Deacon Who?

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(Note: Ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by the transit agency I work for. This is simply an expression of free speech while describing the work bus operators perform.) I have been (and called) many things in this life. Most of all, I'm a writer who happens to drive a bus. In May of '13 I thought it would be fun to write about my job. As a direct result of this blog, I published a book in November of 2017 called "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" that is available on Amazon. I write to provide insight as to what it's like on a bus... From The Driver Side. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Main Street Malfunction

Pioneer Courthouse Square is festive yet
quiet on a Sunday afternoon.

Deke's Note: Every three months, Portland transit operators have the option of changing both their runs and days off. Knowing my runs kept me out later than necessary to sign the Time Off book for Christmas and New Year's Eve, I opted for Thursday/Friday as my Regular Days Off for the Winter Signup. The Winter Signup began on what would have been my RDO (Sunday/Monday for the past five years or so), meaning my "weekend" changed and I would work nine days in a row until my new Friday... Wednesday. This blog post deals with the toil such a long week has on this 60-year-old body and soul.

I don't usually work nine days in a row. But when I do, it ends with a series of stiff drinks from a bottle of  12-year-old Glenfiddich. Sheer exhaustion flows with the juices I now consume.

Long ago in this blog, I outlined some Operator Math. Each 10-hour shift, a bus operator will press the air-brake pedal of a bus an average of 800 times. It's a repetitive motion which requires several times more pressure than doing so in a personal vehicle. Worker's Comp often insists our pain stems from "past injury" to management's fiscal delight. To our collective plight, it's pain built up from about 175,000  constant presses of the right foot. A human part that sees more work than any joint of a mouse-pusher's body who oversees our work.

"They find a lot of mistakes in the manual they have never experienced behind the wheel," an operator said to me this week. "Their idea of a 'mistake' is something we see as a necessary tool, to offset the reality that could happen if we don't do it."

The biggest problem in Portland transit, and that of many other municipalities worldwide these days, is that "management" has no working knowledge of what happens on the streets. Their version of transit contrasts drastically with ours. They see our world as they believe it should be. Most have never driven a transit vehicle with the possibly-infected virus carriers breathing down their necks. Some passengers are self-entitled supervisors, telling the driver how to drive a route because they have "ridden transit for 30 years", and know better than the professional behind the wheel. 

* * * * *

My route these days was recently changed. There was no basis in fact for the rationale management described. Even the newest Line 33 operator would agree this route deviation is a horrible idea. It involves a dangerous turn where the former was not; added 30 seconds or more, rather than reducing run time; and negatively-affected an already devastated downtown business community.

Instead of rolling down a back street and avoiding a busy Main Street in Oregon City, the 33 now assaults it. Rather than having a stop sign and two-way intersection at Railroad and 7th, management decided we should be stopped for a ridiculously-long traffic signal. If a large vehicle needs to turn at that intersection while our bus is waiting for the light, it offers a logistical problem for both drivers.

The bus stop was placed at the corner where a struggling restaurant has placed outdoor seating.

Bus Passenger waiting at stop: "I'm sorry lady, that 7-11 burrito I ate for lunch is killing me. I'll try to keep my butt pointed away from your table. My apologies as well for stepping on your feet, but I really gotta catch this bus."

Saddest thing of all is, all management had to do was query bus operators if changing the route was a good idea. They would have heard a resounding NO. But hey, what do we know?


  1. Yep, throw a cork screw into the works and then you hear: What took you so long?

  2. Some time ago, a group of transit advocates, of which I am a part of, submitted a slight routing change idea to the appropriate management of our system here.

    In summary, instead of the route going to the end of a one-way street, and having to make a left turn at a T-intersection with a 4-lane street, where the traffic is not required to stop (aside from backing up due to the nearby traffic light at a 4-way intersection), we suggested the route make the left turn one block sooner at a 4-way stop sign, then make a right turn at the next block (traffic light), then make a left turn back onto the old route (traffic light and left turn signals). The only bus stop affected would be one that would have to be added as a farside stop to replace the nearside stop it had on the former routing.

    Management gave it a thumbs down, saying the new left turn would be too tight for a bus, and then cited having to add the new location for a bus stop.

    We shook our heads, because:
    1. If they didn't want to add the relocated bus stop, the next stop was less than 200 feet away, so no biggie.

    2. The turn they said was "too tight for buses" is used by buses of another route daily as part of the beginning of their assigned deadhead routing back to the garage from a nearby terminal point without issue.

    A bit clueless, ya think?


Farewell LIl' Buddy

"What, you want to sit here? I'm busy." RIP Silas aka "Pudding". April 1, 2011 -- June 14, 2021 Deke's Note: Ton...