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From trainee to trainer: how Lisa steered towards a fulfilling career in transit

From trainee to trainer: how Lisa steered towards a fulfilling career in transit

Lisa Pedersen, instructor at Coast Mountain Bus Company_web

Lisa Pedersen was in college and looking for a job to help for student expenses. Of the many jobs she had her eyes on, driving a bus wasn’t one of them.

That is, until her dad suggested it. He was an operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company at the time.

It took some convincing but, in the end, Lisa threw her hat in the ring and applied for the casual Community Shuttle Operator job.

What convinced her?

First, the job’s flexibility. As a casual, part-time position, Community Shuttle Operators are scheduled for shifts that match their availabilities. As a college student with fixed class schedules, this worked for Lisa.

Second, she needed a job that would help pay off her student loan.

And above all, her dad believing she could do it.

We’ll teach you

Lisa had customer service experience working at department store Zellers, so interacting with transit riders sounded manageable for her. But navigating busy city streets and operating a bus with passengers on board was quite the change.

Nonetheless, she was up for the challenge and with a robust training program in place, Coast Mountain Bus Company was ready to teach her.

When new operators are hired, the company provides them with paid training and helps them obtain their commercial driver’s license.

They go through a rigorous training program where they learn everything from safe driving practices to donning blindfolds to learn how to best support customers who are visually impaired. Trainee operators also learn about the Compass Card system, customer service, and the options available for support while on the road.

“I frequently had doubts during the first week of training like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” recalls Lisa, who completed a 12-day training program as a Community Shuttle Operator trainee.

Supportive instructors gave her the confidence she needed to excel.

“You keep trying and practicing. People are teaching you and encouraging you. Eventually, I realized, ‘Okay yeah, I can do this.’”

Before operators can operate a bus in service, they first need to pass a road test.

Needless to say, Lisa passed with flying colours and became an operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company.

She’d work as a Community Shuttle Operator two-to-five times per week while being in school.

“I didn’t think I would stick with it,” admits Lisa. “I thought this was going to be a college job.”

Stuck with it she did — turning a part-time, casual job into a career.

It became her career

After driving a 23-person community shuttle for eight years, Lisa was ready for a new challenge. This time, learning how to drive a conventional bus — “the big bus!” as she calls it.

Conventional operators go through a six-week training program. They learn how to operate both diesel and trolley buses. They also head out on the road with current operators to learn all the routes. Conventional bus trainees need to pass the road test and the final evaluation — where an instructor assesses if they’re ready to safely operate a bus on their own — before serving customers.

“Driving a big bus is not something I thought I wanted, or something I thought I could do. Now I’m very proud of being able to drive 40-foot and 60-foot buses,” says Lisa.

And she loves it.

“The customers are a huge part of why I love my job,” says Lisa. “I’ve met really sweet people, my regulars, and they make me want to come back.”

A fond memory of hers is when a little girl, looked at her mom before boarding the bus and said, “Huh! Mommy, it’s a girl!” and referred to Lisa as “the girl bus driver.”

“At that moment, I felt like I’m inspiring a younger generation to do whatever they want. She’s going to see someone that looks like her driving a bus and think, ‘I can do this too.’”

Lisa continued to be a Transit Operator for seven more years before deciding to take on a new challenge once again, becoming an instructor in Operator Training.

She was ready to pay it back.

Paying it back

Fifteen years ago, Lisa was her own skeptic. Now, Lisa’s helping trainee operators succeed, acting as the “hype person” for them just like her instructor did when she first started.

Lisa’s a prime example of someone who didn’t think could do the job at first, but eventually did.

“If I can do it, I can help you do it,” she says.

Lisa recalls getting a lot of support from colleagues when she was a Transit Operator, so she’s paying it back now with her wealth of experience. She also wants to make fellow women-identifying Operators feel welcome and supported.

Other than supporting women through training, Lisa also participates in focus groups.

In 2023, she was part of a group that helped create a guide for women-identifying Operators at Coast Mountain Bus Company. The guide, which was created by women for women, answers the many questions women-identifying operators may have on the job. This includes how to navigate challenging situations, ordering and tailoring uniforms, and options for childcare, among many other topics.

Ready to steer your career in a new direction? We’re hiring for Transit Operators! Visit to learn more and apply.


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