Many ask this question, and we drivers know who you are: Someone who has never driven for a living before! In almost all respects, an office job is a superior job, unless you are like most drivers, and don't work well with office politics.
We have a bypass that goes crosstown for cyclists called the wiggle. This is a bike path that follows streets around the Haight-Ashbury hill. A person new to town does not understand that it is possible to get from the Mission to the Haight without going up any major hill. In San Francisco, we have 43 hills over 47 square miles. This means we have one hill for every 1.1 square miles. Although SF is not one continuous grid pattern, most hills can be avoided by simply jogging over one block.
Take a look inside at Amazon--
Scott street bike path on "The Wiggle"
There is no age limit on being a driver. Very few companies discriminate against us because they need us more than we need them. There are so many avenues of approach for a driving job, as, ultimately, our warm body behind the seat is very valuable. I see this every time I learn a new short cut from an experienced taxi driver who can get me to a destination five minutes faster and three dollars cheaper by the road less traveled. That’s what makes San Francisco so intriguing. There are so many ways to get from point A to B.
Check out this great video collage with historic trolleys.
No, the life of a driver is one more like that of a writer: interest in the people that cross your path. Tour bus driver guide, shuttle driver, taxi driver, and in delivery services, we get in get out, and have command of our own ship, so to speak--like our hero Robert Di Nero in the movie Brazil.
We learn the art of understanding and dealing with dispatchers or how to get a signature if squaring a delivery. We know what paths not to take during certain times, and secrets about how to cut delays.
In riding home on a trolleybus, I heard another tale about an attempt to leave transit operator for another description.
I could not understand why many experienced bus drivers were getting the cold shoulder or disinterest in seeking other jobs with the city. My friend driving the bus on my ride home came up with a plausible reason for non-interest in consideration for another city job: It’s because Human Resources knows we are of most value to the city by keeping our driving job. A different job title or job class number may seem easier or like a promotion, but the fact of the matter is, our experience is our gold.
Not being fazed by the crazies, or knowing how or when to write a report becomes a key that can’t be entered into an hourly rate. We drivers are a class unto ourselves. Only those who have driven a bus before us understand the how and why of our thinking, and compassion for our split second decision-making that can appear incorrect from the black and white on a desk. The fear of what if can be a weapon used by those who do not drive, but we only find peace when we realize we cannot change their priorities. We cannot control what time they choose to enforce the rulebook. Only our intuition can be our guide.
Line Trainer Handouts
Get the juice of two decades of experience in just a few pages in living color! (Resolution is 300 dpi and takes awhile to download on three bars or less wifi.)
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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.