This past Wednesday, I had the cool opportunity to chat it up with Senior Transportation Planner, and bus fan J.R Alexander. He’s currently on the west coast having worked with some of the biggest transportation companies the PST time zone can offer, including Apple! (Side note: who would have known that Apple has a mini transit system, how cool is that!)
Anywho we spent about an hour talking on the clubhouse app about the love-hate relationship between bus operators and planners. As a 10-year veteran operator with more than a few opinions about planners I was super excited for our conversation, and it didn’t disappoint.
Here are four of my biggest takeaways from that conversation
Planners take late buses personally, too.
This one was really cool because as operators we tend to believe the planners just make the schedule and put it out. During this segment, he was able to share some things about the planning process and just how serious some planners take their schedules.
Contrary to popular belief transit planners do not design schedules to be late. Some of them actually take it personally when a schedule they are responsible for underperforms.
Operators have no idea how manpower issues and shortages impact what planners have to do.
We didn’t spend much time on this topic however it was a bit of a surprise to learn that lack of staffing can actually impact the runs. I’d like to dedicate an entire session to just chatting about this one day as I’m sure most operators were not aware. Moving forward if your transit agency is short a few bus drivers, let's just say I know a guy 😎
There needs to be an apprenticeship program to develop operators into planners
J.R had expressed that he feels bus operators have the potential to be the best planners due to their natural understanding of how things work behind the wheel. However, with operators having inconsistent schedules and 12+ hour days, being able to fully commit 4 years to college isn’t as realistic as people make it out to be.
He said he felt if an operator had 3–5 years within a system they were already at an advantage compared to most conventional college grads. He expressed frustration…