Tag Archives: omnitrans bus driver

Coach Operator Mentors Troubled Youth

Dwaun Roberson served in the Army as an E4 Transportation Specialist. After he completed his service, he was surprised at how difficult it was to get a job back home. “When you’re in the military they tell you that, as a vet, it’s easy to get a job later. But that’s just not the case. I looked and looked and looked for jobs and just couldn’t get a foot in the door. Finally I saw a newspaper ad online for a coach operator position with Omnitrans. A buddy had told me it was hard to get a job there, so I didn’t have high hopes. But I applied anyway, tested, did the interview and have been working here since August.”

Dwaun enjoys the variety that driving provides. “I love it. The passengers you deal with are all different, each has their own personality. Your days are never the same. It helps me stay on my toes and keeps me sharp. “

Although working transportation for the public sector is a little different for Dwaun, he finds there are still many similarities. Safety, he points out, is always a big priority. He feels the training he received in the army well equips him for the constant multitasking involved in his day-to-day work at Omnitrans. “I am trained to be very aware, to know what’s going on around me at all times. At any given time you need to be alert to the road, traffic, animals, people, your vehicle and the passengers on board.”

Eventually Dwaun hopes to get a job in law enforcement and has a particular interest in helping to make a difference in the lives of troubled kids, a group he understands very well. “I grew up as a foster kid,” he says frankly. “My mom was on drugs, my dad drank and wasn’t around. I slept in parks when I was in middle school, surrounded by gangs and everything you can think of. But somehow I never got involved in that stuff and managed to do the right thing. Prayer and music saved me. I’ve been in the music business since I was 7- or 8-years-old. I got involved with a well-known youth choir in LA called Soldiers on Soul Patrol, and we performed for Governor Gray Davis and Mayor Villaraigosa and others. I even toured with Sheila E and Patti LaBelle. I surrounded myself with older, positive people and allowed myself to be led in a positive direction. It gave me focus.”

It’s this kind of mentorship he likes to share with other kids. Before he was laid off, Dwaun worked for security for about 7 months at Perris High School. “I deliberately chose a position where I could be near kids in the worst situations. My goal was to get involved with them, to talk with them, to try to get them to open up and turn their lives around. And I did. These kids told me things they would never tell administration or anyone else, and I’d listen. Sometimes they were worried because they knew I’d have to report something. But they also knew I was acting to make things better for them.”

His message with each kid was always the same. “You can’t blame other people for your actions. You are responsible for what you do. If you blame your mom, your dad, your friends or others you will never get out. You choose what direction you want for yourself and your family. Allow yourself to be led in a positive direction. It’s choice–a mindset.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Robin Bose, Omnitrans coach operator, retired Army

Coach operator Robin Bose enlisted in the Army when he was 21 and became a helicopter crew chief. He says the military taught him to grow up and become more disciplined.

“I learned not to be a whiner, but just to take it on the chin. In the Army sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, but you learn to just do it and ask questions later. And it feels good to know that you actually accomplished something.”

Robin first learned about Omnitrans through a veteran’s job fair. He applied, went through all the training and has been working as a coach operator for the past 17 years. “I like driving. I’m outside and get to meet a lot of different people. I’ve gotten to know some of the vets who ride the Route 2 to go to the VA hospital. Several of them I know by name. There’s a lot of camaraderie there. I just really enjoy meeting people.”

In fact, meeting people on the bus has had a major impact on Robin’s life. Seven years ago when he was riding the bus home from his shift, he got to know one of the regular female passengers. After several conversations, she gave him her number and told him to call her. “I waited two days to phone her,” he confessed. “I really liked her but was afraid of coming across as desperate. Then when I finally called, she was mad at me for taking so long!”

Robin and his wife Stephanie have been happily married now for 5 years. “It actually took me a couple of years to finally propose. One day we just looked at each other, and I said maybe we should get married. She smiled and said she thought that sounded like a great idea. So we did. I’m a lucky man,” said Robin.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

A bus driver’s favorite moment

Omnitrans passengers love coach operator JoJo for her no-nonsense attitude and sense of humor. “I keep it real,” she laughs. “I try every day to provide the best service I can.”

Recently JoJo was driving a route out in Muscoy, when she noticed a woman standing about 100 yards from the bus stop, appearing lost. “She was dressed to the nines and in the absolute middle of nowhere. From the way she was looking around, I had a pretty strong feeling she was trying to catch the bus.”

When Jojo pulled the bus over, she saw that the woman wasn’t alone but had two small girls with her, dressed in ball gowns. The three quickly boarded the bus, thanking the driver profusely for picking them up. The mother explained that they were on their way to a quincenera but that they hadn’t been sure where to catch the bus to get there. If JoJo hadn’t stopped for them, they would never have made it in time.

Finally the family arrived at their destination. As the little girls climbed down from the bus, they handed JoJo a thank you note they had written for her during the trip.

“You know,” said JoJo. “Sometimes people ask me why I like being a bus driver. This is why. It’s really not about the money or the pats on the back when you do a good job. It’s about people who need you and the feeling you get when you know you’ve made a difference in their lives. It’s about moments like this. This–this is the best.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mother and daughter coach operators

Thirteen years ago, Charline Center realized she was stuck in a dead-end secretarial job that was never going to bring in the money she needed to support her young family. When the opportunity arose, she decided to join Omnitrans as a coach operator. It felt like a perfect fit.

“I like what I do, and I’m mechanically inclined,” said Charline. “When I was younger I always wanted to drive something big and had even thought about being a truck driver for a while. I’ve also done a lot of customer service work, so I’m comfortable dealing with the public. It’s interesting now having been here so long because I can see the changes that have taken place in passenger’s lives. The kids that used to ride are all grown up now and are going to college or having children of their own.”

Four years ago, Christina was inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps when Charline brought home an application and encouraged her to apply. She went in for the interview but unfortunately didn’t get the job. A year later, she received a call-back from the agency and this time she was accepted.

“As it turned out, the timing was perfect. I was going through some major life changes and was ready for something new,” said Christina. “My mom is my biggest supporter and she gave me a lot of advice based on her own experience. We talked about the importance of keeping a professional work attitude and holding yourself accountable for your actions. She also warned me against getting pulled into gossip or drama.”

It’s advice that Christina has taken very much to heart, and over the past three years she has received several commendations for her good work. Her goal is to one day move up into dispatch, or maybe become a supervisor.

Family means everything to both women. When she’s not working, Charline is an active board member for her 16-year-old son’s soccer team. Christina’s daughter Zoe is also a big priority. The two drivers arrange their schedules to make sure the preschooler has as much time with her mother as possible.

Working the same job has definite advantages for the two women, who frequently swap stories about their day while fixing dinner. “The rest of the family gets so jealous, saying here comes the bus talk again. It’s funny,” laughs Christina. “But we understand each other in a way no one else in the family possibly can because we work the same job. We get it.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Two generations of Omnitrans women


Saundra Baxter has worked for Omnitrans for the past 4 years.  But surprisingly it was her daughter Alisa who lead the way, when she joined the agency in 2004 as a coach operator. “My friends who worked for the company had been constantly after me to apply. Finally on my 21st birthday, one of them showed up with an application in hand and insisted I fill it our right then and there,” laughed Alisa. “So I did.” The fact that Omnitrans provided professional training and a good income was actually very appealing to the 21-year-old who had been working $7.50 jobs up to that point.

“It’s never boring driving a bus. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m a people-person,” said Alisa.”You have to be that way in this job. You can’t take it out on people just because you’re having a bad day.”

Mom Saundra had a background in business management and real estate. For her the appeal of working for Omnitrans was a little different. “I was here 25 years ago when San Bernardino was thriving, and I’ve seen it go through a lot of changes. It makes me proud to know that the company I work for is playing an important role in the revitalization of this area. Omnitrans, city officials, business owners, fire and police departments, construction workers–everyone is helping to make history right now. When the new transit center is built and the sbX Rapid Transit bus is up and running, we will be able to say that we helped make it happen. I find it very exciting to be part of that!”

Saundra is also proud to be the reigning Roadeo Champion in the Novice division at Omnitrans, a honor she won when she competed in a complex obstacle course against other employees. Neither Saundra or the other employees had ever driven a bus before. She was scared to death, but managed to perfectly back up twice, park twice, and drive through sets of golf balls without disturbing them.

“It was crazy,”said Alisa shaking her head. “She went through the whole course and hit nothing. Nothing. I’ve been driving for years and I know I would have made at least one of those little golf balls go rolling! Then again she’s always been a really slow driver.” Her mom takes the teasing in stride. After all, she has the trophy!

Both women agree that driving is in their family’s blood.  One of Saundra’s brothers drives a truck, another drives for UPS and another for Greyhound. Even Alisa’s 3-year old son Scooter loves buses and is excited that his mom is a driver. Whenever he sees an Omnitrans bus go by he points out  “That’s my mommy’s big bus!”

In addition to driving, music also runs strong in this family. Saundra used to wake the kids up every morning with a song. Alisa sings as a hobby and her twin sister sings with a professional rapper. Even little Scooter sang and showed an uncanny gift for the drums from the time he was 6 months old. Below is a short video from his proud mother and grandmother.

Happy Mother’s Day to Saundra and Alisa and all of the other moms out there. We hope you have a fantastic weekend!

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Omnitrans Coach Operator Nathan Weathersbee


“I always felt there was nothing I couldn’t do”

When Coach Operator Nathan Weathersbee came to California in 1962, he made
a promise to himself—that he would one day own a big house and have a pocket full of money. It’s a dream he’s achieved through hard work, determination and  an indomitable spirit.

Nate grew up on a farm in South Carolina with his parents and eleven brothers and sisters. They lived in a two bedroom house and slept three to a bed. The family had a cow, some crops and a handful of chickens that they managed to survive on. From the time he was little, he was out in the field picking cotton, corn or anything else that needed harvesting. He was always a quick learner, confident in his abilities and never one to let an opportunity pass him by.

Nate’s first experience with driving came when he was 8-years-old and taught himself how to drive the family tractor. Years later in high school he drove the school bus for the black students. Racial segregation permeated every aspect of southern culture in those days, and Nate was acutely aware of the limitations it imposed.  But his belief in himself never wavered. “It just made me stronger. I always felt there was nothing I couldn’t do, given the chance.” When he graduated high school in 1962 he decided to leave the south and move to California in search of new opportunities.

“My daddy had taught me how to cut hair when I was little,” said Nate. “And I actually became pretty good at it. I used to cut hair for all the kids in our neighborhood.“ When he got to California, he went to school to become a certified barber and had his own shop for several years. But when he had a family of his own and needed benefits, he decided to try bus driving again and went to work for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in LA for 11 years.

Nine years ago he joined the Omnitrans West Valley team. “I love coming to work. Every day is something different,” said Nathan. “I’m a people person, and you have to like people to be good at this job. In some ways barbering is not so different from bus driving. I can see in people’s eyes if they’re not happy or if they might be difficult. I talk to them with calmness and respect and they almost always leave my bus with a smile and a ‘thank you, bus driver’. In fact, every day before I get on the bus I say a simple prayer. God protect this bus. No harm, no accidents and no confrontations from anybody. Just let me have a peaceful day,” Nate smiles. ”And I do.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Coach Operator gives passengers a reason to smile

When he was a little boy, Reginald Jamerson loved riding around on a toy school bus his parents had bought for him. His family used to joke that that he would grow up to be a bus driver one day.

“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

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

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Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org