RTA updates employee and bus driver policies after complaints

Focus on being sensitive to passengers and surroundings

By Katherine Nettles

The Gunnison Valley Rural Transit Authority (RTA) board approved some revisions to the RTA’s employee policies and procedures this month in response to recent concerns about driver conduct with music or radio shows on the RTA buses. The board approved the updated document unanimously on November 3.

The policy conversation began back in August when a bus rider reported that a driver had been playing a controversial talk show radio program and refused requests from riders to turn it off. Questions about what kinds of music or talk shows are appropriate for the bus also led to a closer look at the employee policies for the RTA. 

After extensive discussion, RTA executive director Scott Truex and Alpine Express vice president of Gunnison Valley operations Jon Galle reviewed the current RTA and Mountain Express policies and procedures and, at the request of board members, recommended some updates during the November meeting.

First Galle addressed employee training and the training manual, and then he addressed the transit policies and procedures. 

 “Essentially the whole process concentrates on taking care of our passengers, and taking care of our employees also,” Galle summarized. He said there have been several instances lately in which riders required assistance on the bus, whether using a wheelchair or having other needs. “This highlighted for us to take back to our drivers how sensitive and how mindful they need to be with handling the people that we travel with on a daily basis,” said Galle.

He said many RTA employees were not very comfortable with the ADA lift operations on the bus and described a two-day training course for all employee trainers focusing on passenger assistance, safety and sensitivity. Each employee trainer goes through this two-day training, and then all RTA drivers go through a half-day training, he said. “It’s intense but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. This included learning ADA lift operations and passenger assistance, as well as driver-rider interactions and “that helps our drivers be better about their jobs.” 

Galle said the RTA policy on music is that it be generic and neutral. He said there were one or two drivers who had been insensitive to their environment in the past, whether with music/talk show choices or general demeanor, and he said the organization has worked hard to address the issues with those drivers and feels confident the issue is now resolved. He said drivers are also trained to be congenial with all riders, with greetings and farewells to ensure everyone feels welcome.

RTA board member Laura Puckett Daniels emphasized the importance of drivers being sensitive to their environment and being aware of how others might be feeling when they ride the bus. She had also asked previously to update some of the language in the policies and procedures document to reflect more gender-neutral pronouns, which Truex confirmed they had done. 

“These changes are made according to how we talked about them at the last meeting,” said Truex.     

The RTA also adopted a few changes in its policy, including that it no longer allows standing passengers (this has been true for years but had not been updated in writing); prohibits vaping in addition to smoking; and allows hockey bags onboard for those commuting to hockey practice and games up and down valley at certain times of the day.

The RTA board adopted the document changes unanimously.

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