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This ain’t their first ‘Roadeo’

Chapel Hill Transit drivers will compete in Regional Public Transit Bus Roadeo

The rodeo is coming to Chapel Hill — but the beasts these drivers will be trying to control are bigger than your average bull.

Five transit systems will send representatives to Chapel Hill to compete in the Regional Public Transit Bus Roadeo on Sunday.

The Roadeo is a competition among bus drivers that requires them to navigate an obstacle course simulating everyday situations.

Chapel Hill Transit, Raleigh’s Capital Area Transit, Cary Transit, Greensboro Transit Authority and Triangle Transit will all send drivers to the competition.

“It is a timed course that all the drivers have to go through that is designed to replicate situations they face on a daily basis,” said Brian Litchfield, director of Chapel Hill Transit.

Litchfield said while one component is speed, the drivers have to also control their steeds in order to win.

“A significant focus is on how safely and cleanly the driver completes the course,” said Lichfield

There will be a panel of volunteer judges with driving experience that will grade how well the drivers go through the course. Obstacles will include simulated pedestrians in the road, tight turns and backing through cones, Litchfield said.

Various transit lines have had their own separate competitions for a few years. This is the second time they have collaborated for a regional event, said Litchfield.

Brad Schulz, spokesman for Triangle Transit, said they will have five drivers competing on Sunday.

“It’s a good way to display the skills that our operators have and use every day,” Schulz said.

“We are also obviously looking for some wins as well.”

The top three in the competition will advance to the statewide competition in Charlotte next month, where the winner will then go to national and international events.

The real prize, said Schulz, is glory.

“The biggest thing is getting the bragging rights,” Litchfield said. “The drivers get to say that they are the best in the region.”

Larry Villines, a driver for Triangle Transit since 2005, has competed in Roadeos for the past eight years.

“These competitions have made me a better driver,” Villines said.

“You always have the course in the back of your mind, and you can work on it with the things you do on your daily route.”

Villines said the hardest part of the competition is keeping calm.

“I’m not concerned about the driving part, I’ve got that down,” Villines said. “It’s getting my nerves under control before the competition that’s the problem.”

Villines has gone on to place third in the statewide Roadeo twice.

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“I would like to make it to nationals eventually,” Villines said.

The event will take place at the Chapel Hill Transit facility at 6900 Millhouse Road.

While many people have not come in years past, Litchfield said anyone is welcome.

“It’s mostly drivers and their family and friends now, but we’d love to grow it into a bigger event.”