Palm Tran Bus Operator Tom Romano Retires After 41 Years Behind-the-Wheel

June 27, 2018
After more than four decades, Palm Tran Bus Operator Tom Romano pulled his 40-foot bus into the West Palm Beach Intermodal Transit Center for the last time on May 31, 2018.

After more than four decades, Palm Tran Bus Operator Tom Romano pulled his 40-foot bus into the West Palm Beach Intermodal Transit Center for the last time on May 31, 2018. There, he was surprised by Palm Tran’s leadership, co-workers and his wife who presented him with an engraved clock and certificate of appreciation. In attendance were: Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes, Palm Tran Director of Operations Sean Smith, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1577 President Dwight Mattingly and numerous Palm Tran staff.

“Honoring Tom Romano’s retirement in a special way was important,” said Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes. “His excellence as a Palm Tran bus operator cannot be overlooked. It has been an absolute honor to recognize Tom for his 41 years of service, and I wish him nothing but happiness in his retirement.”

“Tom Romano is going to be greatly missed at Palm Tran,” President of ATU Local 1577 Dwight Mattingly said. “I know the customers have gotten to know him over the years and his safe driving and customer service skills have made this an even better service,” he added.

When Romano first accepted the role as a Palm Beach County bus operator, he had little interest in transit. His motive was supporting his family -- becoming a bus operator fit the bill.

“It just kind of happened,” he said. “It’s weird. I liked the job. I got along well with the people. It was a steady income, and I had a family to support.”

Now 41 years later, Romano reflects on his career with gratitude. In December 2017, Palm Tran recognized Romano for reaching the 25-year milestone without any preventable accidents. Through inclement weather and heavy traffic, Romano carried passengers safely to their destinations.  While the stability and benefits of the position ultimately deterred him from leaving, the independence the role offered was an added perk.

“You didn’t have a boss standing over you,” Romano said. “You were basically the boss of the bus. As long as you followed the rules, you didn’t have any problems.”

Romano has seen a lot of changes in 41 years. Back in 1977, Palm Beach County’s transit agency was still known as Florida Transit Management Inc. with just 20 buses on seven routes. The agency was renamed to CoTran, short for County Transportation in 1980. Finally, in 1996, CoTran was completely restructured to add more than 150 buses in more than 30 routes, then renamed Palm Tran.

In the years following, Palm Beach County continued to develop, and Romano has been there every step of the way witnessing plots of bare land transform into bustling residential and commercial zones.

“The population has expanded so much,” he said. “Boynton used to be nothing but farms… same thing in Boca… Military Trail, there was nothing there!”

Now, Palm Tran is launching its newest expansion: the Route Performance Maximization (RPM) initiative. When the RPM launches in fall 2018, Palm Tran will have an improved system allowing customers to reach their destination more quickly and efficiently. The RPM will streamline the entire system resulting in improved travel times, more direct system and an overall better customer service experience.

“The changes they want to make, they look like some pretty good changes. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot more riders when those changes launch,” Romano said.

Reflecting on his lengthy career, Romano says his greatest accomplishment was always treating passengers with respect and compassion.

“I’ve always treated the passengers with love. Thank God I was able to treat them the same way I would want to be treated,” he said. “Just love everyone the way they are. We are all in this together!”

“In the time I have known Tom, he has been an excellent ambassador for Palm Tran by providing outstanding service to everyone; safely, efficiently and courteously,” said Palm Tran Director of Operations Sean Smith.

Despite retiring, Romano does not plan to slow down any time soon.

“I have a honey-do list that is probably going to keep me busy until 2025,” he laughed. “I’ve got an awesome piano I’m going to play, and I have a place up in North Carolina. I plan on keeping busy! Don’t worry. I’ll probably be busier than when I was working!”

On May 31, 2018, Romano drove the last of the millions of passengers he has seen over the past four decades to their destinations. He leaves thankful for the opportunity to have been a Palm Tran bus operator and gain so many lifelong friends.

“I just want to say Palm Tran: ‘thank you so much for 41 great years!’” he concluded.

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Nov. 6, 2013