ABQ Ride

NM: For the First Time Ever, ABQ Ride’s Most Senior Driver is a Woman

Perhaps it’s a vestige of the days when mostly men drove buses; the fact that throughout its history, ABQ Ride’s driver seniority lists were always topped by men. It remained that way until late last year. That’s when for the first time in history, a female driver, Patty Sandoval, claimed the top spot on the seniority list.

Sandoval joined Albuquerque’s Transit Department, then known as Sun Tran, as a substitute driver in March, 1990. She’s the last driver remaining from her training class of six drivers. In January, 1992 she became a permanent employee. And that’s when the clock started running on her bid for seniority. Her new distinction is one she says she never thought about, much less imagined she’d ever attain.

“When I started, there were very few woman driving. And there was always someone above them in seniority,” she said. “I never even thought I would ever be number one, anytime.”

Her journey to the top of the seniority list started in Raton, N.M., where she was born to a family that frequently moved because her father worked in road construction. She moved to Albuquerque in 1968, just in time to graduate from Rio Grande High School. She drove school buses for Albuquerque Public Schools for 16 years, until a friend told her about a driver opening at the transit department.

“I actually interviewed for the job at 4 a.m. before my shift started at APS. I started at $5.19 an hour and I had two kids in high school at the time,” Sandoval said. “But it’s been great; I’m pretty sure I’ve driven all the routes since then.”

“She’s a very good employee. After all these years, she’s still willing to work overtime during the week, whenever we need her,” said David Lovato, assistant operations manager at ABQ Ride and a longtime acquaintance. “She’s a very dependable worker.”

Sandoval doesn’t expect to top the seniority list for more than a few years. She’s eligible to retire in December, 2014 and at this point, she says she will probably take it. After that, her goal is to go fishing-regularly. But then again, she says you never know what the future holds. Especially since she still enjoys her job; one that’s brought her a lot of good memories.

“Everybody‘s always been good with me. I’ve gotten along with everybody,” she said. “I was even on central for 10 years straight and got along with everybody. And I’ve made a lot of old friends.”