Published August 17, 2004
Volume 12, Number 8

Get to Know Your Local Transit Operator

Thanks to its central location, Hacienda is served by a number of local and regional transit agencies.  The Bay Area's new 511 telephone service and 511.org web site provide information about these services, including real-time data on driving times and stoppages on specific routes.

For complete details on all Bay Area transit operations, access 511.org or telephone 511. [511]

This month, as a way of getting to know the people behind our commutes, we take a closer look at the faces working at the steering wheels, control rooms, and ticket booths to help our readers get from home to work and back again.
Time with district: 6 years
Best thing about your job: “The pleasure and satisfaction I receive at the end of my day when the passengers acknowledge what I’ve done for them by saying ‘thank you, have a good day driver.’”
Where do you take the most pride in your work: “When my son tells his friends that his father works for AC Transit.”
One thing every rider should know: “From my own perspective, I would say give yourself some time. Check the schedule and arrive at the bus stop two or three minutes early.”
A tip for riders: “You can get information about the bus routes by calling 511 or by phoning AC Transit.”
Favorite transit story: “I was driving the M line one day and it was so windy on the Dumbarton Bridge. As soon as I got off the bridge, the passengers congratulated me and thanked me for getting them across safely. That’s a story that I will always remember.”

Time with district: 6 years, since ACE started up.
Best thing about your job: Coming from the freight side, it’s great to be able to talk to passengers, to form new friends and relationships. It’s really nice – I’m not used to that with the cargo and the freight. I’ve met some golf partners and fishing partners on the train.”
Where do you take the most pride in your work: “I take the most pride in my safety record. I’ve got an impeccable safety record, as do the rest of us that work for ACE, and when I’m operating I take pride in the smooth operation of my train, particularly coming into the station stops.”
One thing every rider should know: “We as crew members are just like passengers. When they’re on time or happy or late, so are we. We do the best job we can for our passengers while on the train.”
A tip for riders: “We have all different types of groups on different cars and different levels, and I think new passengers should change cars and change levels on a daily basis to find an acceptable social atmosphere for themselves. Passengers are riding the train for quite a while during the week/month/year, so they may as well get comfortable and get to know some people and make some new relationships.”
Favorite transit story: “About four years ago, we had a young lady whose husband was awfully ill. They ended up draining their savings and everything they had into their medical expenses and bills. When he finally passed, she didn’t have anything for the funeral so a lot of the passengers in her car got together and held a spaghetti feed and silent auction for her and her family. They invited me to come along and there were well over 300 people – passengers, their families and friends. It was great to see everybody come together. Even now, my wife and I get a little misty-eyed about it. It was just one of those miracles in life.”

Time with district: 14 years
Best thing about your job: “Having the ability to interact with the full spectrum of people. You meet a lot of nice people in this job.”
Where do you take the most pride in your work: “In getting somebody where they need to go, especially when they’re really unfamiliar with the system or any type of public transportation, and letting them leave with a smile on their face.”
One thing every rider should know: “Definitely allow yourself some time. Utilize your resources on the Internet – research where you’re going, the price, approximate departure times to where you’re going, and know that parking is at a premium at almost every station, so allow yourself some time to look for a parking spot.”
A tip for riders: “Please be patient. We understand you have places to go and you’re on a time schedule, but we’re not here to inconvenience you; we’re here to try to get you where you’re going.”
Favorite transit story: “It’s not a specific time but I enjoy paying extra attention to the senior citizens who can be very intimidated by the machines, and they’re by themselves and they need to get somewhere and they’re extremely nervous. I like taking the time and making them feel a little better.

Time with district: 13 years
Best thing about your job: “I like to drive.”
Where do you take the most pride in your work: “I enjoy it when people say, ‘Good ride’ or give me a compliment. That’s what I strive for – to make sure that they’re not uncomfortable and that I’m on time.”
One thing every rider should know: “It’s really helpful to everyone to have your fare or pass ready when you board the bus. If you’re riding BART before you get on, that’s a great time to get your fare ready.”
A tip for riders: “Don’t ever expect us to be early – that’s against the rules. We’re on a set schedule and if we’re at a stop one minute early and a rider comes to the stop on time, we’d be gone and they’d never know it.”
Favorite transit story: “Technically, we’re not supposed to get out of our seats except in an emergency but there are times when people need help getting on or off the bus so I do that. Fortunately, I’ve never had a real emergency.”

Time with district: 6 years
Best thing about your job: “I like to deal with the people. It’s good to see new people every day.”
Where do you take the most pride in your work: “I like that my job makes a contribution to the community and I try to do as much as I can.”
One thing every rider should know: “We all enjoy a smooth ride.”
Favorite transit story: “There’s not one thing that stands out. It’s more doing my job every day, doing things like helping blind people on and off the bus and sometimes across the street.”

Time with district: 4-1/2 years
Best thing about your job: “Getting to know people, seeing different landscapes, and the challenges of long distance driving.”
Where you take the most pride in your work: “Getting to know people can rely on me for safety and comfort.”
One thing every rider should know: “I’m there for them. If they have a question, whatever it concerns, feel free to ask me.”
A tip for riders: “When in doubt about something, please ask me and I can confirm it one way or another.”
Favorite transit story: “I had a gentleman rider who came up to me after the last stop and said, ‘Art, I lost my wedding ring! I was putting some hand lotion on and it just disappeared. I looked all over the floor and the seat and it’s nowhere around.’ We looked together and we didn’t find it and I told him that after I get it back in the yard, I would go over it again and see what I could find. I looked up, down, and underneath and still couldn’t find it, so I released the arm rest that sent the adjustable seat forward and heard a ‘ding, ding, ding,’ and there it was. I handed it to him the next day and he was so happy.”

Time with district: 5 years
Best thing about your job: “I feel like I am providing a valuable service to a lot of people every day. I know my passengers work hard so it’s nice to be able to help them start their day more relaxed. It’s also nice to see that for every passenger I have, another car is off the road, and that’s good for traffic and the environment. And to add to the environmental savings, I love that I am able to walk to work!”
Where you take the most pride in your work: “Definitely safety. It is my top priority for my passengers and other motorists. I am very aware of vehicles around me at all times when driving and this allows me to flow with the traffic and safely get my passengers to their destination.”
One thing every rider should know: “Whether it’s me or another operator, your bus driver is always looking out for your safety and does everything in his or her power to get you to your destination on time. For this reason, it is important to not distract your bus driver while on the road.”
A tip for riders: “The safest place to be while on the road is in your seat. Occasionally bus drivers have to react to unpredictable road hazards and other motorists. Even when the bus is just crawling to a stop, a passenger can be jarred when I apply the brakes. Please stay in your seat until the bus comes to a complete stop.”
Favorite transit story: “I was driving a local bus route near a Krispy Kreme Donut shop when I  saw two seagulls dive in front of the bus to grab a donut in the road. After one seagull had the donut, they looked up and saw the bus coming, then flew toward the bus, trying to fly above it.  They both flew straight into the windshield of the bus.  The donut dropped to the ground and I saw an expression that I’ve never seen before on a seagull. Luckily, neither seagull was injured and they both flew away.  All of the passengers on the bus had a good laugh!”

Time with district: 2 years
Best thing about your job: “I think it’s helping the people – being with the customers and the one-on-one contact. Taking people where they need to go.”
Where you take the most pride in your work: “I try to do everything I can to help our passengers, to answer all their questions. The passengers are the reason why we’re in business. My main goal is to make sure that they’re happy and feel safe and secure on our coaches.”
One thing every rider should know: “That they’re safe and that our drivers are professionals, highly trained at what they do.”
A tip for riders: “Sit back and enjoy yourself. If you have any questions about the routes, our drivers are trained to give you the answers. Each coach has route maps and timetables on board.”
Favorite transit story: “I was being trained on the Dial-a-Ride operation – Dial-a-Ride is our paratransit service – and I was sitting in the coach and one of our drivers was driving. One of the passengers looked like she was having some sort of attack and the driver got out of his seat, calmed her down, and got her to respond to him and everything turned out fine. It was good to see that the driver was so professional and so highly trained that he knew just what to do in that situation.”


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