On March 18, B.C. transit held a Transit Driver Appreciation Day. The date, selected as an homage to the start of bus service in Paris in 1662, was an opportunity for transit users to show their appreciation for the operators of public services. Although Paris’s early bus system was not to last, the organizers of Transit Driver Appreciation Day hope that their celebration will prove more enduring.
B.C. Transit honoured the occasion by encouraging riders to show their appreciation with printed driver thank-you cards.
“For 365 days of the year, the men and women of B.C. Transit work hard to provide outstanding transit services to our customers” said B.C. Transit President and CEO Manuel Achadinha, in a press release. “I invite the public to join me in thanking our drivers for delivering on the company’s core values of safety, integrity, and customer service.”
Reactions across the province varied. According to B.C. Transit spokesperson Meribeth Burton, the response was strongest in Prince George, where the Prince George Citizen ran a front-page story.
“When people look at buses and the people who are doing this very complex job every day, they may not take the time to appreciate what he or she is going through,” Burton said. “We have a lot of very high-expectation professionals who are driving buses. We hire them for that reason; they’re incredible at customer service, and they’re incredible at efficiency.”
However, despite the high praise from B.C. Transit, bus drivers said that more could be done to appreciate them. One bus driver commented that operators needed “more bathroom breaks.”
Though many Victoria transit users regularly thank drivers while getting off the bus, some drivers said that B.C. Transit doesn’t always show the same appreciation. Another driver who commented on the condition of anonymity said, “Management doesn’t really know what we do until there’s a report—one or the other, good or bad.”
“I think they could recognize us a little bit, recognize our job a little better. Some of our safety issues, running times, things like this that need to be addressed,” said another driver, who also wished to remain anonymous. The same driver added that helping solve issues such as bus pass-ups would make their job easier and show that B.C. Transit really appreciates its workers.
The issue of bus pass-ups has been a heated one in Victoria, where students from the University of Victoria and Camosun College, as well as B.C. Transit operators, collected a petition last year seeking a solution to pass-ups on busy routes. The Make Transit Work campaign continues to lobby the Victoria Regional Transit Commission for solutions, including dedicated bus lanes and more efficient allocation of resources.
Though these issues frustrate riders and drivers alike, appreciation of the drivers themselves is an essential part of the transit system. Burton reminded riders that, in addition to thanking operators personally, riders can also tweet or call B.C. Transit, to express compliments on the actions of individual drivers.