Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tom Horton's excellent essay on today's transit bus driver

Tom Horton shared his post to the group: TriMet Operator's Forum.
1 hr ·
ATTENTION RIDESHARE GUYS: Just found this blog today, very interesting. I'm a 25-year city bus driver, age 50, looking for a safer driving gig to do for the next decade or so. The increasing incidents of assaults on transit operators, as conveyed in the media and industry periodicals, is driving me to seek a more secure alternative for the duration of my working life.
Been hearing lots about these rideshare gigs from my union brothers and sisters, so I'm starting to do my homework on this.
Transit district managers have so soured the public's regard for an operator's necessary authority -- to keep everyone safe and rolling -- by beating this "customer service" mentality to death over the past couple decades. I find myself reminding managers and supervisors that mass transit operation is not a hospitality, retail, or foodservice industry, but rather a safe public conveyance for everyone. That means the operator must -- for safety's sake -- have their passenger's trust, and respect their authority with the same regard due to a cruise ship's captain or an airline pilot.
I don't mean we operator's shouldn't try to be courteous and polite as we carry out our duties. I simply mean that, in our business, the "customer" is NOT always right. Sometimes, for everyone's sake, we need to remind the people we carry that they are "passengers" along with everyone else, and as such remain subject to the laws of physics governing objects in motion, momentum and force, and the dangers of distraction from attending to those laws, and others.
As captain of the ship, I may not have time to be diplomatic with a customer and explain my rationale for steering our vessel away from the rocks. But, with more and more customers feeling, and subsequently acting upon, their own self-righteous sense of entitlement to a customer-servant relationship with me, everyone's safety is compromised.
"I need you to calm down, buckle up, and stay alert now!" And will they? Or, will they whip out their video phones and fire off an insulting instagram complaint to the boss...or worse?
"Transit Operators: Shepherds of public safety sacrificing daily for the common good."


Al M said...

The whole idea that public transit riders are "customers" is completely ludicrous. Tom is 100% right on here

Al M said...

Comment from a reader:

Thre following is from
Also note the complaint from none other than David Bragdon. There are links to more issues of this former publication here:

"4. Tri-Met should stop using the inaccurate and demeaning term "customers" to describe riders. Every time I see that ugly word on a sign (Please yield these seats to customers with disabilities ) I cringe. Dammit, we're citizens who collectively own the transit system we use, so it is categorically impossible for us to be "customers" of Tri-Met."