A day in the life of a bus driver
The wheels on the bus roll smoothly through the obstacle course streets of campus and the driver hardly thinks twice about it as his instincts kick in. He’s driven down these roads every day for more than five years.
For Hughston Ellis, who drives the outer loop bus from 2:30 to 11:30 p.m., seeing the students lulled by the rocking of the bus as he ensures their safe arrival on and off campus is a duty he takes pride in.
“It’s an important job for me to get people to their vehicles,” Ellis said. “So there is a big relief in there, also for them, because they know they’re going home and they can relax on the bus.”
Ellis has worked as a bus driver for more than 30 years and has been at the University for eight of those years. He reminisced about all the students that have come in and out of his bus and his life.
“I see them graduate and go on — and the new freshmen come and after so many years they graduate and go on — and I stay here, still going around in circles,” Ellis said. “The way life is, I’m taking left and right turns, they’re taking left and right turns, but we’re both going in the same direction into the future.”
Interacting with different people of varying ages and backgrounds on a day-to-day basis can be a challenge for even the most keen culture aficionado, and it seems to be on the daily menu for UH bus drivers. But Ellis relishes those moments.
“The most exciting part of my job would be probably … listening to the students; what they have (to say). They’re very opinionated about different things, especially the international students with our culture,” Ellis said. “It’s very interesting exchanging those ideas with them. It’s just so stimulating. The student body is so diverse and so what I am trying to focus on is effectively communicating.”
Bus drivers not only care about their student passengers; they seem to be sympathetic to the plights of all UH students. When Ellis found a man attempting to steal a chained bicycle across from the Lamar Fleming Jr. building, he felt it was his duty as a driver to immediately notify the UH Police Department. Within a minute, they were on the scene; the perpetrator was caught in front of the old McDonald’s on Elgin Street, according to Ellis.
“As a whole community here, the bus drivers and everybody else, we need to watch out for each other and keep working together,” Ellis said. “You just never know when somebody might need your help.”
Ellis takes pride in helping his fellow man and has a strong connection to UH’s student body. Even when students go through tough times during the semester, he tries his best to console them.
“A lot of students, they just want to vent — like they had a bad day or something like that. I don’t have the answers for them, but just to listen to them makes them feel better,” Ellis said. “Then all of a sudden they start calling me by name and I’m really shocked and I just call them brothers and sisters.”
During the past few years, the University has made changes to the transportation system. They’ve added new Cougar Line shuttles and started the Cougar Trax system that offers real-time GPS tracking of the UH buses. All of these additions have made for all-around positive experiences for both the drivers and students.
“I’m just so happy we have equipment on par with a Tier One university now,” Ellis said. “I’m just so happy because it makes it easier to deal with all the students. It’s really enjoyable though — very enjoyable.”
For Ellis, waking up in the morning and going to work is one of the most enjoyable experiences. The feel of the tires on the gritty asphalt, the small twists and turns in the over-sized bus and, most of all, the students keep him satisfied and enthusiastic about a brighter tomorrow.
“I love it,” he said. “I would never do anything else in the world.”