March 18 is Transit Operator Appreciation Day, a day to recognize the people who help us get where we need to go by bus, light rail, Water Taxi, streetcar, and Access van.
Today’s celebration is a global event that has its roots in Seattle and highlights the most visible part of our mobility system: our operators.
Our operators are the people who greet you as you go to your job, your doctor’s appointment, the store, and—hopefully soon—dinner and a movie.
The operator is the bus driver that puts out the ramp to help when your hands are full with bags of groceries or a stroller.
The operator is the one you trust to take you safely across the water to West Seattle or Vashon.
The operator is the person you wave to as you get off Link Light Rail, or the First Hill or South Lake Union Streetcar.
The operator, through our Access program, helps your grandparent get to the senior center or assists your friends with mobility challenges explore our county.
Operator isn’t an easy job, but they make it look easy, especially during the challenges of the past year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, while many people followed public health guidance to stay home, our operators never stopped. They made sure that other essential workers had a safe transportation option to get to work, and provided a mobility safety net for those who needed a ride to buy groceries, get medicine, or access critical services.
The origin of Operator Appreciation Day is a blog post from transit riders Hans Gerwitz and Shannon E. Thomas in 2009. In appreciation for Seattle area transit drivers, they suggested a Bus Driver Appreciation Day:
“What really makes the buses accessible though, has been the drivers. They’re not only skilled, but generally friendly and thoughtful. They can be strict when they need to and clearly must focus on the task of driving, but often offer cheery salutations and goodbyes and helpful assistance to passengers. There’s a systemic understanding that the job extends beyond piloting and includes customer service.
Recently, drivers have brought smiles to our faces often enough we’ve thought we should have brought cookies to share with them. Which led us to wonder if there’s a Bus Driver Appreciation Day, when riders leave small gifts with their fare.”
In recognition of 2021, we’re inviting our passengers and the public to join us in celebrating the people who are behind the wheel (or tiller) 24/7/365! We hope you’ll join us in thanking your driver. While we know they’d appreciate the sentiment, please no cards, cookies, flowers, or balloons. They’ve got to focus on their important jobs.
With public health’s guidance, we know that giving thanks can be done most safely by filling out a Driver Commendation Form or giving a shoutout on social media. Please note the details of your bus trip, water taxi, light rail, streetcar, or Access ride. (If you’re on a bus, be sure to give us the route and four-digit coach number). We’ll make sure to get your compliments to the correct operator!
Behind the scenes
In honor of all they do for passengers every day, we want to highlight some of the things you may not know drivers do both behind the scenes and while driving you from place to place.
- They operate under a rigid schedule to keep us moving.
Our drivers show up to work exactly on time every day, rain or shine, and are ready to go. They inspect their bus, both for mechanical-related reasons and to ensure it’s clean. They operate it with safety and timeliness always in mind and do it all with a smile on their face.
- They work early and late hours, on weekends and holidays.
While you’re at home with family opening Christmas presents, enjoying Fourth of July fireworks, or eating turkey on Thanksgiving, our drivers are out there getting people where they need to go. Being a Metro driver means showing up for our passengers even during holidays.
- They go above and beyond for everyone, including our transit-dependent riders.
Drivers support disabled and elderly riders when they need some assistance or patience in a fast-paced environment. They assist customers with using the ramp when they’re wheelchair-assisted and can help secure them in place. And drivers wait and watch for disabled persons to make it safely across the road even after they’re off the bus. In fact, Metro has won the “George Turner Award” in recognition of our operators best exemplifying a positive attitude and keen awareness of the elderly and disabled.