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Employment in a Metro

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In the transit sector of transportation the greatest number of jobs is for bus drivers. In fact in 1994 there were approximately 140,000 bus drivers employed mostly in large cities. The majority of them worked for transit lines. Another 425,000 drove school buses, and a few others were employed by churches, commercial interests, and sightseeing companies, 40 percent of whom worked part time.

Driving Occupations

Most experienced drivers have regularly scheduled runs, but new drivers are usually placed on an "extra" list to substitute for regular drivers who are ill or on vacation. They may also be assigned to extra and special runs, for example during morning or evening rush hours, or to stadiums when there are special sporting events. In some cities or towns, transit buses transport school children to and from school and extra list drivers may operate these buses. New drivers remain on the extra list until they have enough seniority to get a regular run, which may take several years.

Promotional opportunities are limited, but experienced drivers can rise to jobs as dispatchers or supervisors and eventually to management positions. Dispatchers assign buses to drivers, make sure drivers are on schedule, reroute buses when necessary, and dispatch extra buses and drivers whenever there is an accident or breakdown and additional vehicles are needed.

To apply for a position as a bus driver you should be at least twenty one years old, be in good health, have good eyesight with or without glasses, and have a good driving record. A number of employers prefer applicants who have a high school education or its equivalent. The majority require applicants to pass a physical examination and a written test showing they can follow complex bus schedules. Most states require bus drivers to have a chauffeur's license, which is a commercial driving permit. Drivers face many minor annoyances, such as difficult passengers, traffic tie ups, bad weather, and fatigue. A relaxed personality is important for this work.

Operators of trolleys and subway trains will find that most of the above qualifications apply to them as well, but specific requirements will vary from city to city. Training is received on the job as is the case with engineers on railroads, and in some systems it may take years before you will be on a regular run.

Note: If you apply for a position with a publicly owned bus or transit system and most of them are you will find that all of the jobs are under civil service. This means that appointment to a position, and later promotion, may depend on your taking a competitive civil service examination.

Other Transit Jobs

Next to driving occupations, probably the most number of jobs will be found in the maintenance and repair shops of buses, trolleys, and subways. All vehicles must be kept in top running condition, and since most of them are used practically every day they must get frequent checks and maintenance. They are also taken out of service periodically for major repairs. All this work is usually performed by employees of the transit companies.

Cleaners, mechanics, electricians, welders, painters, upholsterers, and glaziers are some of the specialists needed to keep a fleet of transit buses and trains moving. The best way to prepare for such openings is to take special training at a trade school.

In most cities, transit service operates late into the evening or all night, as is the case in New York City. As a new worker, you will probably be assigned to the night or late shift. As you get seniority, you will be able to bid for better and perhaps more regular working hours.

In the office of any transit company you will find the usual clerical, computer, and receptionist positions. In addition, there are those posts that call for specialized or college training. You will find such positions in the sales, purchasing, public relations, planning, finance, and budget departments. Although turnover in these administrative offices is not likely to be high, investigate the opportunities anyway.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Here are some reasons why you should enter this field, if it interests you:
  1. Most jobs are open to everyone because they are under your local municipal or other civil service system. This means that all people, including minorities, are guaranteed equal consideration for positions.

  2. There are good chances for promotion because many of these systems are large. Those who have college degrees and/or many years of experience may be in line for promotion to supervisory and managerial posts.

  3. Benefits are greater than in many other fields. The overtime, pensions, sick leave, health care, and paid vacations are more generous than in most industries.

  4. There is better than average job security, especially after you have been on the job several years.
On the other hand every job has its drawbacks and you should be prepared to face these possible disadvantages:
  1. Your income will rise slowly from year to year because every job is paid according to an established salary scale,

  2. You may work under great pressure and difficult conditions especially when accidents, breakdowns, storms, or other problems cause the whole system to slow down or cease operating altogether.

  3. Public transportation operates seven days a week in most places and in some cities around the clock. Therefore you can expect that the chances are good you will have to work shifts.

  4. Being a public transportation employee or "public servant" can subject you to unpopularity since many people think that transport workers do not work hard enough, are paid too much, and receive too many benefits.
During a recent year, 80 percent of commuters' trips to the central business districts of Chicago and New York City were made by public transit. In Philadelphia it was 64 percent and 50 percent in Cleveland and Seattle.
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