last week

I spent last week teaching five new extra board drivers all of the routes we drive out of Nicollet.

You may recall that I used to work the extra board. It was a good way to (occasionally) get decent work when I had very little seniority. The extra board is a list of pieces of work. The work can get put on the board for a lot of reasons. I won't list all of the reasons, but when drivers are sick or haven't shown up, or take a vacation day or go to a Transit Ambassador or Safety Keys class for the day, their work gets added to the extra board.

The extra board gets created every day. The dispatcher who compiles the board needs to know by noon if a driver will be back to work the next day. If he doesn't know that a driver will be back, their work will go back on the board.

If a driver doesn't show up for work, and no one knew a day in advance that they wouldn't be there, a call driver has to cover it. On-call shifts are built into the board. Some can be picked, others get added to the mix. Call drivers sit at the garage and do bus changes, fill in trips for late or broken down buses, and go out for drivers who don't show up.

I really enjoyed working the extra board. I did something different every day. The drawback is that I never knew what I was doing on a particular day until 5:00 PM the day before, which is the earliest drivers can call in to get their work.

Anyway, the point is that to work the extra board, a driver has to know every route out of a garage and everything about each of those routes. It's a lot of information.

The drivers I trained last week each knew some of the routes they needed to know. But not everyone knew the same routes. Some knew parts of some routes, but not necessarily the same parts that others knew.

So we just pushed through. I can't remember if we actually looked at every single route out of Nicollet, but if we didn't, it was close.

Six bus drivers, one van. The only thing that everyone is guaranteed to have in common is buses. So what do we talk about? Buses. Bus stories. Passengers. Bus stories.


I'll confess that I'm guilty, too. But I try to keep my stories relevant, short and on the positive side of things.

The group I had was pretty good, really. Nice people. I heard plenty of negative comments about traffic, passengers, whatever, but it never got out of control. I've been in group situations with drivers where the negativity took over and it became a black swamp of bad stories. Thankfully, that never happened.

Sometimes when I tell people that we take drivers out to show them the routes, I get asked why we can't just give them a map and turn them loose.

Here is a map from a hand schedule. Our maps are similar, but with additional notes all over them.

It's not rocket science by any means, but it can get very confusing. There are turns and lane changes that need to be explained. For instance, on the route above, there's no way to know that to get to the Southdale Park and Ride, one turns into the second driveway on 69th. But for some pieces of work, we go into the first driveway and wait in a different place.

So I did a lot of talking. Way more talking than I like. I was hoarse every day. I didn't go to trivia on Wednesday night because I was sick of talking.

It was a nice week, though.

I have the next couple of days off. I might actually get holiday cards sent this year. We'll see.

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