All right, bus drivers. Some of us other bus drivers have noticed you misbehaving, and we're not thrilled about it. Let's see if any of this sounds familiar.
Gosh, these guys are in a hurry to get to the terminal. What's so exciting about the U District layover?
Then there’s downtown.
“No, why? Who is it?”
“I dunno, but he’s skipping the first few stops of every trip. He’s not picking up the guys here, or at Henderson.”
“Oh my gosh,” I said. “That's ridiculous. He doesn't want sleepers, is that what it is? Or street guys? He's not supposed to only pick up people that he likes!" I snorted at the very concept. "He should just suck it up and do the friggin' work!"
2. The Big Idea
In my opinion, trying to remember a lot of little rules isn't as effective as remembering one big idea. Don't bother trying to retain everything in this post. Let's just focus on the big idea. What’s the big idea? This is the big idea.
As in, the verb. Do the work like you give a [expletive of your choice]. Like you care. About the people, about your coworkers, about yourself. Take some pride in your work. All the actions above share a common element: laziness.
Does being lazy and incompetent make you feel better? No. It’s no way to pass through the years. That’ll wear your identity of yourself down to something small and ugly, and you won’t like what you see in the mirror. Maybe you’re already there. The way out is to feel good about what you do, and the impact it has on others.
In other words, the big idea is: Work together. Slow down. You don’t need to blast down 3rd, passing coaches on the right and cutting them off, like the 70 I share 3rd with every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening. I have no idea what’s so exciting to him about 3rd and Main that he’s in such a mad rush to get there. I’m genuinely terrified when he zips around me, whipping that 60,000 pound vehicle around like it was a plastic Tonka at the beach. Doesn’t it feel better to drive slower? To have less stress, not more? Am I crazy or something?
3. Always Forever Now
It’s not about rushing. These aren’t taxis. You’re paid by the minute, not by how dangerously you get there. Maybe you've been told that your job is to get people from point A to point B.
That is incorrect.
Your job is transport people safely between point A and point B. You don't have to get them to point B. You won't be penalized if something happens and you can't get them there. You just have to run it safely and provide good customer service right now. This block. It's about the quality of time spent while you're getting them there.
Passengers don’t know this, but operators do: breaking your back driving fast will give you almost zero time difference in terms of terminal arrival time. Sure, you got to Henderson two minutes earlier and made an extra green light. But was that really worth it?
Take your time. And remember that your actions have real ramifications to the operators in front of and behind you. If you leave early, you're making things tough for your follower. She’ll have to carry what ought to be your people. This of course makes things tough for passengers too.
If you catch up to your leader, get close to him so you can help him, get some of his people, and take the load off. He should know to skip zones where he doesn’t have dropoffs, which is where you can swoop in and help out. You don’t even have to pass him. I love helping other operators. It makes me feel great, part of something.
4. Let’s end with some Positive Examples.
5. Help other bus drivers.
Help them with their sleepers. Help them with their poles. One day, you will need their help. We're on the same team. Let your fellow operator in on 3rd Avenue. Help your leader with the passenger load if you catch up to him or her (deets on both types of skip-stopping here).
Spend some time with the system map. Figure out where the major routes go, and how to get to common destinations so you can answer questions and get a feel for where people are going and what they transfer to. As a supervisor told us when we were starting full time, “take some pride in your work. If you don’t know what bus goes to the U District, or how to get to West Seattle, you need to go get a job working somewhere else.”
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know to do. You're a professional. Slacking off can be addictive, but being your best self just feels better. Everything I know about bus driving I've learned from you guys. I look up to you. Let's not let each other down.
Care. That’s all I suggest.
I need to balance the calling out I'm doing above– here are two links appreciating my colleagues, and a third chock-full of tips I've learned from them that I live and die by. It's because I care that I'm as frank as I am above.