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bikes/transportation | economic justice

Why is my bus late?

It's a classic speed-up.
stolen from Slate
stolen from Slate
Have you noticed that on-time performance is down on TriMet buses? There's a reason, and it's not slackin' bus drivers.

The bus schedules have deliberately been tightened to reduce break times. On a bus route, break times serve a dual purpose: they give the driver a chance to have a break, use the restroom, eat a meal, and de-stress; but they also allow for "turn-around time." "Turn-around time" has everything to do with whether your bus will be on time.

Drivers have noticed that the break times have been reduced to the point that they are often meaningless. The driver gets to a break point labeled on the schedule as offering, say, twelve minutes, but the actual arrival time is ten minutes into that break. So, the driver gets out, runs to the restroom, runs back, and discovers that he or she is starting five minutes late for the next run. Five minutes is enough to add passengers to the already-too-tight route. So the driver will then arrive at the next break twenty minutes late. Let's say that break is scheduled for twenty-eight minutes, but is the time in the shift when one would normally take a meal. The driver gets a choice of skipping the meal, or starting the next run ten minutes late. And then it snowballs, into the next driver's shift.

The schedules themselves, apart from the break times, are unrealistic. This is, in part, because ridership is up (welcome to the re-depression and carless workers), so it takes more time to pick up and drop off the increased load of passengers. But it's also very convenient for TriMet management, which can thereby get more work out of the workforce without paying for it. (In the short term, though, that looks great on a general manager's resume.')

It's true that, at the end of the day, a driver may apply for more pay if the bus arrives late. But this is complicated for drivers who get off their shift away from the garage--they have to write out a "time slip" (not provided) and return it to the garage somehow. Of course, this means that most relieved drivers will not be paid for their extra work. And at the end of the day, it's tempting to think "I'd rather get out of here than be paid for an extra fifteen minutes." But that adds up over the years, in a numbers game, to millions of dollars in unpaid wages.

Then there's the added stress and health penalty for missed breaks. (Imagine working for eight to twelve hours with only the occasional, hurried, ten-minute break!) The longer it goes on, the more it will affect all of our lives. So I'm here to call it out. Abusing workers benefits the very few, and degrades everyone's transit experience.

sources? 16.Sep.2013 07:51


Do you have any source for these claims? Statements by actual drivers? Are you a driver? How much difference is this lateness actually consist of, 5 minutes? 10?

Hmm... 16.Sep.2013 11:03


@... posting under then name "Drivergal" might reveal their supposed source on this issue.

I, however, know this can't be the case. Management at TriMet is flawless, practically divine and always correct: how else could they justify awarding themselves such massive bonuses? And, to award themselves bonuses secretly, in order to maintain their own modesty. This is the mark of Great management, a management unafraid to cut services while rewarding themselves. TriMet should be the management model of every business.

Anyone else who says otherwise is simply an un-American communist.