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CMBC transit operator application and training: Questions and Answers


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As many of you may have already known, I have been blessed with the opportunity of becoming a conventional transit operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company at the beginning of this year. Now that I have successfully completed the entire process, from application to completing training, and jumping through all the hoops leading to regular full-time employee status, I thought I would like to come here and provide a communication channel for anyone of you who may be interested in learning more about the application and training process required for becoming a transit operator with Coast Mountain Bus. Please feel free to raise any relevant questions that you may have in mind, or any questions directed to the nature of the position itself.

I will do my best to offer helpful insights and accurate account of my own personal experience, but with that said there are certain topics and discussions that I will refrain from participating. Before we begin, let me outline all the rules which I must adhere to at all times.

1. My views and experience shared are all exclusively mine as an individual, I do not attempt to represent my employer, any of its subsidiaries or affiliated agencies in any ways.

2. I maintain a neutral position on any discussions related to my employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and I support my employer on a professional level.

3. I am not allowed to reveal any actual questions or specific discussions that were raised during the video test and panel interview.

I promise I will go through every single question raised by everyone of you, and if you don't receive a response from me within 72 hours, that means I am unable to answer your question. ;) Please keep it professional and polite!

Please feel free to submit any questions that you may have in mind, and I will do my best to answer every single one to the best of my abilities. At the same, be sure to check the following links, these are also excellent resources for gathering information regarding the CMBC application and training process.

Official CMBC information for bus operator opportunities:

http://www.translink.ca/en/About-Us/Careers/Bus-Operators.aspx

Two currently active and up-to-date discussion forums dedicated to CMBC applicants:

http://www.forumvancouver.com/threads/transit-jobs-now-coast-mountain-bus-is-hiring.1890/page-24

http://memebee.com/vancouver/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=22448&view=unread

I will also keep this post up-to-date whenever new job postings are created for conventional or community shuttle transit operator trainees, farebox attendant, customer service clerk, or any other entry-level positions opened to everyone without any specialized prerequisites.

Dave

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Not sure of any timelines, but we seem to be hiring a significant number of drivers at the moment.  I think it would depend on how many trainees have successfully completed the pre-employment screenin

Not sure about the reference. But for driving routes there is no definite answer to that, they give route training to new operators and if you move depots. Also if your on spareboard you can get any

The battery electric buses should spell the end for diesel buses. Trolleys can detour using EPU, for such things as road blockages and the like. For planned detours (road races and such) other buses c

Have you ever had to "kick" anyone off the bus?

Have you dealt with unreasonably noisy passengers or those with loud audio devices? If so, how?

Also share one of your most frightening experience if you don't mind.

1. Not YET! I guess I've been lucky so far, haven't really had any extreme cases of crazy unruly passengers. The ones that I've had all ended up getting off the bus voluntarily lol........one guy insisted that I need to drive him to Surrey even though I was driving an N10 to Richmond, all because he missed the N19 and he would be stuck in downtown. I told him to go talk to the transit security officers and supervisors at the corner and see what they have to say, he glared at me, looked at the group, and walked away. :P

2. Yup.........simple, "please turn down the music / movie" on the PA, simple as that. When I drove for Big Bus in the past, there was one trip that I had a group of really loud Chinese tourists chatting amongst themselves. So, I passed the microphone to them and asked them to do my commentary for me, that shut them up REAL fast LOL! :DB)

3. Frightening experience..........doing the 601 South Delta for the first time at night, had NO clue where I was going once I turned from 56th street onto 12th avenue in Tsawwassen. 10pm at night, pitch dark in a stormy night. I was the only one on the bus, and I've never ventured into that part of Tsawwassen EVER in this life. Needless to say, I was hopelessly lost. I missed my turn onto 53A Street, missed my left turn from 8A Avenue onto 52st, almost missed my right from 4 Avenue onto 54st, missed my left turn from 6 Ave onto 52st on the way back.........by the end of the night I was running -16, I ended up turning around in an elementary school parking lot, and I somehow ended up in a cul-de-sac so I had to back my Orion onto someone's driveway and executed a 3 point turn. Good thing I had previous experience with big buses, so I could pull off these stunts lol. In terms of frightening experience with other cars or passengers onboard, one or two close calls with other cars but it's all good, it's part of the job to prevent accidents from happening......in terms of passengers again I've been lucky so far, Richmond is quite peaceful and when I drove out of Vancouver, I avoided the 3 and 8 at night, and avoided the 20 at all times! ;)

Dave

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So I guess you would also want to avoid anything in Surrey at night as well right? I live there and Newton and whalley just seem so ghetto these days...

I was on a 502 trip at 10:30 on S7267. 2 Obnoxiously loud teens smoking on the bus and they wouldnt get off. When they got off, they went and tried to hit the bus as it left. They seemed pretty threatening too. Overall, certain teens seem to abuse their freedom nowadays, don't ya think?

And did you request a transfer? Or did they just say "Hey, we need you in Richmond."?

Also:You need to move your passengers to the back. Would you activate the automated announcement? Or would you go on the P.A. since the electronic message sounds too "nice" and doesnt "threaten" the people to move?

-Sometimes, people cant seem to make it to the very back. It looks like you are full but really, the area just above the rear axle only has seating capacity.

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Sometimes when you are low in seniority you don't have a whole lot of choice. Avoiding some shifts may not be an option. You may be able to pick the lesser of two evils as it were, but sometimes that's as good as it gets.

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So I guess you would also want to avoid anything in Surrey at night as well right? I live there and Newton and whalley just seem so ghetto these days...

I was on a 502 trip at 10:30 on S7267. 2 Obnoxiously loud teens smoking on the bus and they wouldnt get off. When they got off, they went and tried to hit the bus as it left. They seemed pretty threatening too. Overall, certain teens seem to abuse their freedom nowadays, don't ya think?

And did you request a transfer? Or did they just say "Hey, we need you in Richmond."?

Also:You need to move your passengers to the back. Would you activate the automated announcement? Or would you go on the P.A. since the electronic message sounds too "nice" and doesnt "threaten" the people to move?

-Sometimes, people cant seem to make it to the very back. It looks like you are full but really, the area just above the rear axle only has seating capacity.

With my seniority, I wouldn't get to drive in Surrey even had I wanted to. :lol: Poco is the most senior depot in the entire system, nobody can get in without at least 7-8 years worth of seniority; Surrey comes in second, requiring at least 3-4 years of seniority. Most junior depots right now are Vancouver followed by North Van.

Yes, any operators can sign their names onto the "holding lists" for any of the six garages at any time, and operators are transferred according to seniority. Let's say Richmond requires 10 more operators to fill unsigned work, the top 10 guys listed according to seniority will get picked out and transferred as requested. Once you make it to the requested depot, you are pretty much guaranteed to be safe until the consolidated sign-up in September, that's the time when any operators can sign any work in any garages system-wide based on seniority, provided that there is work available to be signed in that particular depot.

Personally I like to use the P.A with my own voice, because I find passengers tend to be more responsive when I put in a request with my human voice........and I don't have to fiddle around with the computer screen trying to find that standard announcement from the list, which I can only access while my bus is stopped.

Sometimes when you are low in seniority you don't have a whole lot of choice. Avoiding some shifts may not be an option. You may be able to pick the lesser of two evils as it were, but sometimes that's as good as it gets.

The beauty about working for transit is everybody has their own tailored personal preferences...........sure, I hate the 20 Victoria and would do everything I can to avoid driving the route; but guess what, there is a large group of operators who LIKE the 20 all for their own reasons! Some grew up around the area and know everyone living around particular stretches of Victoria since childhood; some loves the Victoria because of the articulated trollies and the amount of turns along the route; some does it for money because they can almost always claim OT whenever they work it; some loves it just for the entertainment value. Thing about bus drivers is, we are all nifty and picky in our own ways, and in the end it almost always works out because we just somehow find different kinds of work that suit our own personalities and preferences!

Most operators stay in VTC simply because they have the most abundance of options in relativity to their seniority. My first sign-up at VTC, I only had 20 operators junior to me from the bottom, still I had shortlisted 15 different indexes that would fit my route preferences and work hours.......and by the time I had to pick one and sign, I still had 6 indexes that I struggled to choose from! However, once I transferred out to Richmond, my options steadily decreased.......starting with spareboard, many days I would have absolutely no choice but the ONE bone that I had to chew on, I made the most out of what I had by staying positive and open-minded. Sure, I may not had wanted to stay awake until 6am driving the N10 nightbus, but the N10 nightbus is actually a fun route to drive and I enjoyed what I was given. When sign-up time came, I only had 3 options and I turned to holiday-blocking, which offers a different piece of work every week. So far it's been fun and easy-going...........the way I see it, it's not about what you can't have, it's about what you do with what you have. ;)

Dave

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I understand you've driven the 2000 Orion V with the Series 50, have you driven the 08 Orion V with the ISL? I know CMBC geared with more power on their Series 50 for the hills.

As of the trolley routing, the 3, 8 and 20 are just heavy ridership and if one bus caused a delayed behind, it will get bunched up easily one behind another.

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I understand you've driven the 2000 Orion V with the Series 50, have you driven the 08 Orion V with the ISL? I know CMBC geared with more power on their Series 50 for the hills.

As of the trolley routing, the 3, 8 and 20 are just heavy ridership and if one bus caused a delayed behind, it will get bunched up easily one behind another.

Yup, I have driven both versions of Orion highway coaches at RTC........the series 50 Orions are mostly hit-or-miss. I remember driving R9261 and that bus would FLY, it picked up real fast and would keep going unless you let the retarder kicks in and starts braking; on the other hand, I drove R9240 one time and that bus was SLUGGISH, the bus starts up SO slow it was actually a little ridiculous, and I'm not a particularly picky driver to begin with either!

It's all part of the game.........and there's nothing you can do about it. With that said, it's actually quite pleasant if you happen to be the last bus of the convoy, I have driven an 8 Fraser completely empty, all the way from Waterfront Station to Fraser and 49th at 9am, because there were 3 buses in front of me with a brand new operator leading the pack, on his first day after graduating from training lol!

What's the most strangest thing that has ever happened on the bus ?

Also, have you ever bumped into some transit fans yet ?

I really haven't had any exciting stories to tell yet, not even a single puker! I have been lucky that my experience is more or less very dull and peaceful, and let's try to keep it this way :D

Yup, there's a group of usual suspects who come and hang out from time to time........transit fans and photographers and bus geeks of all kinds are always welcome on my bus =)

Dave

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Is there a way to program custom messages on the signboards? Will you allow transitfans to pose for a pic on the bike rack? LoL

I was thinking of the signboard showing 604 Vancity (since there was a 604 vancouver at one point) or 169(ers)

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Is there a way to program custom messages on the signboards? Will you allow transitfans to pose for a pic on the bike rack? LoL

I was thinking of the signboard showing 604 Vancity (since there was a 604 vancouver at one point) or 169(ers)

Or my favourite since it's for the route I take in the morning. "404 NOT FOUND" :D

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What is your opinion on the 08 Orion V yet? The ZF tends to jerky shifting from time to time.

I'm not sure if it's the same on transit buses but in general, aren't ZF's like wannabe manual transmissions? In coaches for ZF AStronics you have to massage the pedal and let off once your engine revs up to shift, then gently press on it again and so on. Or else if you just hammer it, you'll get the jerky feeling. Is that the case on the Orion's David? Curious to know what you think about it!

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ZF ASTronic and Ecomat are not the same! I've driven the ASTronic and you have to let the computer system do the job! The Ecomat do tend to shift hard depending how the mechanical does the work.

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On average how long does it take from handing in a résumé to "actually driving" on the system. I appreciate answers will vary widely but I am curious about the general time, and I'm assuming in this question that operators are actually being hired at the time the hypothetical person submits their application.

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I'm not sure if you can relate to this but how come I would see drivers driving many different routes during the same week. For an example I would see this driver drive the 319, then the next day the 96, then the day after the 321 o.O . I thought that drivers are assigned to given routes per sheet or am I completely wrong. ( probably the second one ).

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About four times a year the drivers sign a shift. This process is called a sheet or sign up. Depending where you go, it may also be referred to as a bid (St. Albert) or a shake up (Seattle).

So basically all the available shifts are posted (at the depot and / or online in some cases) and drivers choose a shift based on their seniority. Any service adjustments (route and schedule changes) that need to be made are also implemented at this time and commence with the start of the sheet.

Sheets always start on a Monday ~ at least here (Sundays in some places) and generally coincide with ridership requirements. For example a sheet will begin late Aug or early Sept to address returning to school, late April when Post Secondary ends, late June when school ends. These 'events' require different service levels so adjustments need to be made. For example, a piece of work (shift) that is available in September might not be available in the summer.

The September sheet (at CMBC) is called the Consolidated Sign Up where all the CMBC drivers bid for shifts starting with the most senior, regardless which depot he or she is driving out of. This gives the operator to a chance to work out of a different depot if he or she desires to. The rest of the sheets are depot specific, which means drivers sign for shifts based on their seniority at that particular depot.

Sign ups / Sheets are fascinating. It is a prime example of how various departments (operations, shift design, route design and scheduling, dispatch, and info - to name a few) come together to create what you see on the road. There are many things that go on behind the scenes that riders don't see, and most people would faint if they knew how complex the system really is. It's a lot of people coming together just to put that one bus on the road. The internal workings of a transit system is by far the most interesting aspect.

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^ Maybe just to add this to the above description. There is a department called shift design, they design the shifts. There are different kinds of shifts. There are straight shifts (generally +/- 8 hours of solid work), split shifts (a piece of work in the morning and in the afternoon, or a piece in the afternoon and a piece at night), day off blocking (this works the off days of regular shifts, so your work is different every day or two). These shifts are built into the sheet and signed for along with everything else.

There are drivers that (either by choice or lack of seniority) can work small sign up (not sure what CMBC calls it) or spareboard.

Certain shifts are signed for on a more frequent basis, for example, Holiday Blocking (this works the shifts of drivers that are on vacation, so your work changes every week or two). Many drivers like to do Holiday Blocking in the summer because a lot of senior drivers take vacation then, so you can score 'senior work'.

Or work that covers the shifts of drivers who have retired 'mid sheet', on medical leave, paid or unpaid leave, or drivers who are on STD or LTD (short term or long term disability). These shifts have a certain amount of unpredictability as drivers can go on or return from disability at any time, so they require more flexibility in operator availability.

Then there are things like charters, and work that becomes available when someone calls in sick. (usually spareboard covers this).

Then there is 'open report', where they have a few paid drivers at the depot 'on call' (usually for early morning) ready to jump in a bus if someone calls in sick. Or, in the case of an emergency where they need an evac bus or something..

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I present to you a situation.

Due to traffic and long boarding times, you are 30 minutes late. You cant afford to wait and pick up more passengers any longer. Are you allowed to put a PR saying "EXPRESS" or "DROP OFF ONLY" to the signboard? Or do you call someone to fill in the gap?

Reason im asking, I was taking 320 one day and I saw another 320 coming the other way saying "320: LANGLEY CENTRE "EXPRESS". Searching on Tcomm, it was 25 minutes down.

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Each situation has to be weighed separately. I believe you have to call the control center (T-Comm) if you want to display Express / Drop off only. Often, when you are really late, T-Comm will see it on their monitor and call you up. They will ask the reason for the delay and determine the best action to take. A operator does not call 'someone to fill the gap'. If there is a serious problem with service delivery on a certain route due to something unforeseen, T-Comm may arrange for extra units to help out by providing full or partial trips (stub service).

Perhaps David can elaborate on this further.

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