Trolley driver has city’s front window seat

Angus MacIntyre, sporting the jacket he was issued in 1969, shows the old coin changer he first used. Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

Angus MacIntyre, sporting the jacket he was issued in 1969, shows the old coin changer he first used. Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

The Province

He’s driven No. 7 bus for the past 40 years

By Laura Stone, The Province

There are certain things that a bus driver of 40 years learns to be wary of. This includes passengers who have drunk too much or carry coffins.

For Angus McIntyre, who on Tuesday became bus No. 7’s four-decade driver, the drinkers are a more common casualty of his 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift, hours that have gotten progressively busier throughout the years.

The coffins are a casualty of a different sort. But at least they keep the job interesting.

“Every day you go to work, there’s going to be something that surprises you or interests you or provides a little entertainment,” said McIntyre.

Cue the coffin. A few years ago, two actors from Vancouver’s International Fringe Festival asked McIntyre if they could load a prop coffin on to his trolley bus.

As the downtown crowd grew heavier, the actors had to push the coffin to the front of the bus, past an elderly lady who seemed a bit dismayed by its possible contents.

“She thought there was somebody in it, and there was all this craziness going on,” said McIntyre, 61, with a chuckle. “You can imagine how it looked pulling into the stop and this coffin being unloaded out of the front of the bus.”

All in a day’s work for the man who saw his first trolley bus in Australia when he was 13, fell in love with the smooth electric ride and decided that’s what he wanted to do. And, at 21, soon after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, he signed up for the job in Vancouver.

“You just follow through on what you want to do,” he said.

With that, McIntyre celebrated his 40th anniversary not unlike any other day: driving along Nanaimo to Dunbar Street — a route he says provides a unique cross-section of east and west Vancouverites — and watching the city flourish from his increasingly more comfortable front-window seat.

“The city has changed dramatically. It certainly still had a small-town feel back in 1969. And the development of the city is one thing you get to see as you drive the bus, very gradually over the years.”

He points to gentrification in False Creek and Kitsilano as prime examples.

Another change was the addition of the SkyTrain, and the variations it brought to bus routes. But if anything, it’s added transit users, he said, not taken them away.

McIntyre, the most senior bus driver in Vancouver proper by five years, was also among the first drivers to both work and live in the city, a luxury many can no longer afford. He plans to retire next year.

And while he admits bus driving is riskier than in the past, and passengers don’t direct him like they once did when buses weren’t yet equipped with right-hand mirrors, there’s still a community feel among the riders.

“You get to know all your regular passengers,” he said. “That’s what makes it nice to go to work each day.”

lstone@theprovince.com

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