Like many other agencies out there, Whistler Transit has recently changed its hiring philosophy. It has looked at a behavioral-based hiring process, hiring applicants that have the behavioral mindset to be a successful operator, as opposed to just hiring for a driver.
Walchuk explains, “We have changed our hiring standards a little bit, looking for a customer service aspect. Being able to actually hire that person even if they don’t have a license and then training them, sending them for their license.” He mentions they just changed to this philosophy within the last six months.
“There are a lot of people out there that have excellent customer service and if given the chance to be a driver then they would excel.” He adds, “You can train the driving a lot easier than the customer service. Plus, if you’re not a driver, you don’t bring bad habits.” He emphasizes, “We can teach all the good stuff.
I ask Walchuk how the agency is able to maintain consistency with the varying driver schedule. “We train a driver trainer as one of our drivers so he is our core trainer for our group.” The core trainer puts new hires through a three-week driver training course and, he says, maintains training for returning drivers. “Once they return, we always put them through a day or two refresher.” He says, “We do the professional driver improvement course as well as defensive driving. If they’ve never driven transit, it is important that we get them on the routes, learning the routes and learning the timing to make sure that the timing is accurate.”
Getting Ready for Today and Tomorrow
Whistler/Squamish Transit is a management company that operates the transit for BC transit in the resort municipality of Whistler and Squamish. Whistler Transit has been in operation for 15 years now and the system has grown from six buses to its current fleet of 31 in Whistler. In Squamish it runs a smaller conventional service of three buses and paratransit operations.
The buses are owned by BC Transit, Whistler/Squamish Transit operates and maintains them for BC Transit. “We do all the maintenance, we run a full-time shop in our facility here with eight full-time mechanics.” He also explains, “The cost of the system is split between funding from the government, as well as BC Transit and the municipalities themselves.”
Whistler Transit runs on biodiesel and Walchuk says Whistler will be awarded the first hydrogen buses. “In the next 16 months we will be receiving 20 brand-new hydrogen fuel cell buses from BC Transit.” He tells me New Flyer is building the new buses. “The first one is being built as we speak and we should see it this August for trial runs and the rest of the fleet will be delivered October of 2009 for the winter season and for the Olympics.”
Walchuk says there is talk of an additional 100 to 120 transit buses in the area for the Olympics themselves. “We’re currently waiting for the RFP to run the additional buses that will be coming in for the transit system.” He continues, “There is talk of an additional 100 to 120 transit buses for the Olympics themselves, they may not be a part of our transit management plan.
“What I mean by that, we won’t necessarily be running them, there may be a different company that gets the bid for that. Our facility right now can’t handle that many buses,” he says.
“It will be running in our area, so we will definitely be doing schedules and working with them or getting information to them that they may need. For the Olympics you will just see buses 24-7 on the road.”
There will also be possible mobile fueling stations, as well as staging areas for buses in Squamish. “VANOC, the Vancouver Olympic Committee, they’re the ones that are in charge of doing the RFPs for that and organizing that,” explains Walchuk. “They’re basically going to organize the system, the buses that they want so we just need to work around what they want.”
Another important component is security. BC Transit was awarded some funding from the provincial government for the program Transit Secure. “They’ve hired a consultant team to go around on all the properties to assess and make recommendations for everyday security,” says Walchuk. “But for us, it will be for the Olympics as well.” He stresses, “Security will, of course, be a big issue.”