Saturday, January 21, 2017

Post Snowpocalypse Notes

Gnash it, melt it, blast through it!
(Thanks to Tom Patterson, Artist)
A few final notes on Snowpocalypse '17 before leaving it in the gutters.

* First, even though the overtime will help my bank account, I'm damn glad it's over. (For now, anyway. No telling what more Ma Nature has in store.) Some people take for granted what service workers in this city endured to keep things running, but I've traveled that messy street in previous posts.

* For those who did not appreciate our efforts and berated us for being late, let's take a moment to examine your rectal-cranial inversion. When city streets are not maintained during a snowstorm, it takes massive effort to maneuver a 40-foot/20-ton bus around the obstacles left behind. The chains on our rear tires require us to travel no faster than 25mph. In many areas, going even close to this speed can result in a ghastly demolition derby. Considering our schedules are tight under normal conditions, it is logical to assume your expectations of our running on time are simply ridiculous. Even though you've waited for a bus in 20-degree weather for an hour, it is not cool to berate us when we finally arrive because you had to walk to the bus in the street. Mind your poor manners snow-weevil, and just be glad we made it at all. Don't stand there whining, pay your damn fare! Yeah, it costs a whopping $2.50 to purchase an extremely slippery ride across our icy city. Oh okay, we'll wait while you continue your tirade whilst searching your pockets or purses, only to find out you're even less-prepared than most. No, we don't give change for a $20 bill. Not since the days of Jackie Gleason, anyway. You didn't think to use that phone to figure this out before hand, but you're going to use it to send in a complaint. Fine. Sit down, shut your rude mouth, and count your blessings. We delivered thousands of passengers safely to their destinations in the worst of conditions. I'm sure you wouldn't get such a great deal with a taxi service. (Whew! That felt good to get off my chest.)

* Hey homeless dudes, yeah we care about you too. You're outside in harsh conditions, and it's sad. But when one of my brothers took pity on you and gave you a ride on his deadhead after completing yet another treacherous shift, you weren't very grateful. This operator, who does his best to be kind to all, left his backpack in a seat for the deadhead back to the garage. You grabbed it as you bolted out the door. Of course you probably threw out his logs, papers relating to his job and tools useful only to him. And you wonder why bus operators hesitate to go out of their way to do nice things for people they really don't have to? This despicable act merely qualifies the thief as a waste of precious oxygen.

* Thanks to the many professional transit riders with caring souls and the will to do good deeds. I saw so many helping others in trouble out there the past few weeks, it renewed my faith in humankind. Strangers helping people with disabilities get on the bus. Residents shoveling snow away from bus stops in front of their homes, or offering stuck bus operators a rest room and a warm refuge while awaiting rescue. Those with 4x4 monster trucks pulling stuck motorists out of drifts, flashing their lights at me and allowing me to leave a bus stop after servicing it, your actions are greatly appreciated. To the countless passengers who gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder, thanking me for doing my job, I truly appreciate your kindness. In fact, kindnesses and kudos were so plentiful it helped me ignore the rudeness of others.

The melting, is the longest part.
* Oh city and transit agency leaders, this one's for you. Why is it, that storm after storm, you are consistently unprepared? We expect action, not studies. Yes, salt is corrosive and can damage vehicles and in some cases, the environment. But how often do we get such a storm? Every 2-5-10 years. It washes off. Yet every time, I see the inevitable query on news station websites: "What Can We Learn From this Storm?" First, you could learn from the past 20 of them. Snow falls on streets and accumulates. It makes travel nearly impossible if not properly plowed and treated. (See Seattle, our sister city to the north which gracefully loaned us equipment to deal with our leaders' ineptness.) Get a grip on reality, city leaders.

* We have a transit mall downtown. When snow or ice accumulates there, it takes days or weeks for it to go away. The result is a hairy mess for the 40+ transit routes which service it. How is it that we can spend $1.5 billion on a new bridge and seven-mile light rail system, brag that it came in under-budget and on time, without a hint of preparation for snow and ice conditions? Is this a good use of that money if you have to re-route the two bus lines which use the bridge whenever we get more than a few inches of white fluffy stuff? Street signs giving motorists directions on how to use the transit mall are blotted out in the snowfall, along with the pitiful street markings which often read "_US O)LY." As I've stated many times, this area deserves a major design overhaul. Your failure to clear this vital area results in a horribly dangerous nightmare not only for transit operators but also the thousands of people who share the roads with us. The rest of the streets can be (finally) clear, but the transit mall remains a mess long afterward. But wait, I forgot. "Safety is Our Core Value." Not quite yet, folks.

* Hello Portland Pedestrians! You love to wear our official city color: DARK. We can't see you standing near a tree with your hooded-head bowed as you peruse the many abusive transit Twitter feeds. Look up! Wave a light or your phone at us. Be seen! It is also advisable, knowing cars cannot always stop on icy streets, to use marked crosswalks AND obey the signals. Several times during the mess, I had passengers exit, walk right in front of my bus looking down at their phones rather than checking for traffic, and nearly get hit by a startled motorist. Not only is it impossible for the motorists to see through or around my diesel beast, but if you don't even check to see if someone is ignoring my YIELD signal, as they do 90% of the time, your chances of becoming road kill are magnified a thousand percentage points.

Finally, released from our chains.
* One last tip: If you don't absolutely have to be somewhere when snow hits, don't go out. Especially don't drive if you have inadequate ability or lack proper equipment on your vehicle. That's a great time to ride transit. We're chained professionals. (That last statement is meant to inspire creative interpretation.) When you do catch our ride, use that precious phone of yours and be prepared. Need to be somewhere on time? Leave much earlier than you think is necessary. When we do stop in the street, be glad we didn't pull to the curb at the last stop and get stuck, or you wouldn't see another bus for perhaps an hour or so. Be informed and have your fare ready. Be nice to us. You're welcome.


  1. Well said. If only management listened.

  2. A particularly pointed perspective on the problematic precipitation past. Well said, Deke.