Metro celebrates Women’s History Month: What it takes to become a bus mechanic

Spanish version here

Transportation isn’t a man’s world any longer –– if it ever had been at all. More and more, women are leading the charge when it comes to moving us around LA. This Women’s History Month, we’ll be sharing stories and tips from a few of our amazing female employees. Whether they’re improving our stations or they’re driving your bus, these women are responsible for making your trips safe, comfortable, and timely. First up in our series –– Lilian Meneses and Alicia Linares, two bus mechanics at Division 13 in Downtown Los Angeles. Keep reading to learn how they launched their careers.  

By Mey Mitteenn 

When Lilian Meneses was a kid, she would watch her father with curiosity every time he repaired the family’s car. “My dad only had daughters and I followed him everywhere,” she said. “So when he fixed the car, I was in charge of passing him the tools. Maybe that’s how I started to like that world.”  

Lilian has been a bus mechanic at Metro for 18 years. She began her career at the agency in 2000 as a service attendant, where she cleaned buses and made sure they had coolant, oil, and gasoline. Five years later, she decided to become a mechanic. “I saw the other guys fixing the buses, and I said to myself, ‘I think I can do it too.'”  

Nervous yet determined, Lilian signed up for Metro’s free ‘On the Job’ training classes and graduated in 2006. Today, she does it all: from installing bus parts to changing brakes, filters, and spark plugs to fixing radiators, alternators, engines and more.  

Lilian also conducts bus inspections. For example, if the bus produces an unusual sound, she has to find the source in a nearly 60,000-pound machine … and leave the bus in excellent condition so it can carry passengers the following morning. 

One of the most challenging tasks of her job has been operating a tow truck. “Imagine having to load a 60-foot-long bus onto the tow truck,” says Lilian. “It’s a lot of responsibility. Today I am proud to say that I know how to do it.”  

The mechanic shop is a 24/7 operation that is divided into three shifts. Lilian works the ‘graveyard’ shift, from 9:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. “It’s been difficult, but it’s what has worked best to be able to spend time with my family,” she says. Her five children brag about her skills to their friends. 

In addition to breaking into a career that’s still dominated by men, Lilian is a mentor to other female mechanics. Like Alicia Linares, who came to Metro in 2001 and also started as a bus service attendant.  

“Lilian encouraged me to take the [‘On the Job’ training courses] to become a mechanic. When I started, I was nervous and scared … I was the only woman in the class!” says Alicia. However, Lilian didn’t give up on her. “She always told me, ‘If I could do it, so could you.’ With that confidence, I plucked up the courage and graduated.”  

Thirteen years later, the two women remain close friends.  

The job isn’t easy, Alicia explains, citing the time she ended up soaked in motor oil. Nonetheless, she enjoys her career as a mechanic. There is a lot of problem-solving involved in adjusting valves, changing shock absorbers and spark plugs, and repairing radiators and alternators. 

Today, having overcome her nerves and insecurities, Alicia has repaired over 6,500 buses.  

Many women are on the fence about going into a male-dominated field, but Alicia encourages them to give it a try. “Believe me, being a mechanic isn’t going to take away your feminine side,” she says. “It’s a rewarding career and you learn that you have the ability to grow in your career like all your colleagues.” 

Her four adult children say their mother is their most powerful role model when it comes to self-improvement.  

“Believe me, if you put determination in your mind, you’re going to make it,” Lilian says.    

Want to learn more about careers at Metro? Find more information here 



Categories: Transportation News