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Alternatives for the Greater
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Inside the Ride

View from behind the wheel

As a bus or light rail rider, you probably have a handful of routes you take to get to work, school or shopping. You may see the same bus or light rail operator every day.

It’s a goal that every experience on transit is a positive one as bus and light rail operators provide 31 plus million miles of service annually.

There are many riders who rely solely on transit, operators who know their riders by name and operators who help riders navigate the Valley Metro system, which includes more than 7,200 bus stops and 28 light rail stops.

Let’s face it. Day and day out, 365 days a year, operating a bus and a train is a magnanimous responsibility.

Putting your ride into perspective

Think about the last time you drove to work, school or a doctor appointment.

Did you fight morning traffic?

Did you encounter an accident that slowed the freeway to a crawl?

Was there a detour that took you on an unexpected route?

Now imagine being behind the wheel of a 40-foot bus.

Have you ever been cut off during the evening commute? Would you be able to react quickly to stop a 43,000 pound vehicle? Not an easy feat.

Not just sitting behind a wheel

Transit operators do more than follow the rules of the road for several hours and several trips on a shift.

For instance, they keep a schedule, check bus fares and give directions all while maneuvering large vehicles through unpredictable traffic and conditions.

Just like any other driver on the road, they can’t foresee accidents, the weather or the person cutting across the street midblock. Despite all of this, they get riders where they need to go, safely.

Safety first

Bus operator Raymond Campbell, Sr.“There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being a bus operator and number one is safety,” according to ValuTrans bus operator Raymond Campbell, Sr., who said there’s a whole lot to driving a bus besides sitting behind the wheel.

Before every shift, the first thing bus operators do is their pre-trip inspection to make sure their buses are operational and safe for the day.

“We’re not just monitoring people on the bus but people and situations outside the bus to keep them safe while transporting them,” Campbell said.

The same goes for the 20 miles of light rail that tens of thousands of people ride daily.

Light rail operator Sami HaddadTrain operator Sami Haddad, with Alternate Concepts, Inc., considers it an honor to operate light rail. He urges everyone to pay attention to trains and buses for your own protection.

Having operated light rail since 2008, Haddad sees many different scenarios as he travels the tracks several times each day. One constant is his vigilance for protecting pedestrians.

“I am alert at all times especially for pedestrians who might not realize how quiet the light rail train really is,” Haddad said.

Light rail trains are designed to be no louder than ambient street traffic. Pretty impressive for a vehicle that weighs more than 100,000 pounds and is 90 feet long.

Challenging connections

The connection between rider and operator can be challenging from either perspective considering the variety of personalities that come into play on each trip.

Each light rail train can carry 190 passengers. Depending on its size, a bus can carry dozens of people. Riders may be having a bad day, late for an appointment, nervous about a job interview, wanting to get home or stressed about an upcoming test. Operators understand that people just want to get to their destination effortlessly. Many of us may take the person behind the wheel for granted. They have bad days and good days, just like us. They have families. They have hobbies. Operators are people too.

Consider this: there were nearly 58 million boardings on Valley Metro buses in 2014 along with more than 14 million boardings on light rail. That is a lot of people to get from point A to B, safely.

Transit connects all of us to loved ones, favorite destinations and our livelihoods. So, the next time you board the bus or light rail, consider giving your operator a smile, wave or thank you. After all, bus and light rail operators, along with many others behind the scenes, are the people who keep us moving.

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