Larry Williams has always loved trains.
As a kid, he’d drop pennies on the tracks to flatten them, and he can recall the “humongous hole in the ground” from when BART was built through Berkeley. So it was no big surprise that, freshly graduated from Berkeley High, he took a job with BART.
“Trains have been part of my whole life,” Williams says in a recent profile by the transportation organization. “So having a career with BART was a dream come true.”
Like everyone’s favorite fictional lawyer, Saul Goodman, he started in the mail room — then moved his way up. For the past few decades, Williams has been a train operator, keeping the Richmond-Fremont line running every morning — with a 3:45 a.m. start time. It’s a job that comes with a hefty amount of responsibility: A peak-commute, 10-car train carries more people than a 747 airplane.
During his long tenure, Williams has seen his fair share of changes — not just with the transportation system, but the people who ride it.
“There’s a whole vast world out there to be explored, and people are chained to their devices,” he says. “That is way too much power to give to an inanimate object. I used to notice people talking more to each other on their commutes. There would be the regulars who knew each other. They would read newspapers on the train. Now, people seem to have so much stress. But stress can only get to you if you make a decision to let it.”
Williams’ no-stress attitude extends to BART’s new Fleet of the Future trains, which are currently being tested on the tracks. He is practical about their implementation.
“It’s not going to be smooth in the beginning, I can tell you that,” he says. “Because with anything new, it takes a while. We didn’t get these [original] cars done overnight. But we got the bugs out steady.”
Put down your phone, and listen for Williams’ self-described “smooth operator voice” on your next morning commute. It may just be worth it.
“I will give you a safe ride and also try to put a little pep in your step,” he says.