Metro Transit operator Linda Robinson has been driving routes throughout Oklahoma City for decades and looks forward to interacting with passengers on her bus each day.
“I treat them like I would want to be treated,” she said. “I love it. It's a wonderful job.”
Robinson, 55, has been driving buses for 34 years. She said her goal is to provide safe transportation for the people in the community who really need it.
In 1978, she moved to Oklahoma City and applied for a job with the transit service. In the years since, she has learned quite a few tricks for dealing with unruly people.
“You humor a drunk; you don't argue with them,” Robinson said.
A few problem passengers aside, there seems to be a great camaraderie among the regular riders and drivers.
Shannon Mcintyre, 32, of Oklahoma City, said she has been riding the bus to and from work for seven years.
“I have fun with all of the bus drivers,” she said. “I make a lot of friends on the bus.”
New technology has made Robinson's job easier, especially when dealing with maintenance problems.
In her first year on the job, her bus broke down and she walked to a nearby house and asked to use a phone.
“A lady got a shotgun and said, ‘You're not coming in my house,'” Robinson said.
Now drivers have radios and cellphones to alert officials of a problem.
Robinson said operator training to avoid accidents and learn routes also has increased throughout the years. “I think it's getting better,” she said.
Michael Scroggins, Metro Transit spokesman, said an operator must meet physical requirements to make sure they are capable of driving a bus. He said Metro Transit provides annual defensive driving courses and quarterly safety training.
“We have added more and more training over the last several years, and we feel like that is also impacting some of the results we're seeing from our customers, who are telling us that they feel safe on the bus — that they feel we are operating it in a safe way,” Scroggins said.
Ridership has increased among people riding through the week for work and school purposes, he said. Weekend ridership has also grown.
Scroggins said transportation officials are considering adding Sunday service. The addition will have to be approved by the Oklahoma City Council when the new budget is passed later this month, he said.
Scroggins said drivers are trained how to handle the vehicles and prevent accidents. So far this year, Metro Transit vehicles have been involved in more than 20 accidents.
In 2011, buses were involved in 95 accidents, Scroggins said, with 39 ruled the fault of Metro Transit.
A Metro Transit bus was involved in a Feb. 16 crash downtown that injured several passengers.
The bus and a sport utility vehicle collided at Linwood Avenue and N Indiana Avenue. Police cited the driver of the SUV and said most of the passengers suffered only minor injuries.
Two claims have been filed against Metro Transit stemming from the accident; however, both were denied because the other driver was at fault, Scroggins said.
A passenger told The Oklahoman the bus driver wasn't wearing a seat belt at the time and fell out of the driver's seat when the impact occurred, causing the bus to veer right into a vacant building. Scroggins said Metro Transit requires its drivers to wear a seat belt.
Transit officials investigate all accidents, along with the police and other agencies, he said.