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For new hires, B.C. Transit emphasizes good service

B.C. Transit driver Sarah White says that her job is somewhat liberating, compared to her previous work in the hospitality industry. White is an example of the new type of driver B.C. Transit is hoping to attract — a person with the right attitude.
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Sarah White brings 20 years of hospitality sector experience to her new job on the bus.

B.C. Transit driver Sarah White says that her job is somewhat liberating, compared to her previous work in the hospitality industry.

White is an example of the new type of driver B.C. Transit is hoping to attract — a person with the right attitude.

“It’s the new face of B.C. Transit for us,” Greg Conner, B.C. Transit’s vice-president of human resources, said at a news conference on Monday. “We want that customer-friendly sort of person that can roll with the flow.”

“You get all sorts of people riding a bus, just like you get all sorts at a restaurant table,” said Conner.

White had worked in fast-food restaurants, quality sit-down restaurants and high-end hotels.

For B.C. Transit, her background was evidence that she can remain cheerful and helpful in all situations with all kinds of people.

For White, her new job is more predictable than in restaurants, where sudden calls to fill in are frequent and a shift can end from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., depending on the evening.

At B.C. Transit, she knows the shifts and routes she will be driving months ahead.

As a transit driver “you are the captain of your own ship,” said White. “But at the same time you are never alone because everybody is just a phone call away.”

“There is a whole team of colleagues who will help you before an issue even arises,” she said.

Conner said the move to look for people with a good record of dealing with the public is a change in corporate culture for B.C. Transit.

Previously, it was thought the best qualification for a new driver was a commercial driver’s licence. Now the single most important factor is attitude.

It’s one that makes a driver happy to assist a tourist speaking little English, give directions to a person wondering which bus to take and look out for a senior who might be struggling.

“Right now, it’s all about representing the people we serve, those people who ride the bus,” said Conner.

He said B.C. Transit is looking to hire about 50 new drivers a year for the next two to three years. After that, it will hire 30 to 40 drivers a year.

Conner said many of the 525 drivers in Greater Victoria are starting to reach retirement age.

White said the biggest surprise in her new job is that bus riders will help keep problem passengers in line. “When you’re driving a bus you’ve got 20 people who are ready to throw someone off before you even know you’ve got a problem,” said White. “But I don’t encourage people to do that.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com