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Subway and Streetcar Operators

Subway and Streetcar Operators operate trains usually within short distance in a single metropolitan area. These operators are the drivers of subway trains, or any other type of urban train system used for internal transportation. Subway and streetcar operators have similar duties. A major difference between subway and streetcar operators is the amount of contact they have with passengers. Subway operators rarely speak to passengers. Streetcar operators drive electric-powered trains that move on tracks set into streets.

Subway operators control trains that transport passengers through cities and their suburbs. The trains run in underground tunnels, on the surface, or on elevated tracks. Operators must stay alert to observe signals along the track that indicate when they must start, slow, or stop their train. They also make announcements to riders, may open and close the doors of the train, and ensure that passengers get on and off the subway safely. Increasingly, the train’s speed and the amount of time spent at each station are controlled by computers and not by the operator. During breakdowns or emergencies, operators contact their dispatcher or supervisor and may have to evacuate cars.

Streetcar operators drive electric-powered streetcars, trolleys, or light-rail vehicles that transport passengers around metropolitan areas. Some tracks may be built directly into street pavement or have grade crossings, so operators must observe traffic signals and cope with car and truck traffic. Operators start, slow, and stop their cars so that passengers may get on and off easily. Operators may collect fares and issue change and transfers. They also interact with passengers who have questions about fares, schedules, and routes.

Role of Subway and Streetcar Operators

  • Drive commuter, electric-powered, and elevated trains
  • Subway operators rarely interact with passengers
  • Streetcar operators frequently interact with passengers
  • Open and close doors so that passengers can get in and out
  • Monitor the time to determine if they are on schedule
  • Operators attend meetings on driver and rider safety
  • Complete reports about their shift
  • Ensure the safe evacuation of passengers during a breakdown or emergency situation
  • Test vehicles during non-operating hours and report problems to management

Skills of Subway and Streetcar Operators

Communication skills:  Operators need good communication skills to converse effectively with each other to avoid accidents and to keep the trains on schedule.

Customer-service skills: Streetcar drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.

Hand-eye coordination:  These workers have to operate various controls while staying aware of their surroundings.

Hearing ability:  Good hearing is important for operators. They must be able to hear automated warning signals.

Visual ability: Excellent vision is required to drive safely. Operators must watch for signal changes and obstructions.

Some reported job titles

Train Operator, Light Rail Operator, Rail Operator, Combined Rail Operator, Streetcar Operator, Transit Operator, Trolley Operator, Light Rail Vehicle Operator (LRV Operator), Bus Operator, Rapid Transit Operator (RTO)

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