Transit operators have always worn uniforms. Until a few decades ago, it included a badge and an official several-cornered hat, with pressed shirts and ties required. There was respect for those who made the wheels roll from both the public and management. Back then, management consisted of people who had done the work previously, not corporate wonks who haven't a clue. There was mutual respect, and we mostly got along very well together. Not any more.
True, some operators don't take pride in their appearance. They refuse to tuck in their shirts, or they wear hats or other apparel not approved by the corporate number crunchers. It's a form of resistance, a statement that we no longer have confidence in upper management. So what's the solution? Management is pushing back, trying to force us to "respect" them by enforcing uniform policies. It's the classic macho pushback: my authority is bigger than your disrespect. The goal in this circus act is apparently to weed out the supervisors who refuse to enforce this antiquated expectation of military perfection from troops who have no realistic expectation that management will do the right thing by us. Our supes are mostly over-worked and stretched thin enough to worry about what we're wearing. The riding public won't respect us any more if we're wearing starched and pressed clothing or not. There's a small percentage of people who are going to spit, throw drinks and punches at us regardless of what we're wearing. (Most passengers are transit-savvy, polite and respectful.) If we dare to fight back in a biological response to protect ourselves, management doesn't back us. It's as if they dare people to assault us: if we fight back, we're suspended or possibly even terminated. This is outrageous and infuriating. It's a basic human response to not only protect ourselves, but to eliminate any threat to our safety.
We're frustrated daily with increasing traffic and the rude insults thrown at us daily by motorists who are in a hurry to get nowhere fast. It's a fine balancing act to stay on time. If you're really busy and running late, it's likely that traffic is heavy as well. You can only progress as fast as conditions allow. There are points in most runs at which an operator will run late, but there are also stretches where you can make up time and bank it for future points along the route where you know you'll likely to be late again. To expect operators to leave time points at EXACTLY ZERO is not only foolhardy, it's a guarantee they will be consistently late. It's also micro-management in its worst form. Of course, there are routes where this isn't true. On light traffic days, we might linger at a time point until we're 2-3 minutes late because we know that just a few minutes down the line we could be too early because there are usually no passengers boarding or exiting the bus for some distances. When you're too early, people can miss your bus. That's poor passenger service.
When you have people running a transit agency who've never been behind the wheel of a bus or operated a light rail vehicle, they come up with unrealistic policies. What they think might be totally legitimate policies make the operators shake their heads and say, "Wow man, that's some crazy shit. It's impractical and counter-productive, and management can kiss my ass. If they want me to do this, why don't they come out here and try it themselves? Maybe they'd learn the folly of their thoughts."
There was recently a comment on FaceBook where someone complained that I offer no solutions in my writing. I tend to disagree with the need. This blog is an exercise in describing what it's like to do my job. Period. It's my personal therapy, and it tends to resonate with operators worldwide. Everyone who reads it has their own ideas about what should or could be done to properly address the issues we face. If you have an opinion about solutions, please feel free to offer them in comments. I'm not a genius. I don't know all the answers. We all need to work together anyway, in order to send clear messages to those who run the works (often without a clue) as to how they should do it. We know how to do our jobs; perhaps they should study a bit harder as to how to do their own. Management is surely a difficult job, and I don't profess to know all the solutions. I just tell you how it feels to be me, to be us, at the controls of a transit vehicle. The rest is open to interpretation. Don't expect me to know all the answers. I'm "just a bus driver," for crying out bleepin' loud. The pain we're feeling due to this over abundance of ridiculous management interference is counter-productive to the agency's fallacious mantra "Safety Is Our Core Value."
Get a grip on your own issues, management. We know how to do our job. Let us do it, and quit meddling where you shouldn't tread because of your lack of understanding. We constantly provide excellent service to the riding public. Why don't you trust us?