Celebrating our outstanding operators on Transit Driver Appreciation Day


Community turns out to thank those who drive buses, trains and streetcars

From our mini-run operators to our MAX operators, TriMet is driven — quite literally! — by the people who keep our region moving every day.

TriMet is all about connecting our riders to opportunities. Our buses, trains and LIFT vehicles serve as vital links to work, school, health care and other services. Many of our riders also take TriMet to shopping, dining and other recreation destinations. Tens of thousands of riders every day rely on TriMet to get them where they need to go. And wherever our riders are going, they count on our operators to get them there.

Driving for TriMet is more than a job for many of our operators. It’s a way for them to improve people’s lives. Some have been driving their routes for 10 years or more, and they look forward every day to greeting their regular riders. We also have many newer operators, both full-time and part-time, who bring enthusiasm and passion to the driver’s seat. From our transit veterans to our newest hires, our operators care about the people on their bus or train, and they take pride in getting them to their destination safely and on time.

Monday, March 18, is Transit Driver Appreciation Day. We’re celebrating our operators all throughout the TriMet service district today!

Meet the operators

This year, for Transit Driver Appreciation Day, we’re featuring four operators who go above and beyond for their riders. They exemplify the very best of TriMet.

These operators love what they do, and that love shines through in their work. As TriMet is hiring for more operators and other positions, they’re happy to share their perspective with anyone who is curious about the opportunities at TriMet — and to encourage them to apply for a job at trimet.org/careers.

Joe Wiggins

You might remember Joe Wiggins as the bus operator who drove one of his riders to the hospital on New Year’s Eve. When the rider experienced a medical emergency and asked Joe to call 911, he sprang into action, alerting our Operations Command Center and bringing in first responders. Since there were no ambulances available, Joe took the rider to the hospital in his bus, with a Portland Fire & Rescue escort.

The TriMet Board recently honored Joe and fellow TriMet employees who responded to this emergency. But Joe says any other TriMet operator would have done the same thing in his position. “It’s what we do,” he explains.

What you might not know about Joe is that he has his own business in Gresham, where he sells livestock equipment. He’s been in the business since the 1970s. Difficult economic conditions had Joe looking elsewhere for a new source of income, though, in 2018. He started driving for TriMet as a way to earn some money on the side. While he certainly appreciates TriMet’s competitive pay and excellent benefits, Joe has also fallen in love with the job, and he’s glad to be part of our team — just as we’re glad to have him!

Shari Humphries

TriMet is always working to improve the service we provide. But what does that mean? For bus operator Shari Humphries, it was advocating for one of her riders. Shari makes a point of saying hello and goodbye to everyone on her bus, every day, even on busy Line 72-Killingsworth/82nd. One night last fall, she picked up a rider who was visually impaired, and in talking with him, she found out he’d had to walk almost a mile from his workplace, in an area with poor lighting and limited sidewalks, to get to the bus stop.

Shari wanted her rider to be safe, and she knew this wasn’t a one-off situation. Working with her supervisor, she successfully advocated for a service change that would allow her to better serve this rider and keep him from having to make that long trek to catch the bus. TriMet employees from multiple departments all worked together to make this improvement within weeks.

For nearly three decades, Shari was a school bus driver. She worked for several metro-area school districts before deciding it was time for a change in 2019. Shari applied for a job with TriMet and became a full-time bus operator. Although her passengers have changed, Shari’s commitment to service and spreading joy have not. She says she loves driving because of all the people she is able to help, each and every day.

Yulinda Highsmith

This isn’t Yulinda Highsmith’s first time in the spotlight. When she was still a relatively new part-time bus operator, Yulinda remembers being featured in a hiring campaign. Her face was splashed across the sides of buses and displayed at bus shelters, part of our effort to say: “Come work for TriMet!”

Yulinda has been driving for TriMet since 2005. She previously worked in retail, and as she tells it, she was ready for a career change. She saw TriMet as a place where she could have a real career pathway. The pay was better, the benefits were great and she loved the flexibility of the job.

Nineteen years later, and now working as a full-time operator, Yulinda is still passionate about TriMet. She loves getting to know her riders, and she says she gets to meet people from all over the world on her route. She also enjoys the view from the driver’s seat of the city where she grew up. Yulinda is proud to drive for one of the best transit systems around, and she stands by that message from the hiring campaign in which she was featured all those years ago: TriMet is a great place to work!

Jeff Flanagan

When Jeff Flanagan is in the MAX operator’s cabin, he says, “It feels like being a captain of a ship.” It’s an awesome responsibility, and it’s one that Jeff — like all of TriMet’s approximately 180 rail operators — has earned.

While Jeff is proud to be a rail operator, his career with TriMet has switched tracks a couple times. Originally from Alaska, Jeff first started working for TriMet as a contracted transit security officer in 2011. The following year, he was hired as a bus operator. In 2014, Jeff earned a promotion to rail operator. Many bus operators love their jobs and wouldn’t trade in their wheels for rails, but Jeff was drawn to MAX in part because of the challenge. Light rail vehicles are complicated to operate, but Jeff finds the job to be immensely rewarding.

TriMet has featured Jeff in videos before about MAX. He’s a bona fide expert on operating MAX as he approaches 10 years in light rail, and it’s still a job that brings him great satisfaction. Serving some of the busiest parts of our region, MAX provides opportunities for riders to get to jobs, schools, shops, restaurants, parks, libraries and more every day. Wherever they’re headed, Jeff enjoys greeting his riders and getting them to their destination safely and on time.

Thanking every operator

TriMet is proud to support our transit operators and to celebrate them every year by observing Transit Driver Appreciation Day, an annual tradition since 2013.

TriMet employees and volunteers are turning out for our operators all day Monday, March 18. We’re cheering on buses and MAX trains on the Transit Mall in Downtown Portland; hanging banners at the Beaverton, Clackamas Town Center, Gresham and Rose Quarter transit centers; and serving snacks for operators at our bus garages and rail yards in Beaverton, Gresham and Portland.

Riders and other community members are welcome to join in the festivities! Writing a short message or simply adding their signature to one of our thank-you banners, or on our website at trimet.org/thankyou, can help to brighten our operators’ day. If you’re on the Transit Mall this sunny spring day, join us in raising a cheer for our hard-working operators. And on Transit Driver Appreciation Day, and every day, you can show your gratitude and support for our operators by giving them a wave and a smile, being a courteous rider by following TriMet’s rules for riding, and thanking them for the ride. Even small gestures of kindness and respect can go a long way!

We’re on the lookout for our operators of the future, too! New operators are eligible for a $7,500 hiring bonus. These are good-paying union jobs with excellent benefits and employee resources. Other opportunities are available as well. Learn more at trimet.org/careers.