Palm Tran brings back the Bus Roadeo after long break

March 28, 2024
Eight fixed-route operators and 10 paratransit operators competed in different challenges testing their driving prowess.

Sun rays poked through the morning clouds as eager bus operators and paratransit van drivers prepared for a long-awaited contest of skills. On Sunday, March 10, 2024, Palm Tran held its first Bus Roadeo since COVID-19 at the Palm Beach Fire & Rescue Complex on Pike Road in West Palm Beach, Fla. The Roadeo is an obstacle course that pushes the tenacity of drivers to the limit as they compete to be the best among their peers.

Alicia Gray, operations manager at Palm Tran, says she organized the event for the benefit of the operators. “It’s all about the camaraderie and bringing our crew together for a day of fun,” said Gray. 

Ronald Cooper, a 20-year veteran bus operator concurred, saying, “I’ve been in every bus Roadeo since we’ve had them. I love that this event brings people together and unifies the company.”

Several operators brought their families to cheer them on while volunteers served hot dogs, hamburgers and shaved ice to the crowd of about 100 people. The family of one contestant, Dirk Rahim, wore specially made t-shirts to show their support that read “Rollin’ with Papa.” Some onlookers got into the rodeo theme by donning cowboy hats and boots.

The friendly competition had eight fixed-route operators maneuvering Palm Tran’s 40-foot 30-ton GILLIG buses through an obstacle course filled with bright orange and yellow cones, 50-gallon barrels and tennis balls. Ten paratransit drivers, from contractors MV Transportation and Transdev, drove Palm Tran Connection vans through the same course. 

Roadeo judges were scattered throughout the course with yardsticks and clipboards, adding and subtracting points for each contestant according to strict timing, number of cones knocked down and measurements that went down to the inch.

Rozsetta Benjamin, who had only been at Palm Tran for a year, said she entered “because I was curious about it. I loved the event and I’ll be doing it again.”

Silver Acosta, who started as a utility worker at Palm Tran 11 years ago and became a bus operator a more than three years ago, said, “I was a bit nervous. This was my first Roadeo but it won’t be my last for sure.”

There were a total of 10 different challenges, starting with “the Serpentine,” and included an offset road, right and left turns, two reverses and getting up to 20 mph while driving between rows of barrels, then stopping just before a cone. Most operators agreed the toughest challenge was the “rear dual clearance,” where the bus’s right rear tire needs to be cleared through a narrow passage made of tennis balls.

After all the points were tallied up, Jeffrey Budzynski won first prize for fixed-route and Sharon Alexander won first prize for paratransit. First, second and third place winners received trophies for their efforts and top winners will have their names etched in a massive trophy topped with a steering wheel that will stay in the bus operators’ lounge for many years to come.   

Budzynski, who has been with Palm Tran for five years, said this was his first Roadeo.

“It’s tougher that what we see in the streets,” said Budzynski. “The tolerances are much tighter but if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.”

Winners will go on to compete in the Triple Crown statewide competition in Jacksonville, Fla., in April and the top three in each category will get a chance to compete nationally at the Community Transportation Association of America Roadeo in June.

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Nov. 6, 2013