We celebrate the nearly 5,000 CTA bus and train operators who provide 1.5 million rides daily and keep Chicago moving
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus and train operators do more than just drive a vehicle. These dedicated employees are trained to provide excellent customer service to 1.5 million customers each day, providing service in all types of weather and traffic conditions and giving riders an affordable, reliable and safe commuting experience every day.
CTA is celebrating Transit Driver Appreciation Day and encouraging transit customers to take a moment and thank their bus or rail operator for the great work they do each day.
“Our bus and rail operators are the heartbeat of this city, making sure thousands of people get to work, school and other activities safely and on time,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “I encourage our customers to join me in thanking our dedicated employees who serve on the front lines of the CTA each day.”
Throughout the rest of the week, CTA will feature on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram some of its hardworking employees. They include bus operator Curtis Dandridge, whose positive attitude is reflected in his excellent service to customers and rail operator Michelle New, whose attention to detail helped her reunite a lost child with their parent on the Green Line.
CTA will also feature bus operator Todd Krivacs, who wanted to be a bus driver since he saw his first school bus as a child, and Vanessa Wilbourn, who has worked as a rail operator for close to 24 years and is known among her customers for her welcome greetings to all who enter her Yellow, Red or Purple Line train.
During Transit Driver Appreciation Day, CTA suggests customers thank their operator in person or via social media, using the hashtag #tdad (Transit Driver Appreciation Day) to share the love on their social media accounts. Customers can also share their praise for employees with CTA by filling out an online contact form or by calling CTA Customer Service at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282).
As the nation’s second-largest transit system, CTA moves the equivalent of the population of the City of Philadelphia each weekday and provides safe, reliable and affordable transit service to the City of Chicago and 35 surrounding suburbs.
For more information about Transit Driver Appreciation Day, visit our social media channels on Facebook or Twitter (@CTA) or Instagram.
Here are some stories from CTA’s outstanding bus and rail operators:
Shedrick Anthony - North Park Garage
Bus operator Shedrick Anthony has a knack for working with customers. Before starting his career as a driver for CTA in 1999, Mr. Anthony was a social worker who advocated on behalf of those in need.
“My social service experience helped me be a more compassionate and understanding bus operator,” says Mr. Anthony. “In my line of work, I serve people who are sometimes happy, sometimes sad. We all have our issues. The important thing is to recognize the humanity in everyone and learn not to take the bad things personally, because you never know what someone else is struggling with.”
When he’s not driving the #36 Broadway, #50 Damen or #93 California routes, Mr. Anthony likes to spend time with his family, especially his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He also works as the Director of Youth Ministry for the Boys to Men organization at Liberty Temple.
When asked about his customers, Mr. Anthony is quick to point out that all the safety rules and other regulations in place are there for their security and comfort. “We transport the most precious cargo on earth,” says Mr. Anthony. “Our motto is “Safety First,” because we recognize that we cannot take the work we do each day lightly.”
A dedicated bus operator, Mr. Anthony says he has the best job in the world. “An old co-worker used to say that CTA pays you to sightsee, and he was right!” says Mr. Anthony with a smile. “Every day, I get to travel across this beautiful city, meet incredible people and support my family. Can’t beat that!”
Curtis Dandridge – North Park Garage
Bus operator Curtis Dandridge doesn’t let anything get him down. As a single working father to a daughter, Mr. Dandridge knows how important it is to maintain a positive attitude and keep smiling.
“I love being able to interact with my customers,” said Mr. Dandridge, who has been a full-time bus operator for five years. “This is my dream job; driving and working with the public.”
Mr. Dandridge usually drives the #146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express bus during the morning commute and delivers a special welcome to his customers. “I start by wishing them a good morning, letting them know if there are any re-routes or traffic issues and remind them this is an express bus, so they should hold on tight!” He also reassures his customers that he will get them safely to their destination and finishes by wishing them a wonderful day.
“I want my riders to know that I’m a regular guy just like them,” said Mr. Dandridge, who enjoys relaxing at home or taking his daughter out to a movie on his days off. “I notice that when I’m positive and happy, my riders get a smile on their face and become excited for the day to come. I like to think that my energy and enthusiasm rubs off on them and helps them have a good rest of their day.”
Mr. Dandridge’s advice to anyone who wants to become a bus driver is to have passion for what they do. “If you can see yourself doing a job for free, just because you enjoy it so much, you’ve found the right fit for you.”
Melton Brown, Jr. –North Park Garage
On Transit Driver Appreciation Day, we honor one of CTA’s best bus drivers – Melton Brown, Jr.
Mr. Brown has worked as a full-time bus operator for 17 years and says that the opportunity to learn about different people and cultures inspired him to work with the CTA.
“I love being able to drive and meet new people from all the various Chicago neighborhoods and communities,” says Mr. Brown, who has been driving the popular #49 Western route for the past 12 years.
During this time as a CTA bus operator, Mr. Brown has done more than take thousands of people where they need to be each day. He has even saved the lives of customers on more than one occasion.
“One day, as I was operating the bus, a passenger boarded crying,” Mr. Brown said. “I said to her ‘Whatever it is, it's OK.’ She proceeded to her seat. When we arrived at her stop, she got off the bus and thanked me. I asked her ‘What for’? and she replied, ‘Because you said that everything will be OK, I'm not going to do what I was going to do.’ She then told me that she was on her way to a hotel to take her own life.”
Mr. Brown recounts another experience when his quick thinking and compassion helped a senior citizen survive what could have been a tragic accident.
“I remember an elderly passenger had lost her balance while getting off the bus and fell, hitting her head on the pavement,” said Mr. Brown. “I was able to tend to the woman until the paramedics arrived and they told me that because of my immediate action, I helped save her life.”
A family man who enjoys riding his motorcycle and doing community service, Mr. Brown is also a skilled photographer. When asked what advice he would provide to those looking to become vehicle operators, he says they must be willing to learn, have patience and be compassionate and understanding.
“All CTA drivers take the responsibility of our customers' safety seriously,” says Mr. Brown. “Our goal is for our passengers to have the best experience possible while riding CTA.”
Toronzo Cannon – Chicago Garage
For CTA bus operator and blues musician Toronzo Cannon, the job serves as an ideal source of inspiration.
"I get some great ideas when I'm driving,” says Mr. Cannon. “I’ll see someone or something out on my route that inspires me and I write it down as soon as I have a chance.”
Mr. Cannon, who operates a variety of routes, has been driving buses for CTA since 1994 and loves the fact that his job allows him to meet lots of interesting people.
“I’ve had mostly positive experiences as a driver and truly enjoy what I do,” says Mr. Cannon, who appreciates that his job has allowed him to provide for his family as well as pursue his passion for music.
One thing Mr. Cannon wants customers to understand is that he and other CTA drivers perform at their best in spite of just how many things are out of their control. “As bus drivers, we sometimes get blamed for things like traffic, construction, and weather delays that are beyond our scope,” says Mr. Cannon.
When asked about any advice he would give to those looking to be bus drivers, Mr. Cannon has some common sense guidance. “Whatever you choose as a career, make sure it’s something you enjoy and can see yourself doing for a while. It should be a career you don’t want to quit!”
Todd Krivacs – Forest Glen
For bus operator Todd Krivacs, taking a chance on CTA turned out to be a life-changing experience.
“I moved from Michigan to Chicago 15 years ago because I got a job as a CTA bus operator,” says Mr. Krivacs with a smile. “It turned out to be a great decision!”
One of the things Mr. Krivacs likes best about his job is the chance to be mobile. Mr. Krivacs also appreciates the chance to interact with people from throughout the city on a daily basis.
Among his most memorable experiences was his work with the Community Connection bus, a CTA “office on wheels” that travels to summer festivals and neighborhood events throughout the community.
“It provided me a great opportunity to meet our customers and chat with them about the CTA,” says Mr. Krivacs. “I especially enjoyed talking to the older folks, who had some amazing memories about taking the train or bus back in the ‘good old days.’”
An avid collector of antique fans, Mr. Krivacs wants customers to know just how important their safety is. “It can sometimes seem like we as drivers have so many rules, but it’s all in an effort to keep our riders safe,” says Krivacs, who drives the #77 Belmont, #78 Montrose and #80 Irving Park routes. “It’s important that customers remain safe in and around the bus at all times.”
Eugene Lawson – Kedzie Garage
“I love being around people,” says bus operator Eugene Lawson. “I’m definitely a people person.”
Mr. Lawson has worked for the CTA as a full-time bus driver for 16 years and believes the best part of his job is being able to talk with and help his customers.
“I do more than just drive a bus,” says Mr. Lawson, who recently received a commendation from CTA President Dorval Carter for his exceptional customer service. “I make sure my customers have a pleasant experience and get where they need to go safely and efficiently.”
When asked what he would like his passengers to know, Mr. Lawson says that CTA employees respect the riding public and work hard to ensure each trip is as safe, pleasant and fast as possible. He is proud to work for an organization that provides clean, reliable service throughout the city.
“I drive the vehicle like it’s my own,” says Mr. Lawson, who is an avid bowler. “My concern is always for my customers and being able to drive them in a safe, reliable way.”
Lillie Meeks – Forest Glen
Working as a bus operator for the past 24 years is not easy, but Lillie Meeks loves her job.
“I enjoy meeting new people all the time,” says Ms. Meeks, who doesn’t mind waiting for her regulars when she knows they are running late. “I especially enjoy working with those who are disabled; I always kneel my bus to make it easier for them to board.”
Ms. Meeks can usually be found on the #81 bus route, but often works other routes when needed. She is known among her customers for always greeting them with a hearty, “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “be safe.”
When asked to recall one of her proudest moments, Ms. Meeks tells of when she realized a blind person was getting on the wrong bus (hers) by accident. She stopped her bus and asked her passengers if they minded, while she took the person to the correct stop, which was just a few feet away.
“I just wanted to make sure he made it where he needed to be,” says Ms. Meeks with a smile.
When she’s not driving a bus or helping customers, Ms. Meeks is exercising, reading or relaxing by the pool.
Rail Operator – Vanessa Wilbourn
Rail operator Vanessa Wilbourn always has a smile on her face because she loves what she does for a living.
“As soon as I became a student ticket agent with CTA in 1985, I became fascinated with how the trains worked,” says Ms. Wilbourn, who has close to 24 years of service. “I love that I have a great job where I’m always on the move and get to help people.”
Ms. Wilbourn, who operates on the Yellow, Purple and Red Lines, also enjoys being able to keep her customers informed about any delays or service impacts. She appreciates the chance to be an important part of their daily lives.
“I want my customers to know that they are important to me, they are the reason I get up each morning,” Ms. Wilbourn says with a smile. “We are people moving people and although we may all have good and bad days, my job is to get passengers where they need to go.”
In her spare time, Ms. Wilbourn enjoys reading, baking and riding her bicycle. She also notes that although being a train operator is not for everyone, she is happy about her chosen career.
“I would advise anyone who wants to operate a vehicle that they must have patience, enjoy working directly with customers and have a passion for trains,” Ms. Wilbourn says, sharing her trademark smile.
Rail Operator - Matthew Thomas
Long-time rail operator Matthew Thomas is the type of person who loves everything about his job, especially teaching new recruits the ins and outs of operating a train.
“As a Line Instructor who helps new rail operators learn the ropes, I tell them the most important things to have in this job are patience and the ability to pay attention to detail,” says Mr. Thomas, who sees himself working for the CTA until retirement age.
A dedicated rail operator who has been on the job for more than 14 years, Mr. Thomas is a 2017 rail operator champion, meaning he is one of CTA’s best rail vehicle drivers.
While Mr. Thomas enjoys spending his down time watching documentaries and spending time with family and friends, he is proud of the work he does as a rail operator, keeping the city of Chicago moving.
In fact, he remembers one particular incident during a major service delay. Mr. Thomas continued to make numerous announcements to keep the customers informed of the situation and provided alternate travel information very early into the delay. One passenger walked up to him and thanked Mr. Thomas for delivering the delay information promptly enough for him to make the necessary connection, so he could arrive at the airport and board his flight on time.
Mr. Thomas wants all CTA passengers to know just how hard he and his fellow drivers work each day.
“Regardless of weather conditions, traffic or other potential delays, we are out there making sure people get where they need to go,” said Mr. Thomas.
Rail Operator – Michelle New
Rail operator Michelle New will never forget what it felt like to reunite a lost child with her mother.
“While I was working on the Green Line, an announcement was made that a young child had been separated from her parent,” says Ms. New. “I then saw that child and made sure she was taken to the proper authorities to be reunited with her parents.”
This kind of daily interaction with customers is one of the things Ms. New enjoys best about her job. “I really enjoy the relationships I have developed with some of my regulars,” Ms. New says. “I have met a lot of interesting people, and have been given the opportunity to improve their day.”
With close to 30 years of experience as a rail operator, Ms. New says that CTA is a great place to work and has afforded her many opportunities for advancement in her field.
“My good days at work always outweigh the bad ones, and I always try and focus on the positive aspects of my job, of which there are many,” says Ms. New, who is an avid bowler who loves movies, taking vacations and spending quality time with family and friends.
Ms. New currently works on the Orange Line and wants those who ride the train to realize that CTA employees, like her, truly care about their customers.
“We take our jobs very seriously and wish in some small way, to contribute to everyone having a great day,” says Ms. New. “We want each and every customer to have a safe, friendly, and on-time ride.”
Rail Operator – Lawrence Robinson
“You can’t hit a home run if you don’t swing!” That life-is-like-baseball metaphor is the perfect way to describe rail operator Lawrence Robinson’s attitude. His job has taught him to embrace challenges and develop confidence in himself.
“My advice is, if you really have a passion for something, keep going for it,” Mr. Robinson says with a smile. “Don’t let your fears or apprehensions about something keep you from succeeding at it.”
A seasoned rail operator, Mr. Robinson won first place in the CTA Transit Jamboree in 2016, a friendly in-house competition that encourages rail operators to outperform each other. He also drove the Holiday Train in 2016, which was an incredibly rewarding experience for someone who loves interacting with his customers, wishing them a warm “hello” as they board his train and an appreciative “thank you” when they exit.
“When customers respond back, that makes my day,” says Mr. Robinson, who enjoys spending time relaxing or playing sports with his family. “Our customers are the most important people to us and we always want to ensure that they leave our system just like they entered it – safely!”
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