GoRaleigh Bus Driver Retires After 47 Years

News posted Sep. 28, 2016 - 11:00 am
Giles younger and older

John Giles, known as Pops to his fellow drivers, has been a bus driver for the City of Raleigh area for 47 total years. Now, at the age of 70, he says it’s time for him to retire. Originally from Raleigh, he started driving for the transit system on November 14, 1969, at 23 years of age. At that time Raleigh City Coach Lines ran the public bus service; now GoRaleigh is the City’s transit provider.

When asked what made him want to start driving a bus Mr. Giles said his uncle used to drive an 18-wheeler. When he started his job in 1969 segregation was still prevalent in Raleigh. He took the job with the understanding that he may face harsh racism from the people he was providing transit service to, his passengers. While Downtown on lunch breaks Mr. Giles had to go to the basement of Hudson Belk to eat, not in the main restaurant with white patrons, and bathrooms were also segregated. In 1969 he was one of only 10 African-American drivers out of 52 total drivers operating a 40 bus fleet.

When Mr. Giles started driving, the buses had an ivory and green color scheme and no air conditioning. Bus fare was 25 cents and he had to manually count the money while using a changer. Over the last several years he has had first pick of bus runs because of his seniority. When asked what were his favorites he didn’t want to pick just one, “I really love all of the routes, I enjoy people, but if I had to choose, route 4 (Rex) and route 22 (State Street).” His shift starts at 4 o’clock in the morning and ends around noon. So what does he like to do on his time off? “I love to hunt and fish,” he said.

Mr. Giles has seen a lot of changes over his four decades of service. Population growth, traffic increases, shopping centers coming into existence. He was driving a bus before Crabtree or North Hills even existed. He’s seen the name of transit change from the 1970s branded Capital Area Transit (CAT) to GoRaleigh in 2015. He’s had two children, giving him five grandkids and one great grandkid. He’s been married for 36 years to his wife, Debbie, who he met on the bus. He also obtained an HVAC certificate from Wake Technical Community College back in 1985.

One more thing, Mr. Giles is a three-time million mile driver, which means he’s covered more than three million miles without ever having a non-preventable accident.

Mr. Giles’ officially retires on Oct. 3. His career with the City of Raleigh will be celebrated on Thursday and Friday:

  • Thursday, Sept. 29, at noon --- This is Mr. Giles’ last run of the day. Friends and family will greet him at the Martin Street bus shelter area on the south side of Moore Square by the Acorn;
  • Friday, Sept. 30, at 11 a.m. --- A celebration of Mr. Giles’ career will be held in Room 123 at the GoRaleigh operations facility, 4104 Poole Rd.

Twitter & Instagram @GoRaleighNC; and on Facebook.com/RaleighRides.

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