“I know it sounds corny,” laughs 26-year-old Reggie. “But even as an adult I never forgot the fun I had with that little bus. I worked for a while as a security guard and later as a bingo floor clerk at San Manuel. But when I heard that there was an opening for a coach operator at Omnitrans I just had to apply. After I went through the training program, I was hooked all over again. I’ve been driving for the agency about 3 years now. “
For Reggie, the best part of his job is the passengers. “I meet a lot of people every day, and it keeps the job interesting. I make a point of greeting all my passengers when they get on the bus or pay their fares, and thank them for riding when they leave. If I can put a smile on someone’s face and make them have a good day, I will. You always want people to have a good experience. For all you know, the person boarding your bus might never have ridden before, and you’re their first impression. “
Recently Reggie was going out of service for the evening when he noticed an unusually high number of passengers who had been left behind at a Route 14 stop because the bus had been at full capacity. With permission from dispatch, he turned around, loaded the passengers, and then ran the route all the way to Fontana.
“Those late evening trips are always so full, and I didn’t want anyone to get stranded or miss their connection. People were really nice and thanked me over and over. One woman told me she had been worried because the battery on her wheelchair was almost drained and she hadn’t known what she was going to do. It felt good to be able to help.”
Another time Reggie observed a woman in a wheelchair coming up the street when he was at a stop. “For some reason, I got the feeling she was trying to make the bus. Now most of the time, people try to signal you and let you know, and I try to wait for them. But this woman wasn’t doing anything other than run her wheelchair full blast up the sidewalk. I lowered the ramp. She made it to the stop and flew right by me. I thought I was mistaken at that point, but she turned around and came back. Turns out she was going so fast she couldn’t stop quick enough! We laughed and she thanked me for waiting for her.”
What’s the hardest thing about being a coach operator? “Other cars,” said Reggie without hesitation. “People always think buses are slow and are constantly trying to pass you or cut you off. You have to constantly be aware of what’s going on around you. Safety is a huge part of our training, and we’re taught to stay alert to the space around us at all times and pay attention to what could be a potentially impatient driver.”
Reggie has a passion for public transit and eventually hopes to move up in the agency and become a field supervisor. He goes to school part-time and recently switched his major from pediatrics to accounting. He says it’s not as big a switch as it sounds, since pediatrics is very science and math heavy. In his down time he coaches basketball for the City of Redlands at the Redlands Community Center.
His parents still remember the little toy school bus that first inspired Reggie, and his dad proudly brags on his son to anyone who will listen. “My dad has started taking the bus a lot now that his car is having problems. Whenever one of the other drivers picks him up, he always goes into these stories about me and how his kid is a bus driver.” Reggie shakes his head smiling. “I always hear about it the next day.”
– Juno Kughler Carlson
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