Every weekday morning, operator Rodney Smith makes four 12-mile journeys between Normandale Community College and downtown Minneapolis on Route 535.
With a full load of customers in tow, he guides a 40-foot bus through rush hour traffic on Interstate 35W, maneuvers through several lanes to pick up or drop off customers at Lake Street and navigates through congested downtown streets.
Despite the challenges, Smith maintains a safe driving record that stretches back to his first day on the job 35 years ago. Asked how he’s been able to do it, Smith said he’d never really paused to consider his impressive streak.
“It’s not like you’re marking the days on the calendar,” Smith said. “You just have patience and take it day by day.”
Metro Transit has been keeping a calendar, though, and on Thursday Smith was among a group of five Metro Transit operators recognized for 35 consecutive years of safe driving.
The recognition came at the Ovations Awards Ceremony, Metro Transit’s annual operator appreciation event. More than 50 bus and light rail operators celebrating career milestones were honored for their safe driving records, customer service and attendance at the event.
Two operators were recognized for 30 consecutive years of safe driving and two operators were recognized for 25 consecutive years of safe driving. Another 16 operators were honored for 25 combined years of safe driving and others were celebrated for reaching 25-, 20-, 15-, 10- and 5-year milestones.
Several operators in attendance credited their success to simply being aware of their surroundings, a cornerstone of the Safety Keys training operators go through every three years.
“It’s a lot of skill, a lot of experience, a lot of good training – and maybe just a little bit of luck,” said operator Duane Lundgren who, while being a self-described klutz, has tallied 30 consecutive years of safe driving.
General Manager Brian Lamb took the opportunity to thank operators for their service, commitment to customers and leadership in the organization.
He credited operators for helping Metro Transit grow ridership in ten of the last 11 years – the first such period of growth in a century – and said they all played an important role in shaping the next generation of top operators.
“It isn’t just about what we build, it’s about who we are,” Lamb said in his address. “And you are the best of who we are.”
> Metro Transit Awards and Recognition
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