McGill's & Alexander Dennis
South East Transport Changes from 2 December
Featured Bus Route – October 2018
DATE FOR THE DIARY - 25th November - Finchley Bus Running Day
Alexander Dennis & Lothian
Buses on Parade
The non-Inner West bus routes to be privatised
Leeds Considering Hydrogen Powered Buses
New CEO for First Group & Results for Six Months to September 2018
Alexander Dennis at Euro Bus Expo 2018
HAPPY '21, EVERYONE!
Deke's Note: (January 5 -- This post has been edited, with some tidbits saved for the next installment. I have also removed some explosively-derisive language not in keeping with the spirit of this endeavor.)For weeks now I've had a lot of ideas bouncing around inside this mind of mine. They are all centered around the wheel. It's time to reinvent it, where transit is concerned. It is not likely to happen. Even so, my ideas need to be aired. Here's how I believe Portland Transit needs to change. Immediately, if not sooner.Our General Manager has announced his retirement. I want the job. I have zero "experience" as a transit administrator. That's the best qualification I can point to. Look at the past decade. Those with this supposed qualification have dragged our once-vaunted, celebrated transit system into the muck. They have had their chance, and floundered, squandered and blundered throughout it all. Meanwhile, the "Bored" of Directors begins anew an expensive search for the same type of dolts who got us where we find ourselves now. Pure insanity. It hasn't worked yet, folks. I apologize for such harsh language, but my mother taught me to speak plainly. To do otherwise is dishonest. Thanks, Ma. After 60 years, I see your wisdom. The problem is getting local and state power to see the massive failures it has participated in the past 20+ years. Here's a hopefully eye-opening view of the mess we face today. I can fix it.THE WORKERS Morale among our frontline workers is dismal. I only use that word in want of something more devastatingly descriptive. Those tasked with negotiating a new labor contract demand so many takeaways there is no chance in hell we would agree. Especially after the past three contracts, which have seen us give away most of what was promised when we were the premier transit agency in the world. Management bets on talks going to a state-appointed arbitrator, which they bet will take its side over ours. And what are we asking? Simple respect and a return to honoring those who do the gritty work of rolling wheels. All the while, management has become more suspension-happy than any institution in Portland's history. Transit operators in general are the safest drivers on the roads at any given time. We have to be. It's not just that our lives depend upon it, but human lives most of all."The only good employee is a scared one," Laird Cusack told our ATU757 Local President Shirley Block. He's the guy in contract negotiations with our union. We are the most highly-scrutinized public employees, besides police. Not only are we expected to roll safely and adhere to strict Standard Operating Procedures, we must also deal with an increasingly-abusive public. Complaints pour in whether we're patient or lose our expected cool. Perfection is mandatory, yet we remain human until Artificial Intelligence (Management's Master Plan) is implemented.Today's average motorist is in a perpetual rush. In a hurry to get to their own funeral. They are rude, pushy, ignorant, entitled and downright dangerous. I'll get to how I would approach them as GM in more detail later.One milli-second's misperception goes against us in the review committee overseeing each "incident". Not only does our agency take each seriously, as it should, but word is that a new group of local do-gooders will be impaneled to "investigate" transit mishaps. Thanks to a lazy and bloodthirsty media, the public doesn't believe its actions are at fault. Adding an unnecessary level of scrutiny is another insult to our professionalism. It's bass-ackwards, and terribly insulting.R-E-S-P-E-C-TThey wear suits, we wear a different uniform. They can accessorize, dress down on occasion, and dress down those whose massive efforts make their jobs possible. Yes, they have spent a lifetime racking up corporate resumes, but they nowhere near as tough as the Average Joe and Jane who saddle up in any kind of weather. WE cannot work from home. The "suits" who actually do make it into the office during inclement weather likely ride our buses and trains, because it is safer. Empty words and corporate catch-phrases are their imagined strengths, but these fall on deaf ears. There is no oversight for them, too much on US. The Board of Directors simply nods every time "leadership" assails them with agency business. Artificial Intelligence is their obvious goal. Rid themselves of pesky union workers and their post becomes more secure.Has anyone in management or on the Board had to endure this level (click here to watch) of fear and intimidation in their positions? Not bloody likely. Numerous Operators, Union Leadership and others have impressed upon the Board and the Oregon State Legislature the vital need for protecting Portland's frontline transit workers. To date, legislation to make attacks on transit workers a felony remains buried in committee. We are still maligned and attacked by our own management if we defend ourselves "too vigorously". This absurd shift of blame from the perpetrator to the victim is shameful. What Would I Do as General Manager? FIRST, my team's Core Value Would Be: Support Frontline WorkersIt's time to re-focus management's purpose while establishing people-oriented priorities. The GM's job is largely encouraging others to accomplish goals. Mine would be to re-focus management's role as a primarily supportive one. There is so much distrust in management today that any mention of "family" results in a snort of disgust from the front line worker. In a highly-vaunted annual event, management bestows praise and baubles during Transit Worker Appreciation Day. While the effort might seem praiseworthy on the surface, it is considered by most to be only for show and tell. I purposefully avoid these events, which are nowhere to be found once the night shift takes over, because I'm afraid to say something unkind. They may think their efforts this one day make a difference, but we feel little support the rest of the year.I must say however, in management's defense, that I was pleasantly surprised by the Fred Meyer's holiday gift card. It was accompanied by a gracious and kindly-worded letter of thanks for our efforts last year. It took me by surprise, and I truly appreciated it. Yeah, Deke was actually touched by a managerial action. Thank you Doug and team, it was a nice gesture. Why? Because it was a hands-on token of appreciation. That's something we don't often see.* * * * *One thing I have learned from a lifetime in service-oriented jobs is there is a drastic lack of respect for those who do the work others profit from. As a frontline worker, I'm expected to kiss everyone's ass no matter how stinky it is; nobody however, kisses mine. I'm simply exhausted from puckering up for those who don't deserve it and never have. Riding transit vehicles is NOT a right; it is a privilege. Rights are inherent; privileges can be revoked. Because management has taken such a laissez-faire approach to violators from fare evasion to dangerous behavior, the troublemaking segment of ridership believes (and has been largely supported by a discipline-heavy hand) it is in control of our vehicles. Instead, it has been historically (until recently) the frontline worker's responsibility to maintain order on our vehicles, and to expect backup from those higher up the chain of command. Today, it's anybody's guess what to do in a tense situation.As GM, I would insist everyone up the chain not only support any frontline worker's request for backup, but demand it. Management's job should first be to act as support of those who do the tough jobs in the field, not micro-manage it to the point nobody feels comfortable making split-second decisions which ensure the safety of those who depend upon our judgement.Given Portland's recent decision to reduce its contribution to our security, I would spearhead a restructuring of the Transit Police Division. Its main focus should be a supporting role. Transit workers depend on cops to restore order on our vehicles when situations deteriorate. Portland's caving in to protests will severely cut its support of Transit Police in 2021 and beyond. This decision will have a grave impact upon already-vulnerable frontline workers, leaving us open to more violent attacks. As GM, I would consider it my duty to ensure my family be protected, just as we all do at home. Current Facilities are Woefully InadequateNot only have our frontline workers seen a severe lack of support and respect from management the past few decades, our facilities "out there" are simply atrocious in many areas. Many are woefully outdated and inadequate. Many bus routes end at a porta potty or nothing at all (Line 8 for example), with nowhere for a health-conscious operator or supervisor to heat up a plate of leftovers. Junk food is often our only alternative if exhaustion finds us running later than normal. Management has made a commendable effort to rebuild our garages. Still, they keep the best furniture upstairs while the bullpen endures yesterday's Goodwill discards. The mindset is totally topsy-turvy. To any casual observer, we appear to rate no better than Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist; any request for improvement seems to be met with derisive scorn.As GM, I would insist the Agency halt any further Capital Projects. Post-COVID economy will find ridership lacking anyway, so the new focus should be to improve what we have and entice new ridership. New light rail project needs to be shelved until the economy has recovered. This could take years. Businesses have been shattered by the pandemic; many have permanently closed. Unemployment numbers have skyrocketed, and it is naive to believe everyone will magically just go back to work when society has regained a new normal health plateau. Instead of costly extensions, I would institute an agency-wide drive to improve Operations-In-The-Field Facilities. Anyone who rolls wheels on either side of transit knows frontline facilities are inadequate at best. Layover time is a valuable resource that should be enhanced and valued.* * * * *"A happy, healthy and secure employee is one who will more willingly contribute in a more positive way," your new GM will say.* * * * *Bus and rail stops need extreme updates to shelter passengers from the elements. Shared bus stops should be better-equipped to inform Operators of passenger intent. I would install lighted signs passengers could signal their intent to board a certain line at shared stops. We waste a lot of effort slowing and coming to a smooth stop only to be met with a casually-dismissive swipe of the hand when we open the door. Given we stop a bus about 800 times a 10-hour shift (yes, I have counted them) for various reasons, this would save both time and money, not to mention my aching right big toe, which controls a smooth touch on a stiff brake pedal.
Stops would also be better-lighted. Several years ago, our agency "tested" lights on bus stop poles at certain locations. Unfortunately, they stopped too soon and failed to take the darkest stops into consideration. That's Corporata for you, almost doing the right thing, then failing at the most crucial of times. I would drastically-increase solar-powered bus stop pole lights and shelters, to give Operators a fighting chance against complaint-heavy intending passengers who hunch over their phones while wearing dark clothing in an unlighted shelter. Given this improvement, I would direct Customer Service to denounce false claims of an operator "passing up" those who are clearly not prepared to board a transit vehicle. Today, we are called into disciplinary meetings after the ill-prepared whine on the line about the driver who passed them by. Hey folks, unless you're standing at the pole at a dark stop, waving and holding up a light, we cannot see you. Get a grip, and take responsibility for your disregard of common sense. We should not be blamed for your being unprepared.Too many times as an Operator, I have found myself fuming over the simplest matters. If I truly felt supported by management, my rides would be much happier. Why? Because an informed public, one held accountable for its actions on transit, would be happier. Instead of worrying about some puffed-up corporate stiff overriding my authority as a highly-trained professional in a position they know nothing about, I should feel justified in insisting order be maintained as I safely roll my fellow citizens to their destination. Instead, I'm forced to second-guess my numerous bosses every time a passenger misbehaves. It happens several times a week that I must decide whether to bother an already-overwhelmed Dispatch with a problem. Sometimes, we choose not to call. If we felt truly supported by management, it would be a no-brainer: call, get quick and meaningful support as the problem is solved. Instead, we are not given the latitude to exercise our judgement (learned over thousands of miles of experience) and expect the help needed to solve the problem. It's ridiculously unsupportive, and I would put an immediate stop to such negativity.* * * * *It's time to stop now. I could go on for about 20 paragraphs more, but hopefully you get the picture. My common sense approach would be a refreshing contrast to Corporata's. Having driven a transit vehicle for eight years, I'm still green compared to a few hundred of my superior brothers and sisters. However, I have come to respect them much more than our management does. In its eyes, these million-mile warriors are dead weight rather than incredibly-valuable resources. As GM, I would further value their experience through incentives designed to retain and revere them. I would also reward them with lasting security when they retire. In my next post, I'll explore more positive changes I would implement as General Manager. First, it's time transit's hierarchy become a reinvented wheel, spokes radiating inward toward Operations Personnel who make it all roll. Another major change would be the very title associated with being the Jéfe. It would be most fitting, attaining the post after my humble eight years, to change it to JCMP (Just Call Me Patrick). I would adopt a "GM's Uniform" which does not involve wearing a suit, making me stand out while not being viewed as "other". If we're supposed to be a family, I would adopt a role of supporter rather than superior. I would be much more humble and attuned to the frontline worker than any GM the past 30 years. And that, my brothers and sisters, you can bank on.Stay tuned for more. Meanwhile, I remain your humble brother,Deke N. Blue(Share with this hashtag: #DEKE4GM. Let's make this a worldwide movement, rather than a mere dream.)
This article first appeared on fromthedriverside.blogspot.com
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