Tag Archives: Busfather

Another bus “father” is OOY

Federico “Pops” Banzuela is KC Metro’s 2010 Operator of the Year.

“Fred” Banzuela

Key information: Mr. Banzeula is a report operator, which means he drives different routes every day. Also, he’s a father figure of sorts to the less experienced drivers at Central Base.

His supervisors say Banzuela also has an unofficial assignment as “Pops” to the rest of the drivers. He’s a source of information and advice for the rookies who aren’t yet comfortable addressing their supervisors or chiefs. The staff rely on him to help keep the peace, be supportive, and to give good advice.

Of course, there’s only one Busfather*, but I have no doubt that “bus pops” will represent. Here’s his full bio:

Banzuela was born and raised in the Philippines, and came to the United States in 1970 to study. In 1971, he enrolled in the Army and served on active duty until 1978. In 1980, he began driving for Metro as a full-time transit operator and continued his education at Seattle Central Community College, eventually receiving an Associates Arts degree in Social and Human Services. He resumed his military career with the Washington National Guard’s 303rd Armor Brigade in 1997. From 2004-2005, his unit was sent to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired from the Army in 2006.

Banzuela, a Rainier Beach resident, works as a report driver at Metro’s Central Base, which means he fills in wherever he is needed – no matter which route it may be. He has only had one accident in his 31 years with Metro.

“As a report operator, Fred often gets his assignment at the last moment and is required to know every route out of Central Base,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “He works tirelessly and without complaint, starting work as early as 4 a.m. and sometimes not getting done until after 7 p.m. That requires a great deal of skill, particularly when you consider Fred’s outstanding safety record.”

His supervisors say Banzuela also has an unofficial assignment as “Pops” to the rest of the drivers. He’s a source of information and advice for the rookies who aren’t yet comfortable addressing their supervisors or chiefs. The staff rely on him to help keep the peace, be supportive, and to give good advice.

“Whenever we have new drivers who are trying to learn how to deal with the stresses of the job, we’ll tell them: ‘Go hang out with Fred for a while and he’ll teach you the ropes,’” said Central Base Chief John Lewis. “He is dedicated to his family – both his own at home and his Metro family at work.”

*Busfather happens to be the only OOY I’ve met in person while he still held the title. And have I mentioned that (since our initial meeting) I’ve run into the man around my neighborhood fairly regularly? We’ve even ridden the 27 together!

Thanks (again) for the ride!

Tomorrow is Bus Driver Appreciation Day. (Two holidays in one week!) Since last year, I’ve learned that Metro drivers are not allowed to accept gifts, but (as far as I know) there’s no rule against letting your favorite drivers know their hard work matters to you.

So thanks, Busfather, Smooth Jazz, DJ, and all the others, for getting me there–and for keeping me entertained on the ride.

June Golden Transfer

Golden TransferThis month’s Golden Transfer goes to a man who’s been getting folks there for 38 years, the driver of all drivers, Mr. John “Busfather” Fabre. Some of you might remember Busfather from his Operator of the Year award ceremony back in May of 2006. Here’s a little bit from Metro about why he won:

“John has received multiple commendations from passengers, always the sign of an exceptional bus driver,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “In this case, the commendations have a common theme – that John is extraordinarily kind, courteous and helpful towards his passengers.”

After a long career driving every vehicle (and darn near every route*) that Metro operates, John has decided to hang up his uniform. Last Friday was his last day driving. Here are some photos from his retirement celebration, held at Ryerson Base this afternoon:

Busfather shrine
Cake for Busfather's retirement

Busfather got his name from his Operator of the Year “championship” ring (which folks were actually kissing at his award ceremony), and from his I’m-cool-but-don’t-cross-me vibe.**(This is a very good quality in a person responsible for maintaining order and for keeping things running on time.)

Our hero (third from left) showing off his ring with some fellow OOYs:

Metro Operators of the Year

John drove the 2 waay back when I rode it to school in the 80s (yes, I’m pretty sure he was my driver a few times), but in recent years, he’s driven routes I don’t ride very often. Lucky for me, he lives down the street from our little bus family, so I see him around the neighborhood once in a while. He’s always cool and friendly, taking the time to shoot the breeze and share a few tidbits of Metro news.

Thank you, John, for your kindness, your commitment to excellence, and, especially, for spending 38 years of your life getting folks like me where they were going. Enjoy your well-earned rest.

* * * * * * *

*John has promised to e-mail me a list of all the routes he has driven in his career. As soon as I receive it, I’ll post it here.
UPDATE (6/3)
Here is John’s list:

74,99,ST570, monorail. [Metro used to operate it.]

…these routes have changed over the years. Just a few that I remember:
The #8 was the old Ravenna
The #6 was the Stoneway.
The #12 was the 12 E cherry and 12 26th Ave. So.
The #22 was the Roosevelt
The #48 went from Rainier and Martin L. King Jr. Way to 45th and Brooklyn. It was a short route compared to now.

He also sent some great photos–much better than my bus-chick-come-lately pics. I’ll post a few of them if I ever get a moment.

**Then again, a fair number of people at his OOY ceremony and at today’s party asked if I was his daughter (even I admit that we do kind of favor), so it seems that one could interpret it in another way.

A bus chick’s version of a good day

This morning, I stopped by the County Courthouse to see some demos of the partially wrapped buses. (The Council tabled the vote on whether to allow the partial wraps, so these demos were made available to help the members come to a decision. Members of the Transit Advisory Committee and the Accessible Services Advisory Committee were also invited to take a look.)

The partial wraps leave 15″ clear on every bus window. This looks different on different buses, depending on the size of the windows and the height of the seats. (I apologize in advance for the quality of these pictures; I have yet to replace my broken camera.)

Here’s what a partially wrapped trolley looks like:

Demo of a partially wrapped trolley

Note: There aren’t any real ads designed for this template yet, so the folks at Metro just removed some of the vinyl from an existing ad.

Here’s a New Flyer 40-footer:

Demo of a partially wrapped 40 footer

In this case, instead of altering an existing wrap, they covered the parts of the windows that would be obscured by the ad.

Here’s the view from inside the trolley:

View from inside a partially wrapped trolley

And from the other side:

View from inside a partially wrapped trolley

Anyone recognize the man in the red circle? Yes indeed, Busfather was there as the official driver of the 40-footer. He got to hang out for a couple of hours while the bigwigs (and regular folks like me) checked things out. Not a bad gig for a sunny Monday.

Anirudh, aka Bus Hero, who also happens to be one of my fellow TAC members, was also there.

Anirudh on the trolley:

Anirudh on the partially wrapped trolley

So was my councilmember, Larry Gossett:

Larry Gossett on the partially wrapped trolley

Y’all already know how I feel about bus revenue: I’m inclined to endure a little obscured vision every once in a while if it means more service. The good news is, the partially wrapped buses don’t obscure your vision. I could see out of all the windows, even when I hunched down to make myself shorter. (Of course, I’m not sure how a child riding alone or a person in a wheelchair would do. I’ll leave the latter to the folks at the Accessible Services Advisory Committee.)

Bottom line: We (OK, I) likey. Councilmembers, please vote “yes.”

After the bus viewing, a lovely lunch at the Gates Foundation with my friend Char (which involved a slowish ride on the 70), and a quick trip to the Real Change office, I happened upon Smooth Jazz while crossing the street on my way to catch the 27. (He was driving a bus back to the base, apparently, after finishing his shift.) I waved before I had a chance to remember that he doesn’t actually know me, and he waved back. Turns out, he does know me (and how could he not–I’ve been on his bus about 30,000 times in the past year). He said he hadn’t seen me in a while and had been wondering what I’d been up to. This, of course, made me feel very important and fabulous.

Called up the homies and Im askin yall
Which court, are yall playin basketball?
Get me on the court and Im trouble
Last week messed around and got a triple double
Freaking brothers everyway like m.j.
I cant believe, today was a good day

A special guest star

With the help of a few cool, food- and drink-minded folks from TCC, Bus Nerd and I threw a party last night. Early in the evening, I learned that one of our guests was well acquainted with Metro’s Operator of the Year, John Fabre (known to most of you as Busfather). A short phone call (and short walk–turns out he lives right down the street) later, Busfather was standing in my living room. I even have proof:

Busfather and some fans
Busfather with some of his fans

More coincidences:
1) Busfather drove the 2 when I rode it to school back in the day. (I knew he looked familiar!)
2) My friend Kelley, who also attended the party (and the same elementary school), is Busfather’s dentist.

Busfather’s presence definitely added flavor to our little gathering. And my brother had the nerve to leave early to go to a party for Devin the Dude

“He’ll get you there”: Bus Chick meets the Busfather

Today I got to attend Metro’s Operator of the Year ceremony. Since childhood, I’ve been seeing the pictures of winners in the ad slots inside buses, but I’ve never actually met an Operator of the Year, or (that I know of, anyway) had the privilege of riding on a bus that was driven by one.

To be selected as Operator of the Year is a huge honor. Winners are chosen by their peers (all of the operators of the month from the past year) and are celebrated (and roasted) at a fairly big ceremony, complete with blown-up photographs and specially printed napkins.

Operator of the Year John Fabre (aka the Busfather)

This year’s winner, John Fabre, is an OG Seattleite and has been driving buses in the city since 1970, back when Metro was still Seattle Transit. He currently drives route 99, also known as the Waterfront Streetcar, but he’s driven every type of vehicle that Metro operates–including (back when it was still under Metro’s jurisdiction) the Monorail.

John Fabre and Ron Sims
The Busfather and the County Kingpin

John’s family (including his grown son*, who flew in from the East Coast) attended the ceremony, and so did the county exec, lots of Metro muckity mucks, and most of the previous operators of the year. Each of the different Metro departments gave John a gift (from Maintenance, a clean bus every day, from Facilities, a prime parking space with a special sign, etc.). He even got a ring, and (I kid you not) several people kissed it.

Bus Chick and the Busfather
Bus Chick (that’s me!) and the Busfather

I got to meet John after the ceremony (didn’t kiss the ring, though). Today was also the first time I actually got to go inside a Metro base. (I can’t tell you what I saw, or the Busfather might send someone to rough me up.) Did I mention there were three kinds of cake? Except for the abundance of balloons (which I happen to have an irrational fear of), it was this bus chick’s fantasy party. I hope they put me on “the list” next year.

* This post was corrected on December 4th. I originally wrote that John had two sons.