Before you next hop a city bus, allow me an introduction.
Riders, meet Eric Lilley, better known as Bus Driver Doo, a family nickname-turned-popular-online-persona.
For about two years, the 34-year-old SEPTA bus driver has used his Instagram page to remind riders about the public in public transportation.
Think lighthearted but pointed skits (starring friends and fellow drivers) and helpful tips (friendly, no cussing) to improve everyone’s riding experience.
Some dos and don’ts from Bus Driver Doo:
Don’t rush to be first on if you don’t have your fare ready. Everybody you’re holding up will blame the driver.
Skip that last drag on your cigarette and spare everyone the secondhand smoke wafting into the bus.
Give a wave (or any sign of life) when the bus approaches so drivers don’t have to guess whether you want to get on or are inexplicably chilling at the bus stop.
And if a bus driver waits on you or gives you a break after your Oscar-worthy performance of patting down every empty pocket, make your parents proud and say thank you.
That way, Lilley advises, you won’t be #earlyforthenextbus, a playful hashtag he uses to warn riders to behave or be left behind.
Before we get too far down the road, a little background on the Philly dad. Lilley is the second oldest of 11 siblings in Southwest Philadelphia. He’s driven for SEPTA for nearly 10 years, eight- to 12-hour shifts on any number of routes mostly in and around South Philly.
That’s a lot of time to see the good, the bad, and the straight-up ridiculous of our fine city.
One of his most popular videos is about the day Lilley, new to the job, noticed a mattress leaning against a bus stop sign along his Broad Street route.
When he pulled up, a guy sitting on a couch commanded: “Yo, open the back door! Me and my man about to put this bed and this couch on there.”
Lilley asked where the other riders were supposed to sit. “On the couch with us!”
As accommodating as Lilley tries to be, he wouldn’t allow it.
“That’s the problem with you bus drivers now. Y’all think you own the bus. It’s public transportation!” the guy argued before Lilley pulled away.
For years, Lilley regaled his family with these you-can’t-make-this-up! stories. And then in 2019, his sister Zenzi Shabazz suggested he start sharing them.
“These stories are funny,” she told him. “You should start telling them on Instagram.”
He started with a healthy 800 followers and plenty of grateful riders like Gertrude Paige, who recently boarded the #57 near Whitman Plaza with bags full of discount potatoes she set on one of the priority seats.
“He’s very patient with me,” she said.
Now, Lilley’s got upwards of 10,000 followers from all over the globe.
Riders recognize him. Kids and adults want photos with him, and starring roles in his skits. Fellow bus drivers from Texas to England and even Jamaica have invited him to ride along. (Coming soon: Bus Driver Doo goes international!)
Some have even dubbed Lilley “the voice of bus drivers,” an amusing moniker considering the route he took to the job.
Lilley, who went to Bok High School, was studying business management at Delaware State University when his uncle, a longtime SEPTA train conductor who is now retired, suggested the job. Steady paycheck, good benefits, job security.
Lilley wasn’t immediately sold. He’d come across some pretty sour bus drivers in his travels.
“I thought it was just driving a bus. I didn’t think of it from their perspective,” Lilley said. “Think about it, a person who rides the bus is on there for a half hour, an hour at the most. But we’re on those buses every day for eight hours or more seeing and hearing everything.”
That perch comes with a view and an appreciation for the people in the city.
“I only go through blocks for maybe three to five seconds, but I see people every day, fixing cars, washing cars, selling stuff off tables, off their grills. It showed me that in the city, people are real hustlers, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.”
No one gets his respect more than women who ride his bus balancing children and strollers on their way to day care and school before heading to work themselves.
“When you see their struggle, that takes a lot of strength,” he said. “I couldn’t do it.”
One of the recurring themes in Lilley’s videos is comic reminders to fare evaders that it costs $2.50 to ride. But for Bus Driver Doo, the rolling front-row seat to Philadelphia is priceless.