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.
I am continually inspired by those who: take the bus to work; to play; to get around this exciting city: Students, business women, and tourists: all walks and wheels who enter and exit the bus towards their next destination. Here is the answer to the request I get often, “Driver Doug you should write a book!”
*Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this book, and of this chapter, End of the Line, in June of 2018, our nation, our world, experienced a pandemic which radically changed the nature of public transit in large urban areas such as San Francisco. Commercial real estate, with its large downtown buildings upon whom our city dwellers clocked-in from nine to five, created strong demand during peak times. What we call rush hour in San Francisco which is earlier, from five to two or six to three to match New York financial market times, made for a long four hour comings and goings to downtown that came to become ghost town conditions.
I guess, in a way, it was a dream come true for this, now retired, bus driver. I put in for my retirement exit with the city on February 13, 2020, one month before the shit hit the fan with Covid. I had an intuitive sense to retire at age sixty-two and not wait until sixty-seven, for social security. I just made the paperwork deadline before my sixty-second birthday in June of 2020. But this means I had from March, April, May, and June to ride with my mask on and work about two days a week on a reduced schedule.
The miracle was, for the first time in my twenty-two calendar years of work as a transit operator, I could keep to the schedule and have enough recovery time to compose myself and the end of the line on each trip! All the ride share and tour bus shuttle conflict to Silicon Valley was gone. Fights over the front seats were gone. Traffic was light, and the stress of driving the bus was reduced. My point is: this is a great time to get in to the job. I still don’t say career, because I don’t think most of us who work or have worked, for the Department of Transportation, consider bus driver as a career—but it could be considered as such. If you want it.
It definitely is not for most people, but if you know you’re one of us, Come on down! as they say in the Price is Right game show. The security of a civil service job brought me the security of a steady paycheck without interruption. I suspect that the cost of maintaining a car and the price of fuel will turn the tide back to an increasing ridership in the cities such as San Francisco—sooner than we think. Indeed, the future of mass transit is on a road to a Happy Destiny! Peace be With You!
Balboa Press rev. MAR 22, 2023
Daniel clearly captures the layout of San Francisco described in my 'Weird Curve' chapter in the Dao of Doug.
"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.
If your awareness extends to run number, car number, cap number, and line number, then your status is elevated to that of a Muni God. By reading this book, you too, can be elevated unto that Heavenly Status. Gods can get angry. Gods can cause major damage. Gods can cause a rush of change. But when they are benevolent as angels, good things can happen!
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.)
[https security download]
Sign up to hear from us about specials, sales, and events.
“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.