February 26, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Drivers see hope as Jameson Auten starts at LTD

7 min read

Drivers see hope as Jameson Auten starts at LTD. Speaking on his own behalf, and for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, Mark Durbin.

[00:00:09] Mark Durbin: It’s been kind of nice. The new GM has come in the drivers’ lounge and asked us questions. He’s ridden the buses, which no GM prior to him has ever done, and he’s ridden them at the designated times we gave him so he could see the true nature of what’s going on out there. Hopefully, he will see there’s a lot of change that needs to occur. All we can have is hope.

[00:00:34] I’ve been driving for over 60 years. I’ve been driving a large vehicle for 50 some years, but for LTD, I’ve been driving for ’em for 15. I’m going on my 16th year. And the support issues for the drivers have kind of gone by the wayside. They put the load on us rather than take any of the burden off of us.

[00:00:55] And I think that’s a part of it, but you have people that come on that bus—I mean, I’ve seen guns, I’ve seen all kinds of things. It makes you very nervous. We have a bus driver right now that is out and probably will never return ’cause she got attacked. And that’s even with the barrier. Somebody got angry enough to come after a girl and it’s caused significant mental issues for her that she’s not able to even return to driving.

[00:01:23] But we’ve had knives pulled, people stabbed… what the bus driver did was stop the bus and go back there trying to stop the situation and he got chastised and ridiculed for doing that, and put on a letter. ‘Cause he was trying to stop someone from being harmed. And that’s LTD’s response to it. Their response is: You stay in the seat, never supposed to get out of the seat.

[00:01:48] We’ve had elderly gentlemen beat to a pulp on the bus. Bus driver is not to get out of the seat. That is what they instruct us: not to intercede, not to stop it, do nothing. Just call it in and stay in your seat.

[00:02:04] Me personally, it would be very difficult in a scenario like that where someone attacked somebody with a knife. I’m sorry, I’d be same as he did, I would be back there trying to stop it. That’s just my nature. I wouldn’t watch somebody get hurt in that manner.

[00:02:22] So it is a little over the top and it’s in large part, it’s individuals that shouldn’t be riding a bus. Never know when you’re going to run into one. It’s gotten so far out of the realm of what is acceptable and normal. I’ve experienced people who are mentally unstable going berserk for no reason at all. I’ve had windows busted. I’ve been spit on several times and threatened on a regular basis. And I’m a pretty good-sized boy.

[00:02:53] It’s continuously gotten worse. And I guess it’s what our culture has become now, and the bus is where you’re going to see that, especially the EmX mainly. We can stop it at the front door on regular service for the most part. But the EmX, that fast pace, have to get going. You know, no security. It’s impossible to expect a driver to stop anybody getting on that bus.

[00:03:18] The way they designed the system, it really is hard for a bus driver. Especially, we shouldn’t ever been put in mixed traffic. That’s just not a good scenario. You not only have the traffic issues and everything to deal with, but then you got people acting up.

[00:03:35] I don’t think anybody’s been killed on the EmX. So far I guess we’ve been lucky that that hasn’t occurred on any of our buses, but our ridership is way down too, and partly because we no longer provided a quality service. But we have people now, because of the type of ridership that’s on board, they don’t feel safe.

[00:03:59] And I wouldn’t recommend any wife, mother, or even a father to bring their children on past 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening on a EmX bus. It’s unsafe. You can say it any way you want, but it’s unsafe.

[00:04:15] And how do you supply the kind of security that would stop the issues that we have? How do you go about that? And right now LTD just doesn’t have any answers and it leaves us out there hanging to dry, which is frustrating at least.

[00:04:32] Before COVID we had lifelong relationships, when many of the passengers that rode the bus who didn’t have to, but they chose to, and now those people are all gone. There’s still a few, smattering of people that we have relationships with. but you’re not going to see ’em on the bus at night. And I wouldn’t recommend anybody riding it, especially the West 11th corridor at night. It’s just, it’s not safe and there’s no way to make it. And I’ve driven it. It’s not like I haven’t been out there myself. I have, and it’s concerning.

[00:05:08] John Q: Mark praised the new drivers.

[00:05:12] Mark Durbin: It used to be that you got trained on regular bus service before you accelerated or went to the EmX. But that’s not the case anymore. The accelerated training, you have individuals you’re bringing on that have never driven anything larger than a Volkswagen van, and then you’re asking them in a short period of time to not only learn how to drive a regular 40-foot bus in town and deal with customer service and everything that’s involved, and then you’re throwing them on a high speed rapid transit 60-foot bus, coming into all kinds of different platforms, they’re varying speed. and then having to maneuver traffic in the middle of that— it’s just a no-win situation for a lot of them.

[00:05:59] So, I think kudos to all the new drivers that are doing this because thinking back when I started, that would’ve been a little overwhelming at times. And then you add the culture and the scenario with what’s going on around our city right now. And, if you look at the overall safety records of the newer drivers, it’s astonishing that there hasn’t been more accidents. it really is. But that’s kudos to just quality people that have come in.

[00:06:28] But a lot of quality people have walked out the door too. You know, if I wasn’t so close to retirement, I would be leaving too. I wouldn’t stay here. I wouldn’t even give them one more minute.

[00:06:40] How do I say this? It’s a toxic work environment. Point blank. We face hostilities on a regular basis from all sides.

[00:06:50] LTD is notorious for not listening to its drivers. They don’t give any credence to anything that we say or discuss. In all the years that I drove truck, I’ve never been with an organization, doesn’t listen to the individuals using the equipment even and ask questions to them about what kind of equipment they should purchase and buy. It is just astonishing to me that you put people that have no driving experience whatsoever and let them spend the money on equipment that doesn’t fit the need. And yet that’s what goes on at LTD continuously. They discount anything— they don’t even ask.

[00:07:31] So we have no place to go but to ourselves, and the drivers amongst themselves and to have a positive attitude like so many of ’em do, is thoroughly amazing to me. It really is. I can’t say just how proud I am to be associated with all of the people that I work with as far as in the driver pool. They’re just exceptional.

[00:07:54] John Q: Mark said it was especially difficult during COVID, when the drivers weren’t even recognized as essential workers.

[00:08:02] Mark Durbin: One of the hardest things for me to understand throughout all of COVID is how we were not classified as essential workers, although we were mandated that we had to work, but even our governor didn’t believe that we were essential, yet we’re the ones that were hauling all those sick people to the hospitals, and on a regular basis. And yet that didn’t qualify.

[00:08:24] Throughout the nation, thousands and thousands of bus drivers contacted COVID and passed away. So, there’s been lives lost over this, and yet they’ve never been once really classified as essential workers who are that important, and that kind of hurts. And I’m not talking about a monetary reward, but I’m talking about at least acknowledge. And it never did seem to happen, so, I think I’m getting out at the right time.

[00:08:54] I hope for the best for everybody that there will be a change. They have a new GM coming in. Let’s hope that he sees it’s a necessity to create a more working atmosphere. I have hope. I always have hope that he can make a change here. And like I said, I’d still like to see the changes necessary to bring us back to full power so we’re supplying a quality service to our community.

Mark Durbin is speaking on his behalf and on behalf of ATU 757 and is not representing any official positions of Lane Transit District.

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