Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Dan Christensen on the new Trimet fare evasion policy
WARNING: Trimet Inside Baseball Post. The following is my response to a recent post on the "From the Drivers Side Blog" The link to the article included at the end
It has been a while since I’ve blogged or spoken on Transit. I’ve been focusing what little spare time I have on braining out ideas in support of the Trimet Continuous Improvement Team focused on Safety or maybe that’s the Safety- Continuous improvement team… whatever it is, I’m on it and while I am I have put off blogging. Before we go on lets settle down and call it the Safety-CIT
Your recent articles have caught my attention and I’m going to take a little time here to give you my different perspective. The Safety-CIT was formed in response to a dramatic increase in driver assaults over the last two years. It has risen from the single digits to mid level double digits. Though that is a small percentage of incidents per bus ride it is an ugly trend that must be reversed. For every aggravated encounter that occurs on a bus, we move one step closer to one of those event’s turning lethal.
Now let's not kid ourselves, we live in a world where there are random chances of violence. These extreme cases are much more difficult to prevent and are out of the realm of the Safety-CIT. What we are focused on is the causal things about bus operations that may feed aggravated encounters with riders. We also look at what is feasible and what is likely to produce measurable results.
As the Safety-CIT team firebrand I’m the one who often oversteps the line of decorum. I’m the one who most often speaks out on staying focused on our goal. My goal with every meeting is to be able to return to Powell Garage and look my fellow drivers in the eye and say. “I took actions to day to move the ball forward to make all Trimet employees safer” Full Stop. That is it. Many on the Safety-CIT team feel the exact same way. We are not about looking good, we are about doing good.
This now said I would like to respond to your post
“I Won't Pay, And You Can't Make Me!”
Posted March 13th. 2017
My Question starts with your very first sentence.
“Our transit agency has some serious problems with fare evasion.”
I agree that Its is clear our Transit system has many issues. The answer would be “Do we have a serious fare problem? compared to what!” Do we have more or less of a fare problem compared to other cities? You provide only anecdotal evidence of your pressing the Fare Evasion button and no other data or proof. That we are suffering any sort of real fare issue is unproven, It takes more than a statement to build a compelling case. It may be true that all transit system have some cheating. It may be true that we have more than average it could be true that we have less.
Think on this, even if a problem does exist above the common background level of cheating that all systems experience, just making the observation does not point us to any solution. All solutions are, at best, trade-offs. Do we do more of A to get a result we want and less of B getting new results we did not foresee. It is not easy to find the best way forward and in order to improve we have to make our best, most educated decision and move on it if we hope to reverse the trend we are seeing in transit employee assaults nationwide.
One needs to only look at jails, despite oppressive presence of officers and cameras there are still crimes. What would we have to do to turn our system into a high compliance system? What would our transit system look like? Is that preferable to our system into a rolling police state rather than have what we have now, your admitted 20 fare evasion taps in a day?
More to the point is that the data we see tells a story. It tells us that by far the single largest cause of operators being assaulted is Fare. It only seems right that we gave the highest priority to our SOP’s about Fare.
The Safety-CIT had two divergent paths. The Left path, let's call that the total “Enforcement Path” And the right, a path we will call the “Evolutionary Path”. We chose the evolutionary path, we could be wrong, but it seems the most likely to produce the results we are looking for given the time and resources we have. The Enforcement Path would take law changes and a social change we are not sure we could create and worse yet could not enforce.
Our solution was to make fare an issue for Trimet operations and management not us drivers. What we take in at the fare box is no longer a concern as we operate the bus on a day to day basis. Safety and a dozen other issues take precedence over fare. We wanted to codify that in no uncertain terms. To improve safety fare is no longer a bus drivers issue. We can assist others or inform them if they ask. What we cannot do as operators is, use fare to control who rides on the bus. (Something many late night drivers have learned to do already)
Now the second issue you bring up, “local district attorneys are further eroding transit operators' authority by saying they will no longer prosecute fare evaders, except for various repeat offenders”
What is being changed from my discussion with the prosecutor's office is the use of “Interfering with Public Transportation or (IPT)” Not enforcement of fares, riders who don’t pay can be ticketed and all that will keep going on. IPT will not be used as a fare enforcement tool, unless it becomes a repeated criminal issue.
Secondly, if you are taking on a role of “FARE AUTHORITY “ as you stated, you may be the exact person the change in SOP’s was aimed at. Far too often it is that feeling of Fare Authority that get’s drivers into trouble. Or pisses of a rider so much, that the next time they ride they are ready to escalate quickly.
I agree with the three county prosecutors that using IPT is not a valid tool for fare enforcement.
I draw the following response from your ongoing article. It speaks more to the philosophy of driving.
Many drivers face difficult times and suffer undue stress when they use their internal moral yardstick of judgment to measure the worthiness of a rider. They get rankled when someone does not fit their moral judgment. (This does not make the driver bad it makes them human, we all do it.)
The problem is this, every operator who uses their own moral yardstick of Judgment such as…
“Oh that guy has $3000 of tattoos and he needs a free ride”
“Oh that guy was pissing in the trees so I’m not going to pick him up”
“Look at this guy, I bet he is going to ask for a free ride”
“Oh this guy has a case of beer and a fresh pack of cigarettes and he want’s a free ride?”
Those driver using the Moral Yardstick of Judgment, think that other person's can’t tell they are being measured. Sure some won't but most will. Every driver thinks they just won’t say anything that will give it away, but tone and body language says more than words.
That is a burden Trimet does not ask you to make. Stop judging and start moving is what I say in my head when I catch myself pulling out the old moral yardstick of Judgement. Trimet did not hire drivers for their secret skills of moral judgment. When in doubt move people should be more than a saying it should be our way of life.
If you don’t like hearing the obviously false stories just say “You know what? For you, no problem” or say “I got the ride for you” and wave them in. That’s what people want. They don’t want to be judge, they want to move. Move them. They won’t go into the story if you tell them you are going to happily give them what they want… Who knows they may even like you. Wouldn’t that be nice, a day when everyone who got on your bus liked you!
Stop judging their Purchasing habits, clothing, stories and hygiene and take them at their word. “Can I have a Courtesy ride?” say “I’ll be happy to help you out.” or “My pleasure” If they say “I’m just going a few stops.” you say “Then I’m just got here in time to help you.”
Look at what you're literally saying “Only if they measure up to the pity level of your moral yardstick of judgment will you help them? Who are you? Do you think that is why you were hired to operate the bus? Did you hear this in training? See this in any documentation?
Did you see a checklist that said
Step one: Secretly judge riders with your personal moral yardstick of judgment.
Step Two: If they come out at the low pity end of the Moral Yardstick of Judgment help them
Step Three: If they are one bit above pity level assume they. “borrows $50 from Aunt Peggy every week for smokes” Then become a fare Nazi”
Step Four: If they are too high on the Moral Yardstick of Judgement they are not obviously “FEARING” prosecution for theft of public services. So Escalate by confrontation.
Look at the words you are using in your mind, FEAR! PITY! Look at the job you are appointing yourself too, The great Judge of riders. That’s a stress you carry in you! You carry this every time you judge who is worthy and who is not, of judging stories and judging who gets money from their parents.
So who deserves a ride? In PUBLIC transit all we, as front line bus drivers need to do is GIVE THEM ALL A RIDE! I’m not talking about the overtly dangerous, but the public doesn’t need, nor do they deserve getting whacked with your Moral Yardstick of Judgement when they board.
Trimet is not asking you to use your Moral Yardstick of Judgment to enforce fares. You are not fooling riders and worse, you are hurting them when you pull out your Moral Yardstick of Judgement and start measuring them up. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe the reason many of them lash out at you with “Ass hole” or do the “I got my fare dance” is because they are fighting against or trying to deflect your obvious judgment? Fighting against the humiliation they feel? Maybe you are earning those responses?
Now I’m not an advocate for a free ride system. I believe free is a terrible price. That is speaking economically not as a bus operator. That is up to Trimet to enforce. Me? I just move people. That’s my job, moving people safely. When it comes time for fare, I help those who ask and help those in need and leave my Personal Yardstick of Judgement broken on the side of the road.
I find by being open and friendly and getting out of the Judgement game I have a better time driving. There are runs I get on where riders high five or cheer when they see me. Those aren’t the free riders, they are regular people who see me help others. Sure some are not deserving of my help, some may not be the kind of person I would like to hang out with in my free time, but I would rather be their Hero all day long than be the judge.
Getting fare is Trimets business not mine. I will help anyone pay the right amount if they ask me or if they are confused but I don’t pull out the Moral Yardstick of Judgement That only hurts me and them, the only two people that matter on the bus at any one moment. You don’t even have to warn them about a fare inspector. Sure if they ask. When you say “keep a straight face” about fare inspectors. what are really doing? You are hiding what? A smile? No! you are hiding your derision, your judgment, you laughing at them. all that is judgment more judgment with a side helping of judgment.
I won’t even tackle your judgment on the Honored citizen card. Listen to yourself. “Pseudo low income fare” “Soft on transit crime” You are worried about how it is abused? So what! MOVE THEM. MOVE THEM ALL. laugh, engage, they are not coming to you to take your money. You are not the Trimet executive trying to count the farebox receipts. BE THE HERO NOT THE JUDGE. Be the Hero and just roll easy.
As crimes go not paying fare on a bus that is going to drive down the street if you are on it or not or if you pay half fare or full is small potatoes. Besides it may save your life, a rider on edge from a previous judgmental yardstick bashing driver gets on your bus and just sees the look and you could be in line for a beat down. Or worse.
I have a wife and kids, my goal, like any bus driver, is to get home safe. To insure this I make every effort to provide positive nonjudgmental encounters with riders. It’s the simple easiest thing any of us can do. Once you break your own Personal Yardstick of Judgment. Break it and throw it away, It’s cheap insurance. Don’t worry about all those things you are not paid to worry about. It’s just you and your riders. You don’t have to love them, you do have to move them. Insure yourself by treating them as human beings, not riding fare cattle.
Breaking your own Moral Yardstick of Judgment is not easy but work at it for a week. Take a week off of the Rider/Judgment game that pisses them off and makes you unhappy. Do it for a week. Remember you do not like it when others prejudge you, don’t do it to them. They are YOUR RIDERS, take ownership, do not take ownership of Trimet but of your riders! Your Run! Stop enforcing fares, happily engage and take the pressure off of those going through the humiliation of trying to bluff, fake or collude a free ride. I started with a short simple phrase “I got your free ride.” I would say it with a smile. Over time I developed many more short positive sayings.
When in doubt MOVE PEOPLE. Stop worrying about Trimet and worry about you getting home fine and well. Worry about the people getting on and off. That’s your mission, not fixing a system where some people cheat or don’t measure up.
You are dead wrong to assume the District attorneys of our three county area is soft on transit driver assaults. That is not true and I have spoken with one of them at length. They do not have unlimited resources and neither do the police. I would rather have them ready to respond when a driver is in need, then wasting time responding to an escalated situation over fare that never needed to happen, just because a driver could not stop from using their own Moral Yardstick of Judgment.
I learned many things by reading the legal documents and talking with the prosecutor. Things like going to a lesser charge sometimes nets more time for someone that assaulted a transit Employee. I know that sounds counterproductive but like driving a bus I’m not here to operate Trimet nor the legal system. I’m here to learn and adapt. What may help is doing a little bit of research before passing judgment on the legal system, though it is far from perfect it may be serving you better than you know.
After this point your article wanders from the legal and ethical questions into other topics that I can only touch on.
You state ”all transit, by this I think you mean “All Trimet” can come up with is caging operators like monkeys. No wonder we suffer a massive lack of respect from the community we serve.”
First, it’s obvious that it’s not the only thing we came up with. It’s what we like to call the first thing. Unlike magic, we have to work to get changes done. We have to make lists, Priorities and evaluate. We cannot wave a magic wand and make things all happen at once. One thing, then another that’s how it goes.
You say in dramatic fashion that it’s on only thing we can come up with? Wait you are talking about barriers and our move to de-escalate fare collection to protect drivers by SOP changes… Isn't that… two things? Let's see.
Change in SOP
Yup I’m almost sure that’s two.
We have more ideas coming as well. One at a time is the way the world of fixed resources and thought out decisions work. If you fault us for that, they you are using a criteria I do not understand…
We are testing the bus driver barriers, barriers like it are used in many transit area. Most of them are focused on protecting drivers. I have not heard of any them turning drivers into monkeys or affecting community respect. If you have any documentation that barriers cause a community to disrespect drivers please forward it to me. Something tells me this is just another application of your Moral Yardstick of Judgement and there are no facts… if I am wrong please forward me your data I will be happy to advocate for it in the next Safety CIT meeting.
I don’t know if you have ever stepped back and listened to your self? Look at this...“Now we're pressured to make transit a free ride to anyone without requiring basic common decency to rule their behavior.”
Pressured? Since when is taking the responsibility OFF OF YOU a pressure? Sure it’s a pressure if you want to keep whacking the unworthy, unfit and unable with your Moral Yardstick of Judgment. that may pressure you because you have internalized judgment so much that you refuse to change. Think of it, in fact, it’s freeing, you no longer have to worry. Just Roll Easy and forget about the judgment.
“Rule Their Behavior” The only behavior you have to worry about is safety. The idea that fare issues is about ruling behavior is nowadays dangerous to you and worse. How you treat someone may affect how they react to the next driver. In essence the driver you cause to get punched may not be your self.
The last bit about Driver Appreciation Day… Well that had nothing to do with protecting Operators so I will let that go.