Bloomington Transit bus driver Cristian Miguel Ramirez spent Thursday afternoon piloting one of the public bus agency’s 40-footers.
Earlier that morning, Ramirez had been congratulated by BT staff and board members on passing a recent milestone: Six weeks ago, he took the oath to become a US citizen.
On May 17, he joined 32 other Hoosiers for the naturalization ceremony, at a venue where the vehicles roll along a smidgen faster than the average BT bus—the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In his remarks on Thursday morning in the BT driver’s break room, BT general manager John Connell led off by thanking all the BT employees, who had all worked so hard through the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Ramirez, Connell said, “He’s worked a lot of overtime. He’s been an outstanding employee.” Connell added, “He’s found time to do everything necessary to become a US citizen. So we’d like to congratulate him and wish him the best!”
Ramirez shared the story of his arrival in Bloomington from Mexico. “I was abandoned by my parents. They left me in Mexico City with a neighbor and never came back,” Ramirez said—in a written statement that was read aloud by BT operations manager Mike Clark.
His grandparents took him in and raised him. That upbringing was in “tremendous poverty, but with tremendous love,” Ramirez said. When he was 14, his uncle, who’s a business owner in Bloomington, came to visit him in Mexico. His uncle wanted to give Ramirez the chance to improve his life by bringing him to the United States, Ramirez said.
Before he started with Bloomington Transit in July of 2019, Ramirez had never driven a vehicle as big as a BT bus, he told The B Square. BT provides training for new drivers, which Ramirez undertook.
BT currently has a driver shortage of about a dozen. Ramirez told the B Square that driving a bus is not a job that anybody can do—some of the potential new recruits stay at it maybe three weeks, before deciding that bus driving is not for them.
There’s more to the job than just driving the bus, Ramirez said. You have to take care of your passengers, he said, as well as the other people on the road.
The Route 1 that he was driving on Thursday is not Ramirez’s top choice of assignments. Route 1 is a north-south oriented circuit that is centered at the downtown transit center at 3rd and Walnut streets.
His favorite is Route 3, Ramirez told The B Square. Route 3 runs mostly east-west, from one end of town to the other.
What he likes about Route 3 is the number of people who ride it. Ramirez likes to talk to the passengers, especially those who aren’t sure where they’re going—he enjoys helping them sort out directions. Route 1 passengers are mostly local people, who know where they’re going and don’t need to talk to the driver, Ramirez said.
BT drivers choose routes based on seniority. Once he has enough seniority, he’ll choose Route 3 every time, Ramirez said. About the prospects that BT will operate a new east-west express service, which could be launched with support from local income tax increase approved by Bloomington’s city council, Ramirez said he’d like to drive that route.
With citizenship comes the right to vote in elections. Asked by The B Square if he was looking ahead to 2023 with an eye towards voting in city elections, Ramirez said, “Bloomington’s our city—you have to participate.”
Ramirez thanked BT’s head of human resources, Brenda Underwood, and operations manager, Mike Clark, for giving him a chance to drive for Bloomington Transit.
Ramirez also said he is planning to keep driving a BT bus until he retires—as long as he stays healthy. Responding to a B Square question, Ramirez said two key things to know about BT’s service are: (1) The buses are new and modern; (2) At $1 per ride, the fare is cheap.
Ramirez’s statement on Thursday included some family background. After arriving in Bloomington, he met the love of his life, Naomi. They now have five children.
The couple’s youngest, Nahla, was born on Dec. 5, 2021—the first baby born at the new IU Health hospital after it opened. On Thursday morning, Namoi brought Nahla and the little one’s older sister Grace, so they could watch their dad receive BT’s well wishes in the driver’s break room.
Ramirez said he made the decision to pursue US citizenship after visiting Mexico for a month. “It was in that time that I realized that my heart and family I had made was in the United States.”
Ramirez said, “Today I am proud to be able to call myself a citizen of the United States, the best country in the world, where dreams come true.”
Ramirez wrapped up like this: “Bloomington Transit is the best and I want to thank everyone here, and wish you all a Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans!”
Photos: June 30, 2022 Bloomington Transit