GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Public transit workers in Grand Rapids are working despite the cold and some newcomers are training to drive the 40-foot buses.
“We train for this. We train for extreme weather,” said Andrew Johnson, the transit service CEO.
Seven people are training to become bus drivers for The Rapid right now. On Thursday, 24 Hour News 8 rode along one of them, Brian Little, and trainer Nancy Slater.
The roads were sloppy, but drivers said training on them is necessary.
“It’s hard when you have parked cars and when the plows do not plow, it’s hard to navigate between parked cars, especially on your side streets,” Slater said. “Some of our routes, we do have to go down side streets.”
A 10-year veteran of bus driving, Slater explained the pre-check process. It includes checking lights, bike racks and accessibility features for riders with disabilities. Little completed that before the bus was clear to leave.
24 Hour News 8 spotted another vehicle struggling to get up a hill during the ride-along. It was just ahead of the bus, but Little kept his space, allowing the other vehicle to eventually turn around.
“In storms like this, it happens a lot. so we’re just going to wait it out and that’s why following distance is so important,” Slater said.
Navigating a roundabout and squeezing through the narrow side streets pose challenges for these drivers. They’re also scanning for car doors opening.
“Heads on a swivel at all times when you’re in that seat,” Little said after the ride.
He admitted it can be somewhat nerve-wracking, but he and Slater said they’re committed to the job no matter what.
“It feels good to know I’m the captain of this ship and I’m going to my best to get these people to their location safely and on time,” Little said.
“This is public transportation and we have to get people to where they’re going,” Slater said. “I take pride in that because I’m getting them to where they need to go. We move the city.”
Bus drivers ask that other drivers leave space when following them and back up if they’re making a wide turn.
For bus riders, The Rapid offers real-time updates of where each bus is on the myStop app.