Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Challenge to Management

"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.



  1. We used to be trained in Strategies for dealing with difficult people (what is now called "Verbal Judo" by big-wigs in other industries). I received this day-long training class when I first came to fixed-route (big bus) services, and it was, by far, the most valuable instruction I have ever received. I have, in fact, used these skills every day since then, both in public and in private life. There is no better work-life-balance training to be had, in my humble opinion.

    Our managers used to entrust us with this skill set, and stand behind our agency - as authorized representatives of the Transit System - complete with official looking uniforms, eight-cornered hats, and silver operator badges. Those were the days when we held the greatest public trust and respect.

    Unfortunately, in recent years, along with the bling, District managers have stripped us front-line workers of almost all necessary authority in order to keep our system rolling safely, securely, and sustainably on route. Without the authorization to anticipate, identify, and prevent the obvious trouble-maker from boarding using these strategic tools ("Do you have a valid fare?"), managers try to make our system all-things-to-all-people, and miserably fail to make anything worthwhile for anyone.

    No, District managers do not trust us anymore, and their overt and public criticism of us in the media only serves to further erode the public's respect for transit workers. When the people we carry do not trust our agency, our working conditions are considerably compromised, and the system is less safe than it might otherwise be.

    1. Great analysis! It's good to know there are coworkers like you that realize the ridiculous were expereincing. Unfortunately in today's world I think management will stop at nothing in order to bust the Atu and increase their already overpaid salaries. It seems like their should be more oversight on the board and gm! Trimet is government with no oversight!

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