Friday, June 25, 2010

Editorial: Ranting Al, Your Pal

The blogger of Rantings of a TriMet Bus Driver is at the focus of a lot of criticism because of his blog. I have known Al Margulies, or "Ranting Al" for a little over a year now, and have been reading his blog for sometime longer than that. Al's blog has been up for a couple of years now. His blog features everything from his daily encounters as a transit operator, to news in transit to news of the weird. It is Al's outlet for saying what is on his mind, sharing stories he likes, and pointing out where TriMet is favoring spending money everywhere except on buses.

In a story he did for KGW News he points out how he has had a 14 year clean safety record, and does not feel distracted with passengers conversing with him. One guy in the story says "bus drivers should be respected, but [Al] is not one of them". I want to know why not? Sure, as a fellow transit operator for another transit agency, I will side with operators. On this case, theres is no reason not to respect Al, he drives safe, he tries to keep on schedule, and focuses on being a safe driver. The ever so positive speaking spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said "It's ok to have a blog, but while your operating we would like you to focus on driving the bus". At what point did that become a problem? He is not posting to his blog while driving, or at work. His blog, and driving happen at different times of the day. He does not film while driving, someone else might. That only proves that customers, riders, chat with operators. Chatting with riders is something the the job entails, and you see it on many of the buses traveling about TriMets system. Operators are not robots, they are not puppets or drones. They are Bus Drivers, Human, Tourist Information, Trip Planners, Tour Guides, Customer Service Counter, and so much more.

Al's blog is not causing any harm. Sure it might piss you off from time to time, but I certainly do not think its a distraction to his job of operating a transit vehicle safely. Al will gladly point out where TriMet spends money, link to a few of my posts and videos, and give you his opinion of calling out stops. And when the spokeswoman of TriMet has spent some time behind the wheel of line 72, then we can take her comments of distracted driving with a little more respect. Until then, how do you know what distracted driving is compared to everything else operators do in a days work?

Al's blog is a fun read for sure, and the critics should stick to rating movies. I hope to keep reading his blog daily, there would be a gaping hole in the Transit Blogging Landscape without it.


pstransitoperators said...

At King County Metro we have a policy regarding "PED"'s - or Personal Electronic Devices. This includes cell phones, video cameras, iPods, PSP's etc.

At first, the policy stated that they were not allowed to be in our possession at all. Then Metro backed off and said that they could be in our posession - just not on our PERSON. That has been amended to the current policy that we can have them on our person - just not turned on while we're behind the wheel.

This PED policy mirrors others emerging around the country (many of which are more draconian - some drivers have been fired for using their cell phones while on break at their layovers). It follows a number of well-publicized fatality accidents involving buses and trains being operated by drivers talking, texting, or otherwise distracted by personal electronic devices.

I've seen some of Al's videos done both behind the wheel of a bus and behind the wheel of his own car and been surprised and a bit concerned. He *does* film while driving, and I don't see that as safe despite the man's driving record.

Al does have an interesting blog to be sure, but he pushes the envelope on propriety, safety and passenger privacy. Nobody should be surprised when he gets called out on it.

punkrawker4783 said...

I have to stop you at "He *does* film while driving". About a year ago he was asked to stop recording while driving. In response he took down many of those videos, including ones with passengers. Recently he decided to repost those older videos, if you click on the posts, you will see many are from early 2009 and prior.

He no longer films while driving, and hasn't for close to a year. Some times others film him, but that is not against the rider conduct of rules. Him allowing it is not against the rules (as of this posting). You will see him film himself while he's driving his personal vehicle, but if he's on a bus, its usually not on or moving, which is what is at question here.

pstransitoperators said...


I just know that even doing things the way he does them "now" - i.e. handing off his camera to a passenger to record personal messages for his blog while he's working - would get him fired at Metro, and probably other transit agencies around the country as well. His previous practice - which you described - would have gotten him fired under the OLD P.E.D. policy here.

I'm in favor of Al having his voice via his blog (even when he removes posts of mine where I disagree with him about some of his more outrageous statements just because he disagrees with them). I find his ongoing self-indulgent practice of producing material for his blog while he's actively on the clock - and behind the wheel - to be inappropriate.

My .02.

pstransitoperators said...

Looks like Al has put together a new blog, escalating the online blog war with cyclists. Clearly he's being targeted and despite my expressed reservations - don't think he has earned discipline. Everything Al has done has been in full view of - well - everyone.

Still - am wondering if this escalation is an appropriate push-back against what appears to be at least in part harassment of him for his views, or a bit of shark-jumping.

Not sure I'd go this route, Al, but generally speaking you have my support against those who tell outright lies to create problems for you.

Al's new blog: