Do you have a car? "Yes, I do, and you're sitting in it! Today's car number is 5481. I get a new car everyday, and I can hold up to fifty people at once! I get to take you where you want to go and get paid to do it. I don't have to worry about parking, or pay for gas because this car uses free hydroelectric power.
People watching is the greatest job benefit of being a transit operator in the Baghdad-by- the-bay. Friends and family always ask about the great benefits a that civil service worker must have in being a government employee.
"Last stop people." Another day closes. I can pull in knowing I passed the test in avoiding collisions with other cars, trucks, pedestrians, skaters, and cyclists.
Daniel clearly captures the layout of San Francisco described in my 'Weird Curve' chapter in the Dao of Doug.
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“Last Stop People.” Another day closes. I can pull in knowing I passed the test in avoiding collisions with other cars, trucks, pedestrians, skaters, and cyclists. Most important, I didn’t make contact with any rideshare drivers looking down at their phone and inattentive. The thousands of ride share cars coming in daily from out-of-county was not a development I wanted to see in my last years approaching the retirement ribbon. The wandering homeless and mentally ill drifters add spice to travel when a salt and pepper diet may not be desired. Especially when traveling home after a tiring day at work.
Dealing with the tour buses taking techies to San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties was annoying at first, in the mid-2000’s when the large 45 foot shuttles hogged our bus zones, but we overcame this by adjusting our times and learning how to stop behind them, or to wait for them to clear. The Horse of a Different Color is the rush of small rideshare vehicles clogging Market and stopping anywhere and everywhere after abrupt lane changes and U-turns!
The Last Stop is that of the subsidized Light Rail fantasy being promoted now in San Antonio, Nashville, and Tampa. Voters have more than once signaled they don’t want to pay for underground tunnels or light rail systems, yet the boondoggle continues.
Now that rideshare vehicles are but a phone click away, ridership on all bus systems is down. Detroit, Sacramento, and Memphis have shown a 30 percent drop since 2010. Austin, Cleveland, Louisville, St. Louis, and Virginia Beach-Norfolk are down over 20 percent. Low gas prices could be to blame. Unfortunately, traffic delays are up, costing 300 billion a year in the U.S., and average of $1,400 per driver. Even in sacred transit friendly Portland, OR, only eight percent of the commute population uses transit, down from ten percent in the 1980’s.
The Institute of Transportation Studies at U of Davis, California, documents a six percent reduction in transit and shows half of all ride-hail trips would not be made at all if walking, using a bike, or taking transit. Perhaps this missive written from my point of view as a Transit Operator will become more of a sentimental historical document, rather than a crowd-breaking move to more transit riders. Indeed, the only thing breaking is transit infrastructure!
The good news is Stockton Street will soon reopen and our first new streetcar has passed certification in our underground tunnel. A new Central Subway tunnel and Rapid Transit Lanes are under construction to keep our fleet moving faster than traffic. This shouldn’t be so hard to do!
I have been blessed to keep end of the line problems to a minimum by waking sleepers as soon as I see them slump, and by knowing where they want to get off. The key is to issue a wake-up call by leaving the seat and gently announcing their stop. Allowing them to fall into deep sleep costs valuable terminal break time, or when pulling-in.
Having a hospital at our new outbound terminal has been a curse and a blessing. Persuasive powers come into play to follow their distracted thoughts to check in to detox or the emergency room. Encouraging inflections of tone in my voice will probably fall on deaf ears with hospital security, and all to often I face the full-blown mental crisis up the hill on my terminal when attempting to leave! Dropping off an alcoholic in his cups to a hospital emergency room is not unlike a bouncer trying to push a problem drinker onto a bus driver.
Thank God Golden Gate Park is next to the Hospital, and the dealer’s den on Haight street are also close by as a distraction to alcoholic ranting and raving from a rider in the back seat, lest he decide he needs to go downtown, and not detox after all.
The deal is: don’t let them stay on before we go around the block to our terminal. Our terminal should be a time of refuge of peace and quiet. This can only be attained by: popping the brake, and assisting our dear rider off the bus before we go around the block. They can then disappear into the night like rodents that scuttle away when the lights come on. I have friends wishing to study to be a drug and alcohol counselor, and I believe bus drivers could use some classes! Trying to tell an alcoholic what to do is not an option. Being suggestive and prayerful works. Maintaining dignity and respect is the only key that works in the lock.
The Road to Happy Destiny at the End of the Line can come with experience, not just from more money in the budget for new rail lines.