To drive a PARTA bus, it takes superior skill

Editor’s note: This semester, the features staff is taking a behind-the-scenes look at student jobs and activities. This part of the series examines what it takes to drive a campus bus.

By Courtney Kerrigan

Daily Kent Stater

At first glance, it may seem campus bus drivers are just the people who take students from one destination to another, but it’s the work and integrity drivers put in to their job that gets people where they’re going safely.

With two years of driving experience under their belts, PARTA drivers must go through various maneuverability training before driving with passengers.  They must be able to parallel park a bus on the right and left hand sides, back the bus up into an alley dock and weave through cones forward and backward.

They are also required to back up a bus around the turnaround at Dix Stadium on both the curbside and street-side, getting the front tire closest to the curb as possible.

While this sounds impossible, senior anthropology major August Davis, a student PARTA bus driver, assures students that anyone can do it.

“I didn’t know how to parallel park a car before I started and now I know how to parallel park a bus,” Davis said.

Davis has been driving for several semesters, and shows it well as she steers her bus effortlessly on the Summit East route.  When she reaches Dix Stadium, Davis habitually switches her destination to Front Campus via Student Center and waits about four minutes before heading out again.

The layover may frustrate riders waiting at bus stops, but because there are six Summit East buses that run between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., drivers stop for an allotted period of time to ensure they stay six minutes apart, said Richard Giles, Operations Coordinator for PARTA.

While drivers try to maintain a good distance from their fellow coworkers, it is inevitable to find a conglomerate of buses from time to time when dealing with heavy traffic or weather impairments.

Many students find trouble in balancing school and work, but PARTA allows students to choose their own schedules.  Shifts are broken up into two-hour blocks, but drivers can take more hours that are flexible for them, said Joe Yensel, Operations Manager for PARTA.

“They put together their big puzzle of classes, studying and all the other stuff they have to do and then insert work where they can,” Yensel said.

Drivers sign up in the fall and spring semesters for certain routes that are chosen by availability and seniority.

While drivers have the advantage of making their own schedules, they still have to put commitment into it.

“If you have a good basis of time management, it works out pretty well for you,” Yensel said.

Front Campus driver Brady Giles, junior managerial marketing major, works 17 hours a week and admits to having no trouble balancing school with work.

“It’s not too bad.  Most of the time I drive in the night, and get homework done in the day,” Giles said.

Unlike the Front Campus and Summit East buses, Campus Loop drivers must stop at the Ice Arena for layovers. 

Campus Loop driver Nathan Duke, junior construction management major, makes his stop to call dispatch for a layover time.  With three Campus Loop buses running until 5 p.m., Duke must wait five minutes to make sure he doesn’t catch up to another bus.

Campus Loop routes take about 20 minutes to finish one lap, depending on traffic and the number of people on the bus.

“Having a bus like Campus Loop to take you around the campus is really convenient,” said Brett Bursley, junior integrated health sciences major. “They do get crowded and can take long, but sometimes it’s better than walking.”

During training, drivers make $7.30 an hour, but once they start driving with passengers their pay increases to $7.75 an hour.  They also get raises and can be promoted to student supervisors.

Contact features correspondent Courtney Kerrigan at [email protected].