If you're a frequent bus rider like me, you're probably accustomed to your routine. You arrive at your usual stop at the usual time, you say hello to the familiar bus driver, you follow the regular route and get to your destination. Things proceed like clockwork. That's what makes interruptions to the usual routine really stick out. Sometimes, that friendly face behind the wheel might not be so familiar. Traffic accidents can block intersections, vehicles can break down, and our favorite drivers enjoy a well-deserved vacation just like anyone else. When events threaten to knock Valley Metro buses off schedule, one person keeps things on track: the bus dispatcher.
Bus dispatchers have the vital task of managing hundreds of buses and drivers throughout the day. If a bus breaks down, they organize replacement vehicles to minimize service disruptions. If a driver needs a day off, they arrange for another person to take the wheel.
Bus dispatchers play a key role in planning routes around unexpected problems on the road, like traffic accidents. Once they receive word of an incident, dispatchers will work with the bus control center to determine the best detour. The new route is delivered to bus drivers through a device called the "clever system." It will light up above the driver's head and outline where to go, along with what stops may have to be missed due to the blockage.
For dispatchers on an early shift, the work starts at around 4:30 in the morning, when buses and express service vehicles start rolling out. The busiest time of the day during the afternoon tends to last from 11:30 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m.
Valley Metro's bus operations are a vital part of the agency's mission to connect communities and enhance lives. Bus dispatchers are important members of the army of support staff that ensure that your usual bus routine is exactly that: routine.