Alex Ohly loves to tinker. If it involves an engine, even better. After all, he does own six 1980s-era Volvos.
When he moved to Oregon in 1990, he sought machinist jobs after a career making eye-surgery instruments in St. Louis. One big problem: the United States was mired in an economic recession. Also, pay was low for the work, and most of these positions didn’t offer employer-sponsored insurance plans.
However, he loved to drive and saw TriMet had a need for bus operators.
“I took it as a temporary job. I really just needed insurance. As it turned out, I really liked it. It’s like I’ve been in-between jobs for 26 years,” laughs Ohly.
Fortunately, the 1990 recession quickly passed, and Ohly’s career stability at TrIMet helped him weather the most recent economic downturn. How? Well, he’s good at what he does. For the past 21 years, he’s driven safely, which has earned him a National Safe Driving Award each year (no preventable accidents during that time). And he shows up — he had nine straight years of perfect attendance.
It’s about the people
His approach to his profession is simple.
“You have to try to understand people,” says Ohly, whose workday typically begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. “A lot of times, people are upset for whatever reason when they get on the bus. If you’re kind to them, it goes away.”
“When operating a bus, I never sacrifice safety or people’s comfort. Just go smooth and take it easy. Go with the flow.”
His approach has culminated into being our newest Bus Operator of the Year, an award he says blew him away when his name was announced in front of his peers.
He’s also a Master Operator, which is an honor given to operators who earn at least 15 Superior Performance Awards, earned by working at least 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, or reprimands.
Life away from TriMet
When he’s not driving his usual Line 48-Cornell or Line 88-Hart/198th, you’ll likely find Ohly and his wife relaxing at their Lake Oswego home. They’ve grown roots, including, at one time, a vegetable garden.
“Unfortunately, we shared the garden with raccoons, so that didn’t work too well,” he says.
Now he spends much of his free time either with his grandson or thinking about fly fishing. He owns quite a few fly rods, but instead of catching fish, he works on the “art of casting” in his large backyard. No question, when the time comes to catch real fish, Ohly will be ready.