A Metro Transit employee was charged Friday with felony motor vehicle theft for allegedly stealing an unattended commuter bus in order to make it to work on time.

Gregory J. Jennrich, 31, of South St. Paul, was arrested after a short joy ride toward the agency’s South Garage, where he told police he works as a mechanic.

The bus’s licensed Metro Transit driver reported it stolen about 9:50 p.m. Wednesday after returning from a scheduled break to find the vehicle missing, according to agency spokesman Howie Padilla. The driver had parked the Route 75 bus at a Holiday gas station near the intersection of Marie Avenue and S. Robert Street in West St. Paul, Padilla said.

Jennrich admitted to taking advantage of her absence after locking his keys in his car, jumping in the empty driver’s seat and speeding away, police said.

Officers used GPS technology to track the bus as it headed west on Interstate 494. Within minutes, Metro Transit and airport police, along with State Patrol officers, stopped it just east of 24th Avenue near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Jennrich was detained without incident about 10 minutes after the original call, Padilla said. No passengers were on the bus at the time of the theft.

Jennrich told police that he was concerned about getting to work on time, according to the criminal complaint. He did not have permission to drive or take the bus.

Padilla said Friday that Jennrich’s employment status will be addressed within coming weeks and Metro Transit will conduct an internal investigation.