When Seattle passengers love their bus driver, they can call a feedback line to sing their praises.
For James Turner, this year’s Metro Transit Operator of the Year, the calls poured in, referring to their 70-year-old veteran driver as patient, kind and always smiling.
“He even avoids the big puddle near my bus stop to make sure he doesn't splash the folks waiting,” said one passenger.
“I walk 10 blocks each morning in hopes of getting him at the beginning of his run,” said another.
This weekend marks Turner’s 35th anniversary with Metro. Raised mostly in Seattle (Garfield High School class of 1965), he comes from a family of drivers — his sister, son, daughter, four nieces and a cousin all drive Metro buses.
He drives the 2 and the 12 trolley routes through downtown – the “finicky electric bus wire,” one passenger said. He used to change his route every day but has settled into the downtown routine.
“You move around a lot and you meet a lot of interesting people over the years,” Turner said. “Like the sign used to say on the bus, ‘A job with all view.’”
Turner was hired in August 1982 as a part-time driver. He became a full-time driver in May 1986. He’s been named operator of the month in July 1992, August 2007 and June 2016.
He said he tries to accommodate everyone, always being courteous. “Some of them are very friendly and, some of them sometimes not so friendly,” he said of his passengers, “but, you know, I roll with the punches.”
That’s how he was raised, he said.
“Kind of the old fashioned way — do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he said, reciting the golden rule. “It makes me feel good when people around me feel good. It's just natural for me.”
He gives seniors an edge – waiting until they’ve sat down before starting the bus again, or helping them with groceries.
“My mother always used to tell me I have a special affection for senior citizens and children, and I guess I do,” he said. “But I love everyone.”
Learning that he’d been named Operator of the Year was a surprise. He was pulled off his route, but he didn’t know why.
“I walked into a room full of people and it just kind of blew me away,” he said. His family was there – not just the drivers in the family but his oldest brother from Los Angeles and his second oldest brother from the Portland area.
“I wasn't expecting that,” he said. “It was really touching.”
He said he’ll probably retire in a year, although he doesn’t want to give a specific date, because he’s already reneged on retirement dates two or three times.