BY JOSH KERNS, MyNorthwest.com
The help wanted sign is out at Metro, as the transit agency races to hire hundreds of new drivers to help handle expanded service approved by Seattle voters.
Classrooms at Metro’s operations center in Tukwila are bursting at the seams with dozens of prospective new drivers undergoing the month-long training. Those that pass will then be hired as part-time drivers.
“Starting in June, we will be increasing the level of service provided in Seattle. We’re also looking to add additional services in King County so we need more drivers,” said Carri Brezonick Metro’s superintendent of operations training.
The training is two-fold — teaching drivers how to handle one of those 40- or 60-foot buses is just one half of the equation.
The other half is customer service — dealing with people from all walks of life and anything that might come up.
“A bus driver is out on the road alone and they need to be great problem solvers. They need to be resourceful and calm and cool and level-headed and focused on the safety of their customers and others around them as well as others around them,” Brezonick said.
Jay Sharma is a recent graduate and has been driving one of those big articulated buses for the past month.
“It did take a while but now I know how to drive,” Sharma said. “It was a little bit challenging.”
He admits he ran over a few cones during training, but since he’s been out on the streets, it’s been pretty smooth sailing — although a truck did clip his bus and take out his mirror.
The biggest difficulty was actually figuring out which stops are his.
“Because sometimes when I see people on the sidewalk I feel like I need to stop. So now I know where to stop, where the bus stops,” he said.
Sitting with Sharma and fellow rookie Chuck Anderson, both agree that navigating some of Seattle’s narrow streets took some getting used to. Not to mention crowded roads and impatient drivers.
“There are a lot of good people out there who, if you put your blinker on, they’ll stop,” Anderson said. “But you think of it when you’re in your personal car. How many times are you on the freeway, you put your blinker on and the guy zooms up to try and get in there. It’s the same with the bus. You have good people and bad people out there.”
That’s the case with passengers as well. Both Sharma and Anderson said most are pretty pleasant. But they’ve been well-trained to deal with potential problems, just in case.
“One thing is allow them to escape, open the doors and let them leave if they want to leave,” Anderson said. “But also to contact our coordinators, so that if we need to have police involvement, they can get the police there quickly. Our training was really good in that we are not to handle it. You want to be safe and you want your passengers to be safe.”
Although Metro is hiring hundreds of new drivers, the agency is extremely selective. Those that do get the training program receive $11.61 an hour for the 33-day training. Those that make it are hired for part-time positions paying $21.15 an hour plus benefits.
The biggest attribute you need? Brezonick said anyone can learn to drive a bus, but not everyone can deal with all the other demands.
“We can give you better tools through the training process, but we really are looking for individuals who are interested in engaging with the public because that’s what we do here,” she said.
Want more flexibility than a full-time job can offer? Going to school and to work? Working part time and need more hours?
Working part time as a Metro Transit bus driver is ideal for anyone who wants part-time work without weekend or late-night hours, such as students, artists, and people juggling family responsibilities. Part-time drivers enjoy flexible schedules and good pay and benefits. Plus, they know they are performing a valuable service for their community. Being a part-time bus driver for Metro is part-time work that pays off!