Photo by Oran

Before we let this fine weekend fade to black, I want to remind everyone that Monday is Bus Driver Appreciation Day.  We’ve mentioned this holiday— yes, I’m calling it a holiday– quite a few times in previous years.  But it’s a day that’s very easy to overlook, especially since bus drivers can often be seen as just mechanical extensions of the bus itself.  The reality, of course, is that our transit drivers are human, and as much as we complain about operator wages, slow drivers, mean drivers, etc., these folks are just other people trying to make a living.

It is true that no two transit operators are the same.  They all have varying degrees of personality and operating prowess, so it’s very possible to find an operator who seems like the nicest person on the planet, but also  just about the slowest driver ever.  Conversely, there are drivers with little interest in customer service, but lots of interest in getting to their layover as quickly as possible.  While yes, it is very important to maintain and enforce operating standards, it’s very easy to take our frustrations out on drivers when those standards aren’t met, despite the grueling responsibilities they have daily.

Instead of dwelling on negative feedback, the best thing we can do as riders is to focus on positive feedback and augment it when we see great things happening, while still remaining appreciative of each and every drivers’ work.  For example, operators are often complimented more for their customer skills than they are for their ability to run on time.  So when you encounter an operator doing the right thing, particularly displaying an uncanny ability to stay on schedule, submit a commendation!  You’ll only be creating a positive feedback loop that will help even more drivers do the right thing.

So on Monday, and everyday, for that matter, appreciate your drivers.  And for those that go the extra distance, be sure to let them know.

9 Replies to “Appreciate Your Bus Drivers Monday, and Everyday”

  1. What are some behaviors, techniques, or habits of drivers who are making best efforts to keep their routes on time?

    The linked article makes clear that chatting with boarding riders is not one of them, but perhaps someone can list other things to note.

    1. As a driver, I was fairly effective in staying on time, on routes and trips where it is possible (on some, it just isn’t). It really was a learning process to get there while not compromising safety. Here are some techniques that helped:

      – Close doors, particularly the back door, as soon as possible. Before you can go, the back door must fully shut and the interlock must release, which takes about 1 second after the back door is fully shut. This also helps with security.
      – Be watching your mirrors (both street and curb side) as passengers are loading, so that you know what is going on and can close the door and go as soon as passengers are clear.
      – Don’t wait for runners unless you are early.
      – Drive smoothly, with careful transitions between gas, coasting, brake, and stopped. People are more willing to get up before a full stop, and less likely to injure themselves if you go before they are all seated.
      – Develop a good order of steps for loading, securing, and unloading wheelchairs. Through trial and error I found it worked best to 1) let all non-wheelchair passengers on; 2) lower lift or ramp; 3) prepare wheelchair area; 4) raise lift (high-floor only); 5) stow lift or ramp once passenger is clear; and 7) secure passenger.
      – Don’t give more than one sentence of directions, ever.
      – Don’t worry about speed; instead, worry about staying moving whenever possible.

  2. When I drove for Metro Transit between 1982 and 1995, I had some excellent teachers- Instructors Jeff Lindstedt, Elmer Turner, Roland MacVey, and trolley driver Mattie Robinson. I owed a great deal of my skill to the basic understanding of the work that they gave me.

    And to the fact that they loved transit driving, and respected the trade and the equipment we drove. I’d be curious to hear assessments of more recently-trained drivers, especially on trolleybuses, of quality of instruction they received, and suggestions for any necessary improvement.

    How long do drivers think it takes for someone to become really good with a trolleybus?

    Also curious as to whether this particular appreciation day applies to light-rail and streetcar drivers, and to the rest of the operating personnel on whom drivers depend. There’s a big team behind everybody at the controls.

    Mike Lindblom’s article in today’s Seattle Times also convinces me that it’s time transit security personnel become members of the team in the estimation of all concerned, most especially their own. A good start would be hiring fare inspectors as public employees represented by ATU Local 587.

    With a future of four-car trains, everybody official onboard needs to be on the same page. And the same channel.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I drove trolleys for about two of my five years, and I’ll confirm that even after two years I was no wire virtuoso. I rarely fell off the wire, but there were plenty of wire junkies who were smoother and quicker than I was, which wasn’t really true when I was driving motor coaches.

    2. I rode with Mattie occasionally during the last few shakeups she drove before retirement; she was truly a master trolley driver. She put on a clinic on how to make that coach perform.

  3. I don’t think that I’m odd in that on every trip I thank the driver as I’m leaving the bus.

    1. Except for only a couple of crabby and “poor/slow” drivers, I greet each driver upon boarding and thank each when I leave by the front door. We’re fortunate on the #11 to have some truly terrific drivers – more commendations to KC Metro than negative comments from this regular rider.

  4. I always make an effort to say hello or good morning/afternoon/evening when boarding and thank you when exiting

  5. Yes. Indeed. There are many great public transportation drivers/operators in this neck of the woods. A vast majority, in my opinion, are great.

    We are fortunate.

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