Do you wanna ride my PARTA?

Shelley Blundell

The daily experiences of a campus bus driver

Zachary Boivin, junior secondary math education major, has been employed as a campus bus driver for more than four semesters and says being a driver allows him to meet a lot of people.

Credit: Ben Breier

For some, PARTA is such sweet sorrow.

But for Zachary Boivin, PARTA is a dream come true.

Boivin, junior secondary math education major, has been a campus bus driver for four semesters now and said he loves his job.

“I decided to (become a bus driver) because the pay was good and they worked around my schedule,” Boivin said.

“Plus, a CDL (commercial driver’s license) is always a good thing to have.”

Boivin described the process all potential PARTA drivers must go through in order to be employed as a bus driver.

“It’s like learning how to drive all over again,” Boivin said.

While Boivin said the process can be completed in two weeks, the shortest he has ever heard of someone completing training, because of scheduling conflicts and time constraints his training lasted around two months.

“You start out at the stadium, going around the loop known as the “tear drop,” learning how to make left and right turns before going around campus,” Boivin said.

And if you thought parallel parking a car was hard, imagine doing it in a PARTA bus.

“You have to learn all the same things you do when learning how to drive, like how to parallel park the bus,” Boivin said.

Bus drivers also have to learn how to serpentine the bus, moving fluidly in between cones, and other complex parking maneuvers such as alley docking.

But potential riders on Boivin’s route can rest soundly – Boivin passed all his requirements on his first try.

Driving the bus is only half the challenge, though.

“You also have to know how to take care of the bus,” Boivin said. “You have to make sure the tire pressure is OK, how to check the transmission fluid, general maintenance.”

While all these elements may seem like a lot for most people, Boivin genuinely loves his job with the PARTA bus service.

“You really meet a lot of interesting people driving the bus,” Boivin said.

Clayton Davis, Boivin’s road supervisor for the PARTA/Campus Bus Service, said working with Boivin has been a good experience and he has a lot of respect for Boivin as both a driver and a friend.

“To drive a bus, you have to be a very patient, strong-minded person,” Davis said. “You have to be able to put up with anything society can throw at you – all kinds of people get on the bus.”

While Boivin has not experienced any particular malicious bus behavior, such as fights between riders, he has encountered members of the “affectionately inebriated masses.”

“I have had people who were drunk and hug me when they got on the bus – one person even pinched my cheeks, which was really weird,” Boivin said.

And while Boivin is always on the look-out for potential hazards, he said he does not discourage his riders from being rowdy as long as their rowdiness was relatively contained and did not disturb or endanger other riders.

As for passenger etiquette, Boivin had only a couple of suggestions.

“Pull the stop cord earlier; it makes our job a lot easier,” Boivin said.

And don’t be afraid to talk to your drivers, either.

“We’re not really supposed to talk too much, but some conversation makes the ride go a lot faster.

“And if we say ‘have a nice day,’ it’s nice to hear it back.”

Contact features reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].