|Sunday night's icy conditions, with one bus having slid off the road.|
My last piece being about what it was like "out there" driving on the ice, it's time to show the other side of the story.
Portland is a terribly-run city when it comes to inclement weather. The lack of planning is astounding. True, the freeways are the first to receive attention, but the rest of us have to wait. We're expected to be at work, ready to drive, no matter what the weather is. Where's our support? I've read a lot of Tweets ranting about how we "suck", but when there's icy weather, who is out there taking Portland to work and home? WE are. Operators, supervisors and maintenance crews are on the road, risking injury to serve an often ungrateful public. I saw no management out there spreading salt on platforms, chaining buses or making sure we were okay while they took credit for the invaluable service WE provided during this storm.
Our dispatchers worked tirelessly for us, and I am truly thankful for their incredible dedication. They were trying to get sand trucks to the worst spots. But I only saw four such trucks the entire day and into the evening. Two of them came to lay sand at a trouble spot just in front of me where a bus had slid off the road. I had stopped and locked my bus because I didn't want to slide into the bus ahead of me. My few passengers abandoned me, but I don't feel comfortable moving 40,000 pounds of glass and steel downhill toward a busy intersection knowing to do so would seriously endanger the driving/walking public around me. The sand trucks came and did their thing, slipping and sliding a little themselves. Only then did I feel comfortable proceeding.
|A serene scene at Oregon City Transit Center, before the ice struck.|
When we have snow/ice storms, we're supposed to have a "Snow Line" available to us. Dispatch is so busy fielding emergency calls it has no time for questions or advice. When I tried to call this line, I reached a recording that said we were "operating on normal conditions" so it wasn't necessary. Wow. I felt trapped. We had two inches of snow on the roads, topped with another inch or two of ice. I had a question I didn't think important enough to bother our brother and sister dispatchers. They were dealing with true emergencies and I didn't want to interrupt the process of someone in trouble getting help. So as many others of us did that day, I sat and thought it out. Logic, professional experience, and a ton of grit went into many of our decisions. Luckily for me, I didn't end up in a ditch somewhere. Nor did my bus make contact with anything or anybody.
Unluckily for some operators, they slipped and fell on icy sidewalks. One reportedly suffered a serious head injury requiring surgery. Other ops were surely bruised and battered from trying to keep upright in their quest to use a restroom at the end of their line. I nearly slipped and fell, and I had ice trekkers on!
Many of my passengers graciously thanked me for working that day. Conditions were terrible, and they were thankful to have a safe ride. But the ignorant masses are never satisfied. They say horrible things about us as we're doing our best to keep people moving safely. But I know one thing: we may not be perfect, but when the weather's so bad nobody should be out there, WE are. Bank on it.