TTC stress

Are the TTC drivers really that stressed?

When I boarded the subway yesterday morning (Christie Station, known to me as The One Without A Starbucks) and saw the headlines splashed all over the Metro and the Star - "TTC drivers in crisis!" - it was fairly hard to crawl out from under my Monday morning blahs to do anything other than conjure some surly words I would hurl at any TTC employee who dared suggest to me that his or her grief was on par with a soldier just back from Afghanistan.

Later in the day, though, I started really thinking about the issue. Yes, I would personally describe my feelings towards the majority of the TTC employees who have served me in the past ten years as being something akin to outright loathing - never, of course, suggesting that the majority represents the total, and that there aren't some truly outstanding drivers, operators, and other staff members in the organization. Let's face it: the TTC is the ultimate example of a system we only notice when it doesn't work. Although there have been literally thousands of days when a TTC staffer hasn't screamed at me for taking a digital photo on an RT platform, the only day that counts to me is the day when one of them did.

Nonetheless, as recently as New Year's although also spinning back to several public safety incidents last year involving TTC staff, it's actually not too difficult to imagine how stressful being part of such a visibly disliked organization as the TTC must be. Getting yelled at, spit on, and treated with general disdain would be enough to make anyone question whether or not their job is worth it. (The worst thing that happens to me at mine is that sometimes my computer doesn't work.) Having to live with the daily possibility of assault, injury, and gun violence goes above and beyond. I don't even like riding the vomit comet - can you imagine having to drive it?

And not to name Toronto's worst-kept secret, but being one of the drivers whose subway ploughs over one of our frequently-occurring, rarely-acknowledged TTC suicide jumpers? I can't see that making for a particularly non-toxic work environment.

I suppose the critical issue lies in the simple fact that when many of us opened that newspaper yesterday morning and read about the TTC driver stress level - that "nearly 200 TTC bus, streetcar and subway operators are suffering from severe stress usually associated with survivors of combat, natural disasters and rape" according to the Star - we snorted in amusement, as though such claims from an employment pool as lowly as bus drivers was somehow not worthy of the empathy we might level upon firefighters or soldiers.

Sure, fares are rising, the budget is under constant question, and service reliability (particularly in the winter) is a damn joke. And yes, I'd even be willing to assert that a large part of the continuing problems with the TTC is directly related to the attitudes of the staff and the management. Nonetheless, an increasingly frustrated ridership is only making the situation more dangerous and more volatile, and it's up to both sides to find some balance in the middle if we're going to drop everybody's stress levels.

Got a story - good or bad - about an encounter with a TTC driver? The comment field awaits below.

Photo: "Lensbaby TTC" by photojunkie, from the blogTO Flickr pool.

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