immediately thrown into a class with other new hires. Shortly after that, he began working out of Shingle Creek Garage (now the Martin J. Ruter Garage). And so began what would become a 38-year career in transit.
Brown spent more than seven years as a bus operator, working the extraboard at the Heywood and Nicollet garages. He liked the job but started to feel like he needed something more. “I saw another operator who was a week behind me in seniority with a supervisor badge and that’s what kind of lit the fuse for me,” Brown said. “I had to find out where the job board was.” In 1987, Brown’s ambitions led to a new job as a Transit Supervisor.
Initially, Brown split his time between answering calls in the Transit Control Center and managing service out on the street. When those roles were divided into separate jobs, Brown began spending all his time on the road. (The first car he was assigned was a Chevy Citation.) It was, he said, an easy choice. “Nobody ever calls the Control Center to say, ‘Have a nice day,’” Brown said. “There’s always a problem.” As a supervisor, Brown watched to see how closely buses were following their schedules, managed planned and emergency detours, responded to accidents and got back to customers who had questions or concerns. For years, his days began at 4 a.m., an hour before any other Minneapolis supervisors. With the city to himself, his primary responsibility was to make sure that a group of early-morning buses met as scheduled. Brown said he enjoyed the relative freedom that came with the job and serving a community he knew well: Brown often found himself in Northeast Minneapolis, near his boyhood home and where he later lived as an adult. “I live right in the middle of my district so, to a degree, I’d go to work and then go right back home,” he said.
While there was a degree of routine, Brown found himself in plenty of unique situations. In one instance, he helped line up buses that were used to provide a layer of protection as the Minneapolis Fed moved cash into its new building on Hennepin Avenue. Presidential visits led to interactions with the Secret Service. He worked through two Super Bowls and two World Series. And he was tapped to be the driver for what was essentially the Metro Transit Police Department’s first squad car, carrying police to and from a St. Louis Park roller rink where teenagers gathered. “There was such a variety of things,” Brown said. “You’d come to work and never really know what was going to come over the radio.”
Brown retired in April 2018 with plans to spend his retirement traveling, fishing and enjoying his family, including his wife, three sons and six grandchildren.