Rutgers bus drivers describe daily lives
Most students do not know much about the bus drivers or the way the bus system operates. Despite working many hours a day, the drivers have different hobbies and interests that they pursue in their spare time.
The Rutgers bus drivers are hired and trained by First Transit, said John Karakoglou, assistant director of Transit Services for the Rutgers University Department of Transportation Services.
“All drivers must have a commercial driver's license and ... pass the First Transit safety course, and they must also be qualified to drive all vehicles that we operate on campus,” he said.
First Transit is Rutgers' contracted provider.
“The University’s Campus Bus Service is the second largest operating bus system in New Jersey, transporting more than 6 million passengers annually and providing more than 70,000 passenger trips per day. The contract includes First Transit’s management of 70 employees and the operation of 50 transit buses,” according to the First Transit website.
Drivers come from all over the state, and although there is no specified area for recruitment, most live within a 40-mile radius of the University, Karakoglou said.
The bus drivers, like students, have hobbies that they engage in during their free time.
A Weekend 1 Bus driver said he works all week. The Old Bridge, New Jersey, resident drives the EE bus on the weekdays. In his spare time, he likes to relax and watch and play different sports. In particular, he enjoys bowling.
“I’m from South Bound Brook, N.J., which is about 6 miles from Rutgers, and I only work on weekends," said Leon, a Weekend 2 bus driver.
In his free time, Leon plays the organ.
Typically the bus drivers operate their vehicles for around seven or eight hours per day, he said.
“Depending on the shift that the drivers pick, they could start work as early as 5 a.m.," Karakoglou said. "A typical morning shift could start at 6 a.m. and finish at 2 p.m. Some shifts are split into a four-hour period in the morning and then another four-hour period in the afternoon.”
Normally they drive the same bus throughout the course of the week, barring the weekends when only the Weekend buses are running.
Because of their long shifts, drivers are allowed to take breaks at each end of their routes. They use those breaks to use the restrooms or to stretch their legs, Karakoglou said
“I live in North Plainfield, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles from Rutgers. I try to go to the gym and workout four days a week. In my free time I like to go visit my friends. I also like to go to the library and read,” said Raquel, an H bus driver.
While most students do not know the names, towns or hobbies of the bus drivers, they certainly have some impressions of them.
“Most of the bus drivers are very pleasant. You can say hi and bye to them. They are always very nice, and when you say thank you they always reply with 'you’re welcome' and 'have a great day,'” said Jonathan Yaung, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.
He said he met a "very cool" F bus driver. The two would always greet one another, he said.
Drivers used to be more reckless a couple of years ago, but they have gotten better, said Farrah Khan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior. They have started to wait for students when they see them running to the bus, which is a sign of their improvement.
“The bus drivers have gotten better over the years,” Khan said.
Sofiya Nedelcheva is a School of Engineering first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @n_sofiyaaa for more.