Keeping the bus wheels turning since 1963, Long Beach Transit is one organization committed to greening the city while providing a public service. And, the organization’s bus drivers are on the front lines of that effort.
Long Beach Transit at its core is offering transportation to people who need it, but the large-scale form of carpooling also serves to reduce the number of cars on the city’s streets. Bus drivers not only greet 28 million passengers a year, but they are responsible for moving a fleet of buses that mostly use clean burning gasoline or are electric hybrids.
For 61-year-old Bruce Meade, getting hired by Long Beach Transit on April 1, 1980, was his idea of a dream job. After working at various retail and fast food businesses, the Jordan High School graduate applied longingly to Long Beach Transit and once hired, has been there ever since, working his way up from night shifts to day shifts and driving almost every route there is. He is among more than 450 Long Beach Transit drivers.
“I drive a 60-footer with an accordion center,” he said about the bus, No. 2309, which he is currently assigned to. “When I’m with my grandchildren, they’ll point at buses and say, ‘That’s what grandpa drives.’”
A day in Meade’s life usually involves waking up around 3 a.m. next to his wife, Andrea, who he has been with for nearly four decades. He said he starts his day early so that he has time to enjoy a cup of coffee before work, and he packs his lunch in a rolling backpack that he carries with him on the bus. Right now, he fuels up in the morning and drives route 102 and 104, finishing the day with route 101, and it’s the same routine eight hours a day, five days a week.
Always wearing a white, collared shirt and a black Long Beach Transit vest, the 2013 Employee of the Year said a highlight of his job is being able to work with people — he makes it a point to always smile at passengers on his bus.
“People always talk to me about bus lines and connections, and I like to help them,” he said. “You have to have good spirit and keep a smile on your face and let people know you care… There are also tons of passengers who I see every day at the same time, and they count on me to get them to work on time.”
He said the most difficult part of his job is winning over the school students who use Long Beach Transit to get to and from class — if he doesn’t gain their respect early in the semester those students can sometimes leave quite a mess for him to clean up.
He emphasized that he also has to make sure he is always fully aware of everything going on around him. He said driving such a large vehicle requires a little extra skill beyond driving a car, especially when it comes to the turning radius.
An expert of Long Beach’s streets, he has seen other drivers on the road cut him off or make sudden stops. He’s even been rear-ended before. Cyclists and pedestrians also sometimes suddenly cross in front of the bus when they shouldn’t, and Meade said he wishes they would be more careful.
“Sometimes I wonder, ‘Where are you going? Can’t you see this big bus?” he said. “That’s why we (bus drivers) have to keep on our toes.”
Meade said he’s stayed with Long Beach Transit for so long because he believes there’s no other better job and it’s what he was always meant to do.
For more information about Long Beach Transit, including maps of the city’s bus routes and schedules, visit www.lbtransit.com.
Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.