What Does a Transit Operator Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A transit operator drives a passenger vehicle used for public or private passenger transportation. This may be a bus, light rail train, trolley car, or tram. Work in this field requires training to learn how to operate vehicles and get familiar with the rules of the transit organization. In addition to driving passengers safely and efficiently, a transit operator handles fares, transfers, and other matters on board. They may also take action to maintain order in the event of problems.

Many transit operators are employed by urban commuter train lines.
Many transit operators are employed by urban commuter train lines.

At the start of the shift, the transit operator may inspect the vehicle to confirm it is in good working order. Drivers getting off shift can alert arriving staff to any issues they need to be aware of, such as traffic, blockages, or problems with passengers. Once a transit operator is satisfied that a vehicle is safe and operable, it can be driven along a set route. Some drivers operate on a dispatch basis; the driver may, for instance, drive a paratransit van to pick up people with disabilities when they call to request assistance.

As passengers board, the transit operator can take fares or ask to see transfers and passes. The driver is responsible for making sure people are safely seated, and monitors passengers for signs of safety threats or issues like theft and harassment on board. Transit operators can remind passengers to follow the rules or may ask them to get off if they do not behave appropriately. They also have the authority to call the police for assistance if a situation becomes serious.

Passengers may receive transfers when they provide cash fares. They can also ask the transit operator for information about routes and schedules. As public employees, transit operators may be expected to have information about tourist destinations and other major sites in the area so they can help passengers. Someone might ask which bus to take to reach the airport, for example, or could ask for information about which stop to use to access a specific business.

Private companies may use transit operators to handle buses and other vehicles that are not available for use by the public. These may be used for sightseeing, employee transportation, and activities like shuttling arrivals to and from airports. Some drivers act as tour guides to provide information to passengers, while others focus on driving, confirming that people should be on the vehicle, and keeping conditions on board safe and pleasant.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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