As a TriMet bus operator for the past 13 years, Justina Carrillo has had her share of good days and challenging ones.
One day was downright bizarre.
“I had one passenger tell me how to rob a bank,” she says. “He said ‘Just remember, these are the keys so you won’t do hard time.’ I laughed so hard.”
Another day that stands out for Carrillo happened just last month — her co-workers voted her as the 2016 Part-Time Bus Operator of the Year.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” says Carrillo, who typically drives Line 33-McLoughlin/King Rd and Line 85-Swan Island. “It surprised me. People are still coming up and saying they saw me on the website. It’s very nice to be recognized.”
Carrillo, no doubt, deserved the award. She’s already collected 21 National Safe Driving Awards — meaning no preventable accidents in 21 years of driving — and six Superior Performance Awards, earned by working at least 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or suspensions.
The secret to her success?
“It’s about safety first and trying not to take everything personally,” she says.
Growing up in SE Portland, Carrillo’s parents always used TriMet. She even recalls riding buses on TriMet’s predecessor, the defunct Rose City Transit Company, as a young child.
“It’s funny that I drive professionally because my parents never drove,” she says.
After her parents passed away, Carrillo needed “something to do.” She started as an operator and trainer for LIFT, our paratransit service.
She spent 11 years at LIFT and was looking for a change. Another colleague persuaded her to apply to become a bus operator. It wasn’t the smoothest transition.
“At first, I didn’t like it,” Carrillo says. “My co-worker said to give it six months. She was right, because after six months, I really started to like it. It was like a second hat.”
Twenty-four years later, she’s still with us.
Carrillo has a life outside TriMet, which usually involves catching salmon or trout in the Columbia River.
“I’m not into catch and release,” she says. “I want to keep it if I spend all that time out there.”
She also tends to her vegetable garden where she grows tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers.
One of her favorite pastimes is bingo, although it’s lost its popularity over the years. Carrillo says there used to be a dozen or so bingo halls all over town. Now there’s just a few left, including her favorite, DAV Bingo, in NE Portland.
No stopping her
Five years down the road, Carrillo envisions being in the same career. She may go full-time, but really appreciates the flexibility of her part-time schedule, which is 30 hours per week.
Her shifts go by fast because she enjoys what she does (despite the occasional advice on how to rob a bank).
“I like the people on my route,” she says. “I also love seeing the city and seeing the changes going on in the Portland area.”