Metro Transit announced that James Turner is the Transit Operator of the Year. Chosen by his peers, he represents the best of Metro’s 2,800 bus drivers, who carry nearly 122 million riders each year. Turner’s family also drives for Metro, including his sister, son, daughter, cousin and four nieces.
Quick as a wink, he climbs out of the driver’s seat to help a passenger with her grocery bags. Riders know him by his cheerful smile and say he’s friendly and courteous, and that he looks out for riders who are older and need a helping hand. He even eases the stress riders feel when the whole bus is stuck in congestion.
Meet James Turner. At a surprise ceremony today, Metro officials, Turner’s fellow bus drivers and his family shared stories of his kindness and kudos from riders spanning 35 years as he was named Metro Transit Operator of the Year.
As he was praised for the thoughtful and considerate way he treats riders, Turner, 70, shared the same smile that riders say brighten their day. Turner currently drives electric trolley bus Routes 2 and 12 through downtown Seattle.
Metro means family for Turner, literally: his sister, son, daughter, four nieces and a cousin all drive Metro buses.
Turner was hired as a part-time transit operator in August 1982 and became a full-time driver in May 1986. He earned a 28-year safe driving award, received 29 commendations and was named operator of the month in June 2016, August 2007 and July 1992.
Turner was born in Shreveport, La., and moved to Seattle. He attended Horace Mann Elementary and Washington Junior High. He graduated from Garfield High School in 1965 where he played football and baseball. Turner attended Seattle Community College, Seattle University and University of Washington.
Turner’s advice for other operators is to “love what you do and do what you love. Life is short.”
Metro Transit has approximately 2,800 transit operators, and Turner was chosen from among his fellow 84 “Operators of the Month” who were eligible for the “Operator of the Year” award.
“Like all our Metro operators, James takes public service seriously. But he goes a little bit farther, creating a community space on his bus that is friendly, inclusive, and relaxing. He shares his dedication to helping people get around the region with his family – eight relatives including his sister, son and daughter drive for Metro. James says he loves what he does, and for 35 years, riders have loved that he does it.” – King County Executive Dow Constantine
“Throughout his 35-year career, we’ve heard time and again how James respects the needs of riders of all ages and backgrounds. He is a shining example of the best customer service that Metro provides and we’re proud to honor him as Metro’s Top Driver and our Transit Operator of the Year.” – Metro Transit General Manager Rob Gannon
About the award
Since 1979, the Metro Transit operators have selected the best of their peers to hold the title of Metro Transit’s Operator of the Year. They are rated on excellence in safety, customer service, and service to their fellow operators. In order to receive the award, a driver must first be chosen Operator of the Month from one of the seven transit bases. At the end of the year, the Operator of the Year is selected by a vote of all fellow Operators of the Month. The annual ceremony is usually held the following summer.
What riders say about James Turner
- “This gentleman is very gracious and expedient. His warm smile makes it a pleasure to ride this route. Please commend him for being a wonderful sage.”
- “He is friendly, polite, helpful and a credit to all of the drivers out there – is a master of Rt. 12 – the finicky electric trolley bus wire.”
- He is “always friendly, kind, patient, and efficient. A cheerful face and ‘good morning’ to make the start of the work day a little more pleasant.”
- He “is the most incredible driver” and “remembers his passengers, knows the route well, is very courteous, nice, and makes the ride enjoyable with his personality.”
- “The buses on the #12 route were running late this morning, and mine was packed, but my favorite driver was behind the wheel. He is an excellent driver, and his pleasant demeanor and good humor help to defuse the tension. At a stop where there was not room for everyone to get on, he explained to those waiting that there were more buses not far behind. I have been on his bus before, and I really appreciate his friendliness.”
- “I had one or two bags of groceries in my shopping cart.” The driver helped me with them “quick as a wink. I thought this was a great effort on his part.”
- “He is always courteous and professional. He is ever alert with a sense of mission.”
- “He always has a smile on his face. He is pleasant and nice to everyone without discriminating. There was one time where passengers were stuck on his bus for close to an hour and a half because of some accident, and he was so nice. He took it in stride and, in a situation where it could be really easy to get grumpy, he made everyone feel comfortable. He clearly enjoys what he does and he deserves to be recognized. Outstanding job!”
- “I have known James for many years and wish to recommend him for 'Bus Driver of the Year.' Reason being his outstanding way he treats and respects all passengers, young or old. His personality never changes even though some passengers can be rude. He's always nice to people. He's very knowledgeable about bus routes and is very careful about letting people sit down before he takes off. I hardly ever come across drivers as nice as him anymore. I consider him very outstanding as a driver.”
- After a rider had foot surgery and was not able to move very quickly, “the driver was very patient and extremely thoughtful. He displayed this throughout the rest of the trip towards other riders, especially toward elderly and disabled individuals.”
- “He pays attention to things around him, including people running for the bus” and “he is pleasant, courteous, and cares for the route.”
- The “driver is unfailingly civil and friendly towards all passengers.”
- “This driver was most friendly and courteous. He has a very intense route dealing with traffic in the core area of Seattle, which is very congested.
- The fact that he maintains a positive attitude is a credit to both himself and Metro – under very trying conditions. Just wanted you to know he is very appreciated.”
- “I would just like to send a note letting you know how much I enjoy riding the bus with the driver on this particular run. He works this run on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. He is courteous, warm and very friendly. What a delight first thing in the morning!”
- “This driver was very friendly and courteous to not only me, but other riders and even pedestrians. He even used the microphone to give passengers information which the majority of other drivers do not do. I ride the Metro buses often, and know that this driver, who I have never seen before, is quite exceptional. This man was exceptionally friendly and competent. Please let him know his kindness and courtesy is greatly appreciated.”
- “I have been taking the bus to work for 2 years now. James, on the downtown #14 route, has been my conductor. He is the nicest and most through conductor in Seattle. Whether you are new to the area or a resident, James is sure to extend his helping hand. Thank you James for adding a little sunshine to my every day.”
- “This guy is a great driver. I walk 10 blocks each morning in hopes of getting him at the beginning of his run. He is always kind, courteous, and helpful. Makes all the difference in the world.”
- “I just want to say what a wonderful driver this man is. Whenever I ride the 12, I hope he will be manning the bus. He is so pleasant and thoughtful. It is extremely refreshing. … Every day he is ready with big smile welcoming you onto the bus, even when the weather is dreary like today. He even takes the time to say hello and thank you to every passenger while staying on schedule. It's the little things that make him so great. Thanks for employing such a wonderful person. He is hands down the kindest bus driver I have ever had. He is always smiling, always greets passengers with a ‘good morning,’ and always waits until passengers find a seat before he starts moving again (which is extremely helpful in the morning when I am often juggling a few bags). He even avoids the big puddle near my bus stop to make sure he doesn't splash the folks waiting. These things may seem trivial, but in my chaotic life it is so nice to know that I have one thing (a pleasant bus ride!) I can always count on. On the few occasions when he has not been the driver, I get very worried that he has been switched off of that route! I would be so disappointed if that happened.”
- “Probably the nicest and most courteous driver I've met in the system. Thanks for making us all feel welcome.”