Palm Tran welcomes 10 new bus operators with a socially distanced graduation ceremony

March 2, 2021
Palm Tran’s newest operators will be driving much more than a vehicle on a route; they will be driving connections within the community.

Dressed impeccably in their new uniforms, 10 new bus operators entered the Palm Beach County Commission chambers within the Robert Weisman Government Center on Feb. 18, 2021, to officially graduate from Palm Tran’s bus operator training program. The operators, wearing masks and sitting in a socially distanced venue, completed a rigorous six-week training program that included classroom learning sessions and safety and sanitation training. Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Marie Nieman, the event’s keynote speaker, noted that the graduates will play a critical public-facing role.

“You bring people to work, to school, to the grocery store, to church, to doctor appointments and even to fun places like the ballpark and our many beaches,” said Nieman. “What you do brings people of all ages and colors and backgrounds together and not many professions can say that.”

Nieman recalled how as a teenager growing up in Fort Lauderdale, she had fond memories of taking the bus to Pompano Fashion Square.

“I felt all grown up and worldly; I was on an adventure with people I had never seen before, wondering who they were, where they were going, what they do. Thanks to the bus, and of course the bus driver, I was able to have that experience,” she said.

Several graduates expressed that they were motivated by the prospect of helping people explore the area and get to where they need to go. Graduate Steven Zotti said his favorite part about being a bus operator is “just helping people; listening to them and trying to solve their problems.”

In attendance were the families of many of the graduates, Palm Tran employees and several Palm Beach County dignitaries, including County Administrator Verdenia C. Baker and Assistant County Administrator Todd J. Bonlarron. Baker addressed the importance of the graduates’ families, explaining to them that “ It’s important that you take very good care of these drivers. We need them to come in stress-free, well-rested and with peace of mind, because with that big bus that they drive on our roadways, it’s important that they are free of stress.”

“The folks that get on our buses are consuming our services, just like you consume services when you go to a restaurant or a store. They are paying for that service, so treat them like a customer,” said Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes. “Engage the customers and you will get a great reaction.”

Bus operators were trained on a curriculum covering topics such as maintaining and operating the buses, communicating with riders and, due to COVID-19, ensuring safety precautions are taken. Though it was a challenging process, graduate Dorothy Huggins explained how proud she was of her graduating class.

“In our class, we had 10 people at the start, and we had 10 people graduate. We had a wonderful class; no one was ever late.”

When it came to explaining why she wants to be a bus operator, Huggins didn’t hesitate, “To help people.”

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Nov. 6, 2013