By SARA HOLTHOUSE
For decades, Randy Woleen has helped transport countless people from place to place. On Friday, the Jamestown resident will reach his final destination.
Woleen is scheduled to retire at the end of the week as a subway bus driver for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in Buffalo, where he has worked for 29 years.
“I like to drive and I like people” Wolen said. “I’ve met so many interesting people over the years. Driving a bus is my dream job. I appreciate that the NFTA is such a professional organization.
Woleen began working part-time for the NFTA in the early 90s before transitioning to full-time in 2000. He began his dream job as a bus driver in 1982 working for the Jamestown Area Regional Transit System , which operated from 1962 to 1996. He then moved to the Chautauqua Regional Transit System where he worked for a brief period.
Over the years, Woleen has also driven school buses and the shuttle to Chautauqua Institution during the summers.
As a bus driver, Woleen has seen a lot.
“There have been difficult times” he said. “Once, while driving in Buffalo, my back door window was knocked out of the bus. But there were also some really good times. When my wife, Dianne, and I got married in 1983, we had a good friend, who was also a JARTS driver, who drove the decorated bus around town honking his horn after our ceremony. So many passengers were thrilled to see us. I still have reunion ‘breakfasts’ with some pilots JARTS Such good friendships have been made.
Driving in Buffalo meant dealing with snow – and plenty of it.
“One year, during a big blizzard in Buffalo, my bus got stuck in the snow”, Wolen said. “I called to be pulled out and was told I was 20th in line for a tow. … Luckily the nearby fire station let me in to warm up and get some coffee.
Recently, while driving the bus in Buffalo, Woleen’s family surprised him by visiting.
“We have three sons and four grandchildren,” he said. “Our two youngest sons were able to bring our three granddaughters – our grandson just graduated from Southwestern in June – to ride the bus. Grace, Payton and Kinsley were so excited to see me. They asked questions all the time. When I rounded the corner at the McKinley Mall, I thought, “Wow, that’s a big group to get on the bus.” It was a big surprise when I stopped by and it was my family.
Although nearing retirement, Woleen said he plans to continue driving to some degree.
“I am happy to have a job that I have loved for so many years” he said. “I enjoy every day I go to work and feel like I’ve always treated my passengers with respect. I really enjoyed my 29 years at NFTA Metro, but getting around, especially in the winter, got harder as I got older. I will still drive the school bus but closer to home. The millions of miles I’ve traveled are far from over. I love what I do and intend to continue doing it for as long as possible.