Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Driving a Bus Is.....

Have you been keeping track? If you have, you'd know its been a year, when I added "Operator" to the things I do Transit. Its been fun, its been challenging, its been a new experience. So for all those that wonder, I share my experiences, raves, and rants in:

Driving a Bus is.......

"Learnable". I hear a lot of people say "I wouldn't want to drive those things". Why? With the help of the very patient training staff, you get the tips and tricks you need to leave your mark on a curb, and not a lamp pole or parked car. Things that I realize later, the cars are just as afraid of you as you are of them, but for the most part, you fit in your lane. And the most important part of your bus is? Take a guess.

"Sightseeing". I often say "I have a corner office that rivals that of most CEOs". In an office, you can look at pictures on Twitter of the outside world, a CEO can look outside and see a few of these places, driving a bus you are those locations. From my office, I have seen Deer, Autumn Colors, snow-capped mountain ranges, and 30 different ways to wear your pants. It is possible to see something new everyday that you had not imagined before.

"Entertaining". Well, this is in the eye of the beholder. If you come into this thinking your going to get a comedy show, then you will be pleasantly pleased. You would think that driving a "Less desirable" route in the morning hours is different, and it is. Though, it seems some of the prime time entertainment still finds its way on. Picture a perfectly quiet 358, only thing humming is a hybrid engine.......and potholes. A pair of ladies up front, in no particular fashion ask each other if the other has any remaining fortified beverages, apparently they were out, but they will see about solving that problem later. The quiet ride then continued. The entertainment is constantly changing, onboard and off. From a guy telling you a joke as you unload in the tunnel, to the completely out of sync dance crew on 3rd Ave, theres never a dull moment.

"Shocking". The Stupids, i think is how most of us refer to them. The red hand means walk, the crosswalk is a sacred painting and should not be walked on, and we always make right hand turns from the left lane. Another item that never ceases to amaze me, the things people do in front of a bus.....usually without thinking about it, or missing beat. I really had no idea how big of an organization Darwin Inc is. There must be some universe I am unaware of where changing lanes directly in front of a bus is actually a good idea? Although Darwin's are no strangers to pain, theres really no other way to look at it then "that will hurt". More on this in a moment.

"Disrespected". This one is simple, in general, a SOV (Single/Selfish Occupant Vehicle) will do things in front of a bus they don't do to other autos/SOVs. For example, a car wont signal if it wants to merge, or wants over in front of a bus, but will for other cars. If theres 2 cars and bus, all with the same spacing traveling down a street, a car turn will almost ALWAYS pull out in front of the bus, letting the 2 cars go, even if no cars are coming behind the bus. Some call it "Behind-the-bus-phobia", I call it disrespectful and selfish. Your SOV is not as important as the upwards of 60-100 riders onboard my bus. One other tactic in this category, SOVs that race up to cut me off, and after they do, i look back and see maybe 30, 40 car lengths behind me, I mean come on, really. Finally, the cars that tailgate another car to avoid letting me in. The "Luxury Class" is most guilty in this one, if they are not able to change lanes, they simply wont let you in, there is no way my $600k-750k vehicle getting in front of their $50k plus vehicle.

"Jawdropping". The other things people do on the roadways. Cut off a bus with less than a smart car length left in front of me, and it happens so much you get used to it, and for some reason surprises me every time. The most popular is the "Nose Dive". This is the car that signals at about the first (big) window then moves over as they clear the corner of the bus. The signal is useless if I do not see it before you make your lane change. Theres the move over that occurs in this order: drift, signal, terminate signal, finishing drifting. What is so hard about that turn signal switch? The turn in front of a bus maneuver, this has happened only a couple of times to me, and ALL were close calls. There is NEVER a good time to make a turn from an adjacent lane and cross in front of a lane occupied by a bus. I am not referring to the ones that make a lane change listed above then makes a turn, this maneuver the vehicle is perpendicular to your vehicle when its in your path. Finally, things pedestrians do to catch a bus. In my experience, this has included 2 incidents I recall, one where one didn't look both ways before crossing an intersection to catch a bus servicing a stop. These runners don't see traffic signals, oncoming cars or buses, they see 3 people left to board and better get a move on. This person came with inches of being hit, I was able to stop in time. The second is the jaywalkers, or better jayrunners, these run to catch your bus from the other side of the street, behind or in front of your bus. I remember once a pair of high schoolers yelling wait, then I heard car horns. I very kindly let them know my bus is never that important, they thought it was. But hey, they are teenagers and are invincible right?

"Different". This is job is very different from other jobs. Theres no impressing your supervisor or Manager. Your Real boss? Just turn around and look, you can see them, watching, reading, daydreaming, listening to music. You keep your riders happy, and its a great job. Want to be a grouch, they can make things very miserable for you (tho I have no first hand experience in this). When my riders hop off and say "Thank You", Thats the real job performance feedback right there. I love seeing many different people, as well as my regulars, its an awesome mix. Bus Riders, Make the best Bus Drivers, it's true. Been on that bus that takes turns like a NASCAR, Blames schedules for their tardiness when the other driver runs it on time? These are drivers that do not ride the bus. They do not know what it is like to hold on tight, to depend on that bus to get someplace, to miss a transfer. Now, as both of driver and rider, I watch other drivers, and see what to do, and what not to do (someone in Training is thinking "Learning Bad Habits" I bet).

"Rewarding". While driving a bus warrants lots of restraint (at dumbass drivers), its a lot. I still find it fascinating, I take a bus out, worth more than the cars that cut me off in any case, pick up these people who depend on me to take them home. As a long time bus rider, Its nice to return the favor, you know that feeling of the bus showing up, the driver getting you there safely and comfortably, and you hop off and your home. Even as a rider, I feel sometimes we all take it for granted, everything a driver is doing up there is more than fares and calling out stops. Sometimes we are the on board concierge, providing directions, recommendations and in some cases a review or two.

"Fun". While a lot of what I said seems like complaints, its a really fun job. I take alot of the "complaints" and blow them off, you can't let them get to you, and I don't. I feel I have really mellowed out since I started this job. Driving a big bus around town, enjoying the great sights of the 4 seasons, the skyline, and crossing bodies of water, theres not too many other jobs that can top it.

So Personally, my favorite route to drive so far was the 216. the 71/76 run on 50th gives me grey hairs, a narrow street where cars park on both sides....builds character i guess. I have driven the 5, 18, 21, 41, 56, 64*, 65*, 76*, 77*, 214*, 216, 218, 346, 347, 358 & 545. (*= worked a shakeup) Soon adding the 72 and 74 to that list, among some others on vacation reliefs. If you like to follow some of my adventures out there, I send some things to my twitter account that I find interesting.

So heres to another year, and lets see what new items I have for the list next time.


Al M said...

Nice piece Chad!
I'd say your a natural at this!

jeffw66seattle said...

I picked a 3.5 hour tripper for next shakeup - a 76/212/214 run in the a.m. and will be working the ATL again. All of the dual trippers that were left had school trippers attached to them (don't pay during summer and you can't work the ATL when no school due to the combo). So I get to qualify on all the Central routes now, and will drive tunnel routes for the first time.

punkrawker4783 said...

I hope they were actual school reductions and not RW they confused with school reductions. Someone was told her tripper would be reduced by no school, but her runcard says RW, she asked training and they said it wont be. So now shes getting almost 4hrs all summer. Union screwed up a few things it seems in this dept.