Island Transit seeks drivers, no experience necessary

— Created March 24, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Anyone seeking a new career opportunity or change may want to take a look at Island Transit.

The transportation agency is looking to add new transit bus operators to its ranks and will provide competitive pay and benefits as well as complete training. And no CDL (commercial driver’s license) is necessary to get the job.

The COVID-19 pandemic is largely responsible for the current need, said Island Transit officials.

“As the months continued, [the pandemic] decimated our operator positions, causing early retirements as well as a lack of available candidates to interview,” said Shawn Harris, Island Transit operations manager.

“One of the other challenges caused by COVID-19 was our inability to conduct recruitment for new transit operators because our service had been reduced so much that the work was not available, and when we did need to recruit as restrictions lifted, we were unable to do so because of social distancing requirements,” added Robyn Goldring, administrative and human resources manager for Island Transit.

But wait – surely one must need to have experience to work as a transit bus driver. Not so, said Goldring.

“Our expert trainers provide an eight-week paid training program with hands-on experience to get a commercial driver’s license and to guarantee a successful career,” she said. “We have state-of-the-art vehicles with fully adjustable driver’s seats to accommodate the shortest and tallest of drivers. We can train anyone to operate our vehicles; you only need a five-year-safe driving history.”

“Most new drivers have done other jobs prior to coming to Island Transit and do not have experience from other transportation industries,” said Tom Hopper, safety and training supervisor. “With that potential for diverse backgrounds and learning styles, no copy and paste style of training will work. I get to work with a tried and true template that has been in place for many years at Island Transit. My challenge is to make it even more successful.”

As many people are still reeling from job losses and hardships brought on by the pandemic, it may be refreshing to hear of job openings. According to Goldring, the operator positions pay more than $20 per hour following completed training, with regular pay increases. Benefits include medical and dental insurance and two retirement plans. Positions start as part time; fulltime positions with consistent work schedules become available as vacancies occur.

Many current employees began their Island Transit careers as bus operators.

“Currently I’m a dispatcher with the agency, but I started as an operator,” said Tafa Belford, who has been with Island Transit since August, 2018. “I had never driven a bus before nor was I aware of the complex and exciting world of transit. This is by far my most favorite job ever. Our training program is designed to give you confidence and complete understanding of the vehicle itself and what the job entails. Zero experience needed – we will train you and give you all the tools and support you need to enjoy this job.”

Safety, whether during a pandemic or not, is a priority at Island Transit.

“Working through the pandemic this past year posed quite a challenge for everyone,” said Terri Shroyer, road support supervisor who has been with Island Transit for 15 years. “I am very proud to say our agency has pulled together to keep service going, doing an outstanding job keeping our employees and passengers safe.”

“We are committed to creating a safe work environment for all employees and riders,” said IT Executive Director Todd Morrow. “We have taken great measures to maintain a safe and reliable transit system during COVID-19. This includes following public health guidelines, installing plexiglass shields to protect drivers from the droplets of others, daily stringent disinfecting of all our vehicles and common areas, installing special air filters, wearing masks and keeping drivers and passengers a safe distance apart. In partnership with Island County, we have placed public health messages on the sides of our buses – this is unique in the transit industry.”

Island Transit continues to play an important role on Whidbey and Camano Islands, providing a critical service to residents.

“Island Transit is an integral part of Island County’s economic growth and stability, providing fare-free and equitable transportation services for all members of the community, connecting individuals to jobs, shopping and medical appointments,” said Selene Muldowney-Stratton, IT marketing and communications officer. “Our transit operators have continued to serve our community with grace and compassion. We believe they are frontline heroes – even if most o them will humbly disagree.”

“Public transit jobs require a different class of folks who love to serve their communities,” said Harris.  “These transportation professionals go above and beyond and are truly amazing employees.”

For information or to apply, visit