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Christmas bus rolls through the Pittsburgh to put passengers in 'better spirits'

Bill Sanfilippo, a 47-year-old kid, may be driving the only bus in America where all the photos are taken of what’s inside the windows. 


Mr. Sanfilippo’s Christmas bus has become a holiday tradition in Pittsburgh, and he has never done it up bigger than this season. Rare is the passenger who can keep the traditional stone-faced commuter stare upon boarding his Port Authority bus, not when everyone from Santa to the Grinch is looking back.


A lot of people ask how Mr. Sanfilippo got clearance for this extravaganza. Was there a Too Much Fun provision in the transportation code he had to get past?


Mr. Sanfilippo said, no, he’s been doing this since he became a bus driver 10 years ago and his supervisors love it. Why wouldn’t they? He uses his own money to decorate on his own time. The result is magical.


How’d he do all this? The Saturday after Thanksgiving, his shift ended at 3 p.m. He borrowed his younger brothe’s pickup truck. Loaded with his gleeful goods, Mr. Sanfilippo drove back to the bus depot and started outfitting the bus around 4:30 p.m. He didn’t finish until 2 the next morning.


Why does he do it? “To see the people smiling, you know. It puts them in a lot better spirits. There are so many things going bad.’’


When the bus stops, he gets a snowman to blow bubbles, or shows off the Spirit Meter attached atop the fare box, which he has wrapped in red fabric punctuated with tiny elves. Press the meter and you may hear a bellowing baritone exclaim, “By golly, you’re jolly.’’


Minister Karen Jackson got on the Christmas bus for a trip Downtown with her 3-year-old grandson on. As the boy was given a candy cane, she said to Mr. Sanfilippo and everyone in earshot, “Oh, I’ve never seen anything like this. This is beautiful. Oh, this made my day.’’


Safe driving and smiles — Mr. Sanfilippo’s “commitment shows that even relatively small acts of thoughtfulness go a long way,’’ Pittsburgh Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean said. 





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