"Operators should be better trained at de-escalating tense situations," said the public several times after the horrific murders on our light rail. As if these things wouldn't happen if only the drivers had better training.
What a load of crap. How about this, folks? We drive a bus or a light rail vehicle. In order to properly handle the mentally ill passengers who ride transit daily, we'd need a PhD in psychiatry. A few classes here and there ain't gonna give us the ability to talk a tweaked-out druggie or a mentally-disabled person out of creating mayhem.
People don't realize that when we're operating a vehicle, we're constantly performing calculations, precise physical maneuvers, and watching every which way for potential trouble. When problems arise on our vehicle, it's usually one person making everyone else's life miserable. We stop the bus, determine who the troublemaker is, and ask them to leave the bus. This requires a certain amount of finesse and a loud, authoritative voice. If the person becomes violent because they choose not to respect our position, they will often assault us. How we react is scrutinized ad nauseum by a management team that has little or no empathy for us.
My suggestion is for management to train the public, to warn them not to assault us or they will take drastic measures against our transgressors. It's called "having our backs." Instead, they usually kick our backsides. It's inhumane to those who make the wheels roll, but we seem to be easy targets.
I've been told by many who have worked transit for decades that there once was harmony between management and the union employees. There was respect, even some admiration flying in both directions. Not today. Now we're subject to review and suspensions if we fart in the wrong direction. This must stop in order to restore our transit agency to the top spot, but it won't.
I challenge our top management, and its rubber-stamping governor-appointed governing board, to do the right thing. Take our training and actually drive some miles in the seat. Perhaps then you'll understand what it takes to do our job. Unless, of course, you're chicken. You're pretty safe in that ivory tower.