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Transit drivers aren’t just responsible for ferrying passengers safely; they are also ‘the eyes of the community,’ one driver said.DEBORAH BAIC/The Globe and Mail

Job: Transit driver

Salary: Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) drivers, formally called operators, start off making $24.06 an hour. After 12 months, the pay rises to $26.53 an hour, and to $31.40 after 24 months. The operators have a 40-hour work week, according to the TTC. In British Columbia's Lower Mainland, TransLink drivers start off earning about $20.44 an hour, which rises to $30.38 (as of April, 2014) for those with five or more years of seniority.

Education: Most cities across Canada require their transit drivers to have a high school diploma. That said, many drivers have a postsecondary education. Some go directly into the industry after school, while others choose it as a second career after a job change or having been downsized from another profession. Operators need to have a clean driving record and complete the appropriate training to handle their transit vehicles.

The role: They don't just steer the bus, subway car or train in the right direction. Many drivers are the "eyes of the community," said Joel Pinsk, a former TTC driver who is now a bus training instructor with the same organization. So when they see an accident or a transformer down on their route, they help secure the area and advise transit control. Drivers are also informal tour guides for visitors and often act as unofficial therapists for riders looking for someone to chat with as they travel to their destination.

By the numbers: There are about 85,000 bus drivers, subway operators and streetcar drivers in Canada, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. About 33,800 were in Ontario, 20,600 in Quebec, 10,500 in Alberta and 9,000 in British Columbia.

Job prospects: As cities become increasingly congested and society more environmentally conscious, the number of transit operators is expected to increase. While some transit services are under pressure owing to government austerity programs, Canada's growing population, particularly in urban centres, is expected to mean an increasing demand for public transit and, in turn, drivers.

Challenges: Drivers must work shifts, including nights, split shifts, weekends and holidays, with irregularly scheduled days off. The job also requires a mix of driving and diplomacy skills. Drivers may have to deal with aggressive or rude people on board their vehicles. "We are sometimes referees," Mr. Pinsk said. There are also rare instances when drivers are physically or verbally assaulted on the job.

Why they do it: It's a stable job with opportunities to advance for those interested, Mr. Pinsk said. It's also a good job for someone who enjoys meeting and talking to different types of people. Of course, a love for driving is also a must.

Misconceptions: "A lot of people think we're uneducated," Mr. Pinsk said, who says the TTC has a highly educated work force. "When people venture up to talk to us, they are often surprised that we can carry on a conversation," he said. Also, when a driver gets off the bus and comes back with a coffee, it's not necessarily because they needed a caffeine jolt. Sometimes, it's because they were on a bathroom break and are just following the "washrooms are for customers only," rule of some restaurants en route.

Give us the scoop: Are you a transit operator or driver in Canada or do you want to be? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

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