Veronica An is a Los Angeles-based journalist and photographer. She recently spent a day shadowing Metro bus operator Vanessa Maldonado and wrote the following. More photos can be found on her website. Photos courtesy Veronica An.
By Veronica An
Riding the bus is a communal experience that many people perceive as solitary – yes, we are all on our own separate journeys but there is still something that unites us.
“As a bus driver you get to see the real side of Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter where you go – people rely on the bus…this job opened my eyes more than ever – the city, the politics – it changes you and makes you a better person. It teaches you to be more open-minded,” said Vanessa Maldonado, a Metro bus operator.
Maldonado, an eight-year Metro veteran, has driven her share of buses and considers her work vital to the community. She grew up in Cudahy and says her favorite route is the 111 which goes to Florence. She currently works as an extra board operator at Division 18 and drives many routes including the 40, 210 and 204.
“I am a driver in the community – a lot of people know me on this route but not just as a driver, they know my background. Like a lot of us, I drive and live in L.A. It’s nice to be in a community where people know me and I get treated with respect,” she said.
Maldonado sees herself as part of a community of operators as well as passengers. Although she was featured in the Metro’s ADA video, she wants to make sure that other operators are as recognized and acknowledged as she feels.
“All the operators do what I do,” she said. “And I don’t do it alone – the passengers light up the drivers and this Metro [drivers team] is my family,” she said.
Both operators and passengers are part of a temporary community on the bus as they travel from here to there.
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