City bus driver celebrates 85th birthday

Anyone who has ridden a Seymour city bus very often since 2005 has likely come across Joan Hines at some point.

That’s because Hines, who is celebrating her 85th birthday today, has been driving a bus for the city for 17 years.

Before becoming a bus driver, Hines was a rural letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Seymour. She started driving a city bus after retiring as a postwoman in 2003.

The bus driving job interested her because some of her co-workers at the post office had gone on to become bus drivers for the city.

Instead of sitting at home after retirement, Hines said she thought it would be more interesting to drive a bus for the city.

Hines said there isn’t anything she would’ve rather done after her retirement from the post office.

Soon after she landed the job, Hines said she loved bus driving. She said it helps keep her mentally healthy.

Vicki Fields, Hines’ daughter, said she aspires to be like her mother and can’t believe that she’s celebrating her 85th birthday.

“There are four of us kids in our family, and we hope we can live a long life like she does,” she said. “We’re really proud of her, and we love her. She’s an inspirational mother.”

Hines said she enjoys her job because she’s able to socialize more and make friends, Fields said. This has been especially helpful since the passing of her husband, Charles, in 2016.

“She’s not a stay-at-home person,” she said. “She’s a go-getter.”

Fields said other bus drivers try to make Hines’ job easier by helping her out, especially when sterilizing buses at the end of the day.

When Hines’ family goes on family trips, Fields said she insists on driving because “she has been driving longer.” Her children do the driving anyway.

In a typical week, she works about four hours a day. Due to a shortage of city bus drivers, she has been filling in for other shifts lately.

Seymour’s transit bus drivers don’t drive a particular route and drive everywhere within city limits to pick people up. The cost to the rider is $2 per ride one way.

According to regulations from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, a commercial driver’s license is required to operate transit buses.

“She’s a very good driver,” said Edie Otte, manager for the Seymour Transit Department. “She gets along very well with all of the passengers and gets along well with the other drivers. She’s really good at what she does.”

When first hired, Hines said she worked dispatch for the city’s transit department. She radioed to other drivers who to pick up and where to go.

That moment in her career was the closest she came to losing her mind, she said, due to not being familiar with Seymour street names and getting complaints from other drivers.

As a bus driver, Hines said you have to have organizational skills down to an art, and dispatchers have to know what they’re doing and be on their A game all of the time.

Riders get to where they’re going by calling the city’s transit department at 812-522-7433 and scheduling rides. Since rides are scheduled, good communication is required between drivers and dispatch to make sure everyone gets to their destination on time.

Many of Hines’ riders have known her ever since she started driving, and others have known her since she worked at the post office.

One aspect of daily Seymour traffic that Hines said she could live without is the trains. She said when a train stops a bus, it ruins everyone’s day.

One recent blessing for city bus drivers, Hines said, was the completion of the construction on East U.S. 50 this fall.

“I wanted to kiss the ground when that construction was finished,” she said.

Hines said she loves her workplace, and her co-workers are her best friends.

She said she also loves her riders like family.

When on a break or waiting for her bus to arrive, she said she passes the time by walking laps inside the department of public works garage where the buses are kept. By calculating the distance of the outer walls of the garage, she figured out that 16 laps equals 1 mile.

“Her years of work are amazing,” fellow driver Dave Rotert said. “Just how long she has been here, she’s just an inspiration to us.”