When I started all this blogging about the job and when the job ended I started researching not just Trimet but public transportation in general in United States and around the world what became apparent to me is the sheer brutality of the public transportation industrial complex in this country.
When you rise above all the false propaganda that districts like Trimet spew out about their wonderfulness all you can really see is abuse. Abuse Of riders and of the people doing the work.
From buses and trains that don't show up or show up more than 15 minutes late leaving riders stranded in whatever the weather happens to be at that moment or packing riders into buses and trains like dead sardines get packed in their cans the public transportation experience in the United States is more like A torture chamber
And the drivers, subjected to horrible working conditions like split shifts, schedules that just don't work, angry riders who have nowhere to vent their anger but the drivers, working so early in the mornings or so late at nights family life is just a fantasy, no weekends or holidays off for years in some instances, equipment that can cause injury or drive you insane, management that harasses you for being early, for being late, for wearing the wrong hat,for wearing the wrong shoes, for wearing the wrong shirt, that leaves you stranded on the road with no way back to your car if you become ill in the middle of your shift, constantly under suspicion for drug use, It's a life of hard sacrifices for the people that choose mass transit operation as a career.
The horrors of American public transportation are real, if only I had the talent to write a decent novel on this scam.
The only people that don't suffer at the hands of the public transportation industrial complex are the technocratic aristocracy who get fat paychecks and huge retirements and spend their days 'working' 9-5 in nice air conditioned offices doing who knows what away from the tragedy they foist on everyone else.
And then there is the Crony capitalism part that is skillfully hidden from the public. You know, the people that made a cool $35 million installing the HOP card, or the $1.4 billion installing that light rail line to Milwaukee.
Yes there are winners in the public transportation field, just not anybody who actually rides regularly or finds themselves stuck operating the vehicles. They are the victims of the complex.
Yes, being a bus driver will age you, or cripple you, and I know more than a few that didnt make it out alive.
Cut bus drivers and subway conductors some slack — folks in public transit are more depressed than those in any other job, a new study has found.
Researchers determined the frequency of depression of workers in 55 jobs, and published the results in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epistemology.
Public-transit workers are down in the dumps more than anyone else, with a rate of depression at 16.2 percent, according to the study.
The job of city bus driver has long been one of the most stressful and hazardous gigs in town. If staying on schedule or fighting through traffic or remaining in a seated position for hours doesn't get you, then fending off shod foot from some vengeful guy who was late to the stop will. And when a transit authority makes the hard cuts that reduce service, it's the drivers on the front line that feel the sometimes-mucus-filled wrath of the public.
That's not just anecdotal pity talking. Half a century of medical research has determined that the demands of driving a city bus result in a variety of physical (notably heart disease and back pain), mental (anxiety and depression), and behavioral (substance abuse) health problems. A British review [PDF] of this work from a few years ago concluded that "poor well-being in drivers is part and parcel of the job."
The first study to document deteriorating health among city bus drivers was done in the early 1950s. Researchers found higher mortality rates and increased risk of clinical heart disease as a result of the bus driver's sedentary lifestyle. A study from the late '70s [PDF] reported a high lung cancer rate consistent with the amount of smoking done to ease the stress. Ten years later an investigation of roughly 1,500 American city bus drivers found that "exposure to the occupation" was linked to significantly higher rates of hypertension, compared to control populations.
The '90s delivered more bad news. Only one in nine drivers reached retirement age, according to one report, partly because they suffered musculoskeletal or mental health problems before they got there. A small study of 22 assaulted drivers in England nevertheless found that a very high rate — nearly a quarter — went on to develop P.T.S.D. In 2001, researchers attributed the high risk of coronary heart disease among a sample 1,400 drivers in Taiwan [PDF] to elevated blood pressure and obesity. More recent work is no more optimistic.
Some researchers are now targeting preventive measures for bus drivers before the effects of the job overwhelm them. A few early signs are encouraging. At a conference this month in Italy, a group of occupational health researchers from Poland will report that drivers being treated for hypertension maintained significantly lower blood pressure on the job than those who were not (though both groups exceeded normal blood pressure rates).
Such treatment, combined with stress training and conflict resolution, could go a long way toward decreasing the health risks of the job. Hail to the bus driver. Or, at the very least, hale.