Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Drive It: Meet Jaswinder, Community Transit Coach Operator

Ever wonder where that friendly face behind the wheel came from? Or what inspired that smile to drive a 30-, 40-, or even 60-foot vehicle? We all know that everyone has a story, but with over 300 Coach Operators employed by Community Transit, the stories here are rich and varied and often surprising. Their unique backgrounds all share a common theme: they want to make a difference in their communities. They are the face of our agency, the people who get you to work, to school, to errands, and back home again. Meet Jaswinder, Community Transit Coach Operator.

Jaswinder's path to us was a long and winding one. Originally from India, Jaswinder lived for 15 years in Vancouver, Canada, and 15 years in California prior to joining a Community Transit training class in 2006. Before he learned everything there is to know about driving a large bus, he knew everything there is to know about cheesemaking. Yes, that's right! Jaswinder worked at a large cheese plant near Modesto, California, where he ensured ingredients were accurately measured, supervised the pasteurization process, and monitored pH and acidity levels. While he enjoyed working at Hilmar Cheese, he was intrigued with the prospect of a great job at Community Transit when he met one of our drivers. Having worked as a taxi driver and dispatcher in Vancouver, he was inspired to pursue a new career behind the wheel. "I like driving. I especially like the freedom of driving. And the people. I have met people from all over the world."

The freedom of driving for a living is still enticing for Jaswinder. He's usually on the extra board, which means he jumps in to cover for any coworkers who have to miss their shift. "I get to do all of the routes, which means the scenery is always changing. I like that." Jas likes the flexible schedule, too. "When you are a new driver, the schedule can be a little bit challenging the first couple of years. But as you work here for awhile and get more seniority, there's a lot of flexibility in the schedule. You can create a schedule that works for you, which is especially good if you have kids."

While there's nothing like the freedom of being out on the road during work hours, Jas, like so many of our drivers, talk about how connecting with customers can really make the day. "One time at a layover at the Lynnwood Transit Center, a lost and disoriented elderly gentleman got on my bus by mistake. He was supposed to meet his daughter at Smokey Point. I was able to get his daughter's number and contact her to let her know her father was okay. Then I put the gentleman on a different bus that would take him to her."

It's that one-on-one interaction with customers that can change someone's day. "We're better than Trip Planner because we can help midway through a trip. We try to educate riders, too, on how transfers work and encourage them to get an ORCA card." Jaswinder can usually tell when people on his routes are a bit confused and can use a helping hand, "People who are visiting the Boeing Museum or the Seattle Premium Outlets will sometimes have questions. I'm happy to answer them." This commitment to customer service makes a difference to both riders and drivers. In eleven years, Jaswinder says he's never had any issues with disrespectful riders, "As long as you are respectful of them, they are respectful of you. I've always had good interactions with customers. It makes me proud to work here."

Does the freedom of being behind the wheel intrigue you, too? We're hiring!

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