On Friday morning, driver Donny Reynolds was posted outside the Route #5 bus at Bloomington’s downtown transit center, greeting a couple of passengers as they boarded.
“Good morning and watch your step—it’s dark in there right now!”
Reynolds flipped on the inside lights as soon as he slid into the driver’s seat. He was starting the first run of his final day driving a public bus in Bloomington.
His first day at the wheel of a Bloomington public bus came 43 years ago on June 2, 1979. At that time, the bus service was provided through a city department, before the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation was established.
On the morning’s first run for Route #5, at a stop along Atwater Avenue, a couple of Jackson Creek Middle School students boarded. “Good morning, ladies!” came the cheery greeting from Reynolds.
At a few more stops along the way, as the bus headed east, a half dozen more middle schoolers joined their friends, who were seated towards the back.
To reach Jackson Creek Middle School, Route #5 heads out Atwater, south on Eagleson Avenue, then picks up Sheridan Road to Maxwell Lane, and heads east to High Street.
For about two miles, Route #5 stays south on High Street, then heads east again on Rogers Road. At Sare Road, the bus turns south again until it reaches the middle school, which is the route’s end point.
As the group of middle schoolers exited the bus through the rear door, they each paused at the door to send a “Thank you!” up towards the driver. Reynolds responded every time with a bright, “You’re welcome!”
On Friday’s mid-morning return run into downtown, some regular riders boarded the #5, including several Indiana University students. Reynolds greeted one passenger: “Hello, Zack!” When Zack reached his destination, he deboarded saying, “Thank you, Donny!”
Some of the passengers knew it was the final day for Reynolds. At a 3rd Street stop next to the IU campus, before one young woman got off the bus, she told him: “Have a good retirement!” Reynolds replied, “Thank you, Megan!”
As the driver with the most seniority, Reynolds can choose to drive any route. Why is Route #5 his favorite? His two-word answer to The B Square: “The people.”
Reynolds said that some riders represent the fifth generation of their families that he’s had as passengers.
Around noon, Reynolds’ own family members were among the group of people who welcomed Reynolds, after he parked the #5 bus for the last time at the downtown transit center.
BT general manager John Connell was on hand, to deliver some remarks. Referring to Reynolds record of 14 years of accident-free driving, Connell said, “This is one of the safest drivers we have.” Connell added, “If we could clone this gentleman, I would take 15 or 20 more just like him.”
The vehicle that Reynolds was driving on Friday has the serial number 21-89—it’s one of Bloomington Transit’s new battery-electric vehicles, which has no internal combustion engine.
BT general manager John Connell told The B Square that staff normally refer to vehicles by their serial number. But because Reynolds has been driving 21-89 since it was delivered, a plaque will be installed o to honor his 43 years of service, designating it as the “Donny Reynolds Bus.”
Photos: Donny Reynolds: Celebrating 43 years of driving (Jan. 13, 2023)