So it's been three weeks or so into this new "Fall" Schedule.
We've all figured out the changes in the route times and discontinued services.
And I'm sure that by now some of you have noticed your new Drivers and the Drivers who "relieve" them.
That's what I wanted to address here for y'all today.
"The Relief Driver"
For the rest of the year I've been assigned to the "relief" runs.
That means that I get to wait at a random stop for a Driver to arrive and take over his route for him.
Wait - let me start from the beginning because I'm sure y'all have seen these random switches and have been wondering what the heck is going on.
Ok, so early early in the morning one Driver "pulls out" a fresh bus and begins a route.
After his 8ish hour shift - at that 8 hour mark, he'll pull over at a pre-determined stop and the next Driver will get on and take over.
Most of the time this will happen at Stations, like Colorado Station.
The 21 will stop, unload all the outbound passengers and load up all the inbounds.
Then the Driver will step out and the new Driver steps in and takes over.
Because danged near everybody got off and the bus is filled back up with new passengers and there is a few minutes of "lay over" where y'all sit for a few minutes, nobody really notices a change of Drivers.
On the busier routes, for some reason these changes of the guard don't happen smartly - at these lay overs where the buses sit for up to 20 or 30 minutes.
Like the 38: rather than change over at Downing Station or Walmart or even Stapleton, Drivers swap out at 15th & Stout.
So what you, the passenger notices is that you were waiting at the 15th & Stout stop and the bus is already 10 minutes (or more in the cases when I had to relieve the Driver there!) and you're late to your transfer at Lipan, Federal or Sheridan.
The bus finally arrives and boards y'all but then you see him stand up, pack his bags, yackity yack with another Driver then leave!
He just walks off and leaves you sitting there?
And the new Driver who gets on seems to take f.o.r.e.v.e.r.! getting "ready" - he's adjusting the seat, playing with the inside and outside mirrors, over and over and over and over again.
Then he starts beeping and farting around with the radio and the fare box.
Eventually, another ten minutes later, the bus starts moving but by now you're a good 15 or 20 minutes late and you could have slept in this morning!
Trust me, I feel for you.
Being that "new Driver" who has to take over when the other Drivers are super late (even "on time" Drivers screw us because by the time the new Driver gets ready, we're ten minutes behind to start out our day) I can feel y'all aiming your darts at the back of my head - I can feel all the nasty looks and even hear the crappy comments.
But I'm not allowed to move that bus until it is safe to move.
And Downtown you don't want me trying to drive when I can't see properly out those mirrors.
That's a 60 foot battering ram and if we can't see clearly to the left and right, we'll hit or get hit and then you'll not just be 10 minutes late but potentially out for the day or at least 30 minutes behind while you wait for the next bus.
Speaking of being Downtown, I had a senior Driver tell me that routes swap out Downtown like that so that the Drivers don't have to go far to relive the other Drivers and the "other" Drivers can easily get back to the garage and go home from Downtown.
But this excuse doesn't hold water.
Those of you who've been on the route 0 (Zero) have seen new Drivers change out at California and Welton streets.
When we all know the Route 0 lays over for up to 20 minutes at the Market Street Station.
We've all seen them sitting, sometimes two at a time, not down IN the Station but up on the street level, out of traffic and with no passengers aboard.
These Drivers sit for 20 minutes at Market Street Station then head 5 minutes down the road to California & 17th and swap Drivers.
Then the new (relief) Driver takes 5 to 10 minutes changing and getting the bus ready, making life difficult for you, the passenger when the Drivers could have changed over on their own time and not yours.
And both Drivers would be changing at Stations like other routes (such as the 21), making it easier for both Drivers to arrive and leave.
That's a ton of blabbering to explain what you're seeing but I hope it helps a bit.
You're seeing one Driver ending his shift and a new Driver take over.
The New Driver has to reprogram the fare box, the radio, the overhead signs.
The New Driver has to punch correct and new transfers, he has to clean up the previous Driver's mess, organize the clutter and throw out all the trash left behind.
The New Driver has to adjust the wheel, the seat and all the mirrors.
The New Driver has to restock the schedules and has to fill in the DOT (Driver's Vehicle Inspection Report) paperwork/book.
So that takes a few minutes and the Driver must do all this or get written up and even fired.
He can get fired because the TSA made a new one strike rule in 2009 stating that when the error involves passenger safety, it's one strike and you're out.
So a Driver who takes off without properly adjusting his mirrors or what not and gets into an accident because of this, has been reckless, careless and is endangering you, the passenger.
And in my case these last three weeks, my outgoing Drivers have all been grumpy pusses because I won't drive their vehicles to the relief points.
That's a long story but the short of it is that I don't want to be responsible for their personal vehicles and because the Union only pays enough "travel time" to speeding bullet straight to and from the relief points, these Drivers are upset because they have to take light rail and buses back to the garage and that takes up to an hour and half (with only a few of those minutes "paid time").
So these grumpy pusses simply grunt, get off and run away.
No cleaning, no paperwork, no communication about the status of the bus, detours or passengers and I can't complain because they are senior (to me) Drivers who out rank me and will make my life hell for complaining!
Are you glad you learned all this?
I hate politics in the work place.
It's one of the reasons I love working at RTD.
I can come to work, Drive a bus for an entire day (or night) and go home.
I only have YOU, the customer with whom to deal and y'all freaking rock.
But as soon as other Drivers & the Union get involved in our days, the poop hits the fan and morale falls through the floor.
But these affect you, the passenger/customer when we have to change over (relieve) at odd and inconvenient stops like the 0 & 38 do.
Now you have a bit more insight (whether you wanted it or not!) as to what's going on at these switches.
As Always, "Welcome aboard, find your seats, have a little patience - Let's Roll!"