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Man driven to take a public transit route in life

Bus driver has served Santa Clarita Transit for nearly 12 years

Posted: March 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita Transit bus driver George Mbulo is reflected in his driving mirror as he radios that his bus is leaving the McBean Transit Center on his route on Wednesday.

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Like a pilot inspecting his plane, George Mbulo paces around his vehicle, checking the tires, the windows, anything that could go wrong and pose a safety hazard.

Mbulo, like a pilot, knows his passengers’ safety depends on him.

“You’ve got people’s lives in your hands,” the Santa Clarita Transit bus driver explains. “Your mind is working a million miles a minute” on issues of safety.

After nearly 12 years at his job as a Santa Clarita Transit bus driver, Mbulo, of Newhall, says he loves his work because every day is different.

He used to have a desk job, but said that he likes being out and about. Driving is also one of his favorite activities, so he decided to make it a career.

“There’s always something different,” Mbulo said. “You never know what to expect.”

Mbulo works for MV Transportation, which provides drivers to the city of Santa Clarita. Santa Clarita operates the bus service for both city and county areas in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Of Santa Clarita Transit’s 158 drivers, nearly a quarter have worked for the city for 10 years or more.

During the 12 years since he started driving, Mbulo says, he’s seen a number of changes, including new technology installed on buses, new routes in the Santa Clarita Valley and an increase in ridership.

The two busiest routes for Mbulo are Routes 5 and 6, which run from Stevenson Ranch along a circuitous route through Valencia and out Soledad Canyon Road all the way to Shadow Pines Boulevard in Canyon Country — and back.

In his years of driving, Mbulo said he’s seen a few rowdy passengers, but only one was disruptive enough for him to call sheriff’s deputies.

He said a man once boarded the bus and started fighting other passengers, forcing Mbulo to call for help and get the other passengers off the bus.

Mbulo said that passenger was far from the norm.

“Most people, they just get on the bus,” Mbulo said. “They want to get home. They want to get to work.”

As part of his training to become a driver, Mbulo spent six weeks in class and about two weeks in behind-the-wheel training.

Drivers must complete a retraining course every year, in addition to attending monthly meetings to discuss everything from sensitivity training to safety training and technology updates, said Transit Manager Adrian Aguilar.

Mbulo says he enjoys getting to know his passengers. At Christmas, some of the regulars bring him cards and other small gifts.

“That makes it worthwhile,” Mbulo said.

Regular passenger Abby Rodriguez says Mbulo is her favorite driver because he helped keep her from becoming stranded late one night when the bus was supposed to make its last stop some distance from where she needed to be.

“He called in to his supervisor and checked if he could take me,” Rodriguez said. “I was at the last stop, and he drove to Rainbow Glen.”

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