zkt22Prior to getting behind the wheel of a 40-foot bus as part of her training for the SamTrans Bus Roadeo, Zoe Kersteen-Tucker’s past driving experience primarily dealt with smaller vehicles. Much smaller vehicles.

“I drove a Mini-Cooper,” said Kersteen-Tucker, chair of the SamTrans Board of Directors. “I don’t think you could get much further away from a bus than that car.”

Despite her lack of experience, Kersteen-Tucker is set to compete in the SamTrans Bus Roadeo—a skills competition where participants weave through a series of driving obstacles and make highly-technical parking maneuvers. She’ll be joined in the contest by fellow board member Jeff Gee, who also agreed to put his services on the line for the Roadeo, which will take place on Sunday, August 28 at the SamTrans North Base facility in South San Francisco.

Kersteen-Tucker and Gee will compete in a special four-person division that will also feature SamTrans General Manager/CEO Jim Hartnett, and David Olmeda, Chief Operating Officer, Bus. Earlier this month, the two SamTrans board members received some pre-race training from agency employees.

“It was fun and exciting and scary,” said Gee. “We had it easy, too—we were just driving around North Base in an empty parking lot. It really gives you an appreciation for what our drivers do every day. I couldn’t imagine driving one of these things down El Camino Real.”

Under the guidance of Lou Doll, Manager of Transit Operations Training, and Karambir Cheema, the North Base Superintendent of Bus Operations, Kersteen-Tucker and Gee navigated the various challenges they’ll be confronted with in the Bus Roadeo. Those challenges included the serpentine maneuver, a notoriously difficult driving move where competitors must steer the bus through a series of strategically-placed traffic cones.

“The precision that you need for the serpentine is off the charts,” said Kersteen-Tucker. “The angles, the patience, the familiarity with your bus. It’s incredibly difficult.”

Director Zoe Kersteen-Tucker practices her bus skills in the SamTrans training simulator.

Kersteen-Tucker and Gee also performed some parallel parking exercises and sidled their buses between a set of tennis balls. Thankfully, some of the driving operations were easier than others.

“I think I can handle the right-hand turn,” said Kersteen-Tucker. “Everything else is going to be tough.”

In 2015, the SamTrans Bus Roadeo returned after a seven-year absence. This year’s event will feature more than 50 SamTrans employees competing in a series of different driving categories and maintenance repair competitions.

Director Jeff Gee receives a congratulatory handshake from Lou Doll.

Along with showcasing the considerable talents of SamTrans’ bus operators and maintenance workers, the event is an opportunity for employees to bring their family members out to North Base. The Roadeo will feature children’s entertainment, free food and drinks, raffle prizes and giveaways.

“I’m really looking forward to being with our drivers and their families and really celebrating what we do,” said Gee. “It should be a great day.”

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