Pepperdine shuttle drivers share their story ‹Pepperdine Graphic


A student from Pepp rushes to board the shuttle called “Wave 5”. Students used the shuttle system during school during the week for many reasons: to get to class, to return to their dormitory, or to avoid taking the stairs.

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Getting on and off the Pepperdine shuttles is something a student will likely find themselves doing at some point, whether late for class or having lunch at Heroes’ Garden – and the drivers behind the Pepperdine shuttles have covered everything.

The Department of Campus Operations and Business Services runs Transit services and shuttles operate every day of the week. Shuttle services pride themselves on providing on-time arrival, accurate GPS tracking, and safe transportation, according to the Pepperdine community. website.

“Public transport services are like a vine that intertwines the whole University”, according to the website. There are eight full-time drivers on staff who operate the blue, orange and off-campus routes.

The shuttle drivers have helped community members from all walks of life, from college students to alumni and parents to fellow visitors. They work under all circumstances as Fire or a pandemic.

No matter who is on campus, there will always be drivers on duty to take care of the community that lives here, said driver Nicholas Ditolla.

“My favorite part is you students,” said driver Michael John. “I am a very outgoing person and I love to meet and talk with people.”

Each shuttle driver said engaging with students throughout the day made their loops around campus more meaningful.

“We get a million ‘Thanks’ and that stuff really makes our day,” John said. “It may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t; that says a lot about students in general and that’s why we love working here. Driving is something we have skills for, but it’s not what we’re here for.

Meet the drivers

After a 40-year career in entertainment as a stuntman for films, John drove Pepperdine shuttles for two years. John got his commercial driver’s license from college in Loyola Marymount University as part of a summer driving job for a sports camp. After owning his own school bus business for years, John still puts his talent to this post-retirement job.

“I can’t even scratch the surface, I’ve done a lot of things,” John said. “This [job] came when I was looking for something to do.

A shuttle driver for four years, Al Hamm has spent much of his career in the Los Angeles public transportation system, but was drawn to work at Pepperdine when he witnessed the Christian environment – something which is important to him.

“This [LA transportation] is a little different because you get different routes every day and it’s an obstacle course, ”Hamm said. “I was looking for a job and I had the driver’s license. I’m a Christian and I felt like it was a good Christian community – that’s what got me there. ”

‘Wheely’ Busy

When they’re not driving, John gives ski lessons in Big Bear, Calif., Hamm plays sports, and Ditolla visits the older one. Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake, Calif., on a Friday night for an auto show – as he calls himself a “motorhead” – like a real driver.

Ditolla is also a guitarist and said he enjoys playing his favorite music on the shuttle for everyone to hear, like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and The rolling stones.

“My favorite thing about my job is that I like to share music; I’m a guitar geek, ”Ditolla said. “The students will share music with me and they will turn me into a band that I have never heard of before and end up really liking.”

Shuttle driver Nicholas Ditolla (left) plays guitar with his band “Seventh Freedom” at the Sugar Mill Saloon in Tarzana, Calif., In December 2018. Ditolla said his career began as an ambulance driver and that he had driven Pepp shuttles for seven years. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Ditolla

From March 2020 to July 2021, many shuttle drivers worked for different departments such as courier or warehouse services – John said it brought all of his colleagues closer than ever.

As students reuse shuttle services for the fall, drivers are excited to meet new faces and see familiar faces again.

“It has been gratifying; it’s good to have people back and it’s not such an isolated campus, ”said Hamm. “Being able to do something different and see different people has been great. “

More than the loop

Hamm said that before COVID, shuttle drivers drove many different events, such as certain clubs or organizations to off-campus destinations – such as a dodges Hamm game transported the students and has fond memories. Now, drivers always enjoy work events, whether on campus or off campus.

Ditolla said he enjoyed working with the Arts center because he soaks up the experience of the show as much as possible while providing a service to the performers.

“Rather than having a very short five-minute interaction with the students, I can actually conduct conversations,” Ditolla said. “Sometimes as a driver you can also enjoy the theatrical events because you are just downtime when the show is happening so you can squeeze in the back and listen.”

Wave 1 stops at the main campus to pick up runners on its route.  There are two shuttle routes, blue and orange, as well as eight drivers.

Wave 1 stops at the main campus to pick up runners on its route. There are two shuttle routes, blue and orange, as well as eight drivers.

Wave 1 stops at the main campus to pick up runners on its route. Ditolla said there are two shuttle routes, blue and orange, as well as eight full-time drivers.

There are aspects to the day in the life of a shuttle driver that the average student may not think about. Hamm said that during a typical three-hour shift, shuttle operators run the same route at least 18 to 20 times.

“Honestly, it never gets boring; I’m just not a bored person in life, ”John said. “My favorite part, what makes it really interesting, is that I have almost 100 names now. I will soon be starting the second hundred student names that I know.

John said the route is made more interesting, but not easier, when people park poorly and drivers have to navigate the road. Ditolla said shuttles even crashed and that about six months ago he had an incident in which a construction crane swung to the side of his bus.

The pet peeves of shuttle drivers primarily focus on educating students about the presence of the shuttle – such as parking at shuttle stops, stalling in front of HAWC stairs, and not letting people exit the shuttle before they go. enter.

Enjoy the ride

Despite the challenges, as drivers reflect on their trips, they said they were all thankful for one thing – the Pepperdine community.

Hamm said he enjoys watching students go from day one to graduation day. Helping someone make it to class on time makes Hamm happy because it initiates a small change in someone’s educational journey.

“I’ve seen happy students after they passed their exams, come and be happy and that’s always a bonus – really being able to see people’s travels,” Hamm said.

Pepperdine is an ever-changing university, and shuttle drivers recognize their importance in the lives of students and vice versa – and hope to be here for a long time.

“I love education and you are the future,” John said. “I don’t want to sit here while people go up and down, I’ve never been like that in my life. I think we’re all here to cheer in any way we can. It’s the community aspect, it’s not just social. I mean people care about each other here and that’s the difference.


Follow the graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic

Email to Beth Gonzales: [email protected]

Key words:
Beth Gonzales Life and Arts Michael John Pepp Pepperdine Community Graphic Media Parking Pepperdine Shuttle Drivers Student Life Transportation Service Transportation

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