Albert's story is part of a series on the region's public transportation set to publish on centralcurrent.org this week. Reporters will be riding buses to collect residents' perspectives. Do you use public transportation and want to be part of the series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While he drove Centro’s Court Street route, bus driver Albert Anderson shared an intimate conversation with one of his regular riders.
From the back of the bus, the passenger proudly boasted of knowing Anderson for the majority of his career and referred to the bus driver as a much older brother. Anderson relishes seeing recurring riders, who he considers “one great big family.”
Throughout the years, Anderson has developed a strong and positive rapport with passengers who frequent his assigned bus routes.
“I don’t like my job, I love it,” Anderson repeated as a Central Current reporter rode along with him.
Anderson has become a key asset in Centro’s operating system. He’s driven buses for Central New York’s transportation authority for 16 years. Anderson has also taken on unofficial supervisory and training duties as Centro tries to bring on more drivers because of high turnover rates and pandemic-related attrition, he said.
Recruiting and onboarding new bus drivers have been key challenges for Centro, which in turn has affected its ability to provide additional routes and reliability to riders.
Anderson also recognizes his own role in his riders’ lives: He provides many Syracusans’ only way to travel to work or the grocery store. Throughout his daily encounters with various passengers, he takes pride in lending an ear and bringing passion to the job.
“The public needs a good bus driver, you know each and every day is a challenge and it’s an adventure,” Anderson said. “You know when I can render a service to you, and you say thank you, that means a lot.”
As one of Centro’s longer-tenured bus drivers, Anderson is aware that his attitude can impact his passenger’s day.
His work week began at the platform of the Centro hub in downtown Syracuse, where Anderson reported for his daily shift in his neatly ironed “Centro” stitched blue uniform. His shift typically begins around 4 p.m. and ends a little after midnight. He briefly checked in with the staff supervisor to get a run-down of the day’s route and necessary updates.
Afterward, Anderson walked over to the bus, relieving his colleague from the Court Street route. As part of his routine, Anderson walked alongside the bus toward the back before returning to the front. He inspected its exterior to ensure all necessary parts were intact before stepping in to settle himself in the driver’s seat.
It was a relatively snowy day and Anderson told Central Current reporters the order for the day was to take the snow detour route. He occasionally glanced over his schedule detailing the adjusted routes, checked his mirrors and finally the monitor to the upper left corner. Anderson awaited the cue from his supervisor, informing Central Current reporters that the circle on the screen is his indicator to depart.
He opened the doors and immediately the outbound bus loaded with passengers. Anderson greeted each person individually.
“Centro is my life, it’s not a job,” Anderson said, adding he has never been late, absent or called in sick.
Anderson assured that passenger safety is a significant factor in his role and he emphasized the militant-like compliance of “never deviating” and “doing what you’re told” on inclement weather days.
Along the ride, Anderson effortlessly balanced a conversational interview with rarely taking his eyes off the road as he looked out for passengers waiting at bus stops. He communicated the mandated detours with the dispatcher, and greeted passengers boarding and deboarding.
Anderson, a former tractor trailer driver, is no stranger to traveling long journeys on the road. A native of Brooklyn, New York City, Anderson shared his time on the road, which included traveling to over 40 states. Eventually he settled in Syracuse when offered a position by Centro. The opportunity allowed him to remain stationary and be with his family.
Anderson, a husband and father of fraternal twins, spoke about the importance of spending time with his family, even with the demands of his busy work schedule.
“You got to spend time with your family, and that’s the reason I came to one city, one town, and Centro gave me that opportunity,” Anderson said.
Additional facts to know about Albert Anderson
Anderson’s inspiration of becoming a bus driver
Anderson’s ties to public service are long-standing. He comes from a family with a history of working at Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City.
He contrasted Centro with New York City’s robust public transit system, MTA. Anderson pointed to Syracuse’s transit system not being as frequent and the challenges of having to deal with additional factors such as servicing local schools and universities.
Anderson’s favorite part of being a bus driver
Along the ride, Anderson emphasized safety and his feeling of appreciation toward passengers who board the bus trusting him to get them to their destinations. Some passengers even fell asleep during the bus ride. Anderson jokingly called attention to a familiar passenger dozing off, as he glanced through his overhead mirror.
“Having people’s lives in my hands, it gives me an adrenaline to be responsible to get people safely to where they need to go each and every day,” Anderson said. “It’s something, I guess God gave me a gift for and wanted me to do.”
Although tenured in his role, Anderson said his career with Centro and involvement within the community is far from over. Anderson’s goal one day is to assist senior citizens by having a charter bus to transport them to activities like shopping, going to bingo, attending concerts and other social outings.
Anderson says he often hears disheartening stories from elderly bus riders of families not visiting them. He believes the bus outings for the senior citizens will help to re-establish their independence and permit them to do things they enjoy.
“Because their senior citizens doesn’t mean they got to stop living,” Anderson said.
Anderson likes to recruit new drivers
Anderson often finds it easy to recruit and speak to people who are interested in pursuing the role because he knows they want to hear a driver’s real perspective.
He sees Centro’s effort in using social media and holding presentations to reach a new generation of drivers, with the goal of getting drivers to stay.
On behalf of Centro, Anderson often participates in speaking engagements at local schools, and in career presentations. He also trains new hires.
“I’m not gonna be a rocket scientist, I’m not gonna be a millionaire, I’m not gonna be the president, but I drive that bus,” Anderson said.
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