Growing up, Tom O’Brien often worked on cars and joined his dad while he worked as a mechanic, crawling underneath vehicles to apply grease in areas he had an easier time reaching. The experiences developed an interest in vehicle maintenance that would eventually lead him to attend vocational school and to apply for a job at what was then the Metropolitan Transit Commission. “I wanted to work on biggest stuff and buses are pretty big,” he said. In late 1985, O’Brien began as a skilled helper at the old Snelling Garage, the start of what would become a nearly 33-year career.
O’Brien’s career in bus maintenance included time at nearly every garage and in positions as a skilled helper, cleaner, fueler and technician. After old Snelling closed, he moved to South where he spent over 12 years working the overnight shift. As a technician, he did a little bit of everything – powertrain maintenance, hoist repairs, tune-ups and inspections – gaining expertise along the way. He was particularly interested in the powertrain work, he said, because it allowed him to learn about new technologies that were appearing in the fleet.
The final four years of O’Brien’s career were spent at the Overhaul Base, where he worked in the Body Shop as a welder. Along with his fellow technicians, the job involved cutting steel for replacement bus panels and a host of other odd jobs, including fabricating custom parts requested by other departments. “There’s such a wide variety of stuff that comes through here, which keeps the job interesting,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien retired in July 2018, just two months shy of the day he began, 33 years earlier. Looking back, he said he was glad to have found a home at Metro Transit, where he made many friendships and enjoyed good benefits. In retirement, O’Brien said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren and bringing his RV and off-road Jeep to parts of the country he hasn’t yet explored.