My aversion to conservative talk radio of any variety knows no limits. Actually, that may be an exaggeration. There are five items in my “must avoid at all cost list” and they are:
- Sock Puppets
- Conservative Talk Radio
- Any Vampire-Based Movie
The first three of this list are self-evident as bastions of evil in our society and Vampire movies—how creative is that? I can just hear the ten thousandth pitch to big time Hollywood producers on yet another blood sucker film “No! This time it’s a vampire movie with a twist!”
But as you can see, Conservative Talk Radio rates up there.
To be fair, it’s not just Conservative Talk Radio—it’s all political talk radio. I hate it all: left wing, right ring, no wing. I would rather lick the sanding belt of a 2.5 horse power industrial belt sander while in motion than listen to the blowhards on talk radio.
You wanna know what I like even less than listening to political talk radio? Responding to political talk radio. You would be more likely to see me front row of a Cher concert dressed in a full body zebra jumpsuit than hear me say anything in response to radio personalities.
That is, until now.
You see Oregon is home of the up and coming conservative talk show host named Lars Larson. He’s a locally raised media personality who has gained a traction because of syndication and the internet. He has made his way on a foundation of conservative ideals that is very appealing and has an earnest personality such that even if you disagree with him, you may still find likable.
I don’t think that Lars is evil. I don’t see him in a black tower meeting with Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes and Ann Coulter, sitting at some long table while lightning slashes across a darkened sky. Like I am to most radio blowhards, I’m gloriously indifferent to Lars Larson most of the time.
That is until he talks about driving a bus.... Then it’s on. Attack drivers and I will come out swinging—not with name calling and BS, but with facts and logic. You see, like Lars, bus drivers are not the evil beings he would like to paint them as. They are hard workers who do a difficult job and usually I stick to telling their stories. But attack us and it’s time you and I had a talk, Lars.
So what did Lars say? I will get to that in a moment.
First let’s look at the foundations of what Lars believes.
1. Free Markets: Lars is a believer in as unfettered a free market as possible.
2. Trimet is a quasi governmental entity receiving its income from taxes
and paid fares.
Because of one and two, Lars does not believe that there should be
publicly funded transportation.
Lars Larson’s History Towards Trimet.
Lars enjoys a very easy target in Trimet because we have a management team that lacks true leadership qualities and tends to shoot themselves in the foot. Drivers, if seen only by what they do wrong, make an easy target as well. Ignore the good and see only wrong and anyone looks bad. Our union has it’s own share of missteps that makes them an easy target as well.
Because of the above history and foundations, it’s difficult to have a discussion with Lars about the role and future of Trimet. Because of the above, he has fallen into a common syndrome, call it a logical trap, that many fall into when they believe that an entire endeavor is evil or bad. I call it the “They are All Evil Trap,” or TAAET.
An example of this would be the Vietnam war or the Afghan war. People who see them as evil endeavors can see no good in any action done by the soldiers. In fact, they would go so far as to blame the soldiers. They will see no good in their actions and amplify any mistakes or misdeeds by the soldiers.
There are other examples, ones that Lars Larson may even relate to, being a Conservative in the Pacific Northwest where Mao is seen as almost left wing enough to get elected. You see, here Conservatives take a bashing, Nothing a Republican or Conservative can say or do will ever be good enough. I’m sure he is familiar with this role.
The “They are All Evil Trap”
TAAET Is a common approach used by Lars when attacking Trimet. This is multiplied by his lack of experience or knowledge of bus operations. Just like those who knock the military for actions they don’t understand—what an air strike can or can’t do, or if troops in combat can ID a target 100% accurately 100% of the time. You see, lack
of understanding turns the TAAET into an embarrassment.
Now lets look at what Lars said.
Lars Larson’s Statement.
(For simplicity I’m using rough numbers)
- School bus driverspay $18 Dollars an hour.
- City busDrivers pay $25 Dollars an hour.
So Lars looked at the pay disparity and stated. “What do city bus drivers do that is more than school bus drivers?” You see, to Lars the city bus drivers are overpaid and do the same job that the school bus
Though on the surface this argument seems compelling, it is really a product of a TAAET trap. There are large holes in the both the logic of this belief and the information it is based on.
Lars made this argument more than a month ago and I was hesitant to say anything about it. Even if it is an attack on drivers, it is part of Lars’s TAAET so obviously he believes the drivers are evil if the institution is evil. Now though, I have sifted through his argument and believe I have a response that is compelling and, most of all, based on facts about driving city buses that Lars did not have when he made
I refuse to call in to Lars’ show for two reasons: After listening to calls where he is challenged I see there are two reoccurring tactics that are employed. The first is a forced response, This is when Lars forces the caller through repetition of single question to answer what he wants without the caller being able to give it a context. The next is that he can simply cut off the caller’s Microphone and force him to listen and make it sound to the audience as if he is winning a debate. He employs the above two tactics either apart or together very effectively and I refuse to have a debate under these conditions.
No debate can ever be fair when one can force the other to answer a question and yet not respond when asked a question. No debate can ever be fair if your opponent can silence you at will. These are what I call bully tactics and Lars justifies them with the statement that “It’s my show.”
Well Lars, if you would like to come to my show where I can force you to answer only my questions, where I can turn your Microphone on and off at my leisure and the debate is done in my surroundings, a.k.a. My show… Well I won’t be risking much to say I bet you $100 dollars I win that debate.
So to defend my fellow bus drivers I will use the most open and far-reaching medium I have. My blog.
Here is my counter statement as to why Lars Larson is dead wrong about Trimet Bus Drivers
It is obvious why Lars Larson has come to his statement about the pay of city busdrivers vs. school bus drivers.
One is his belief that the very institution of pubic-funded transit is corrupt has lead him to believe that its drivers must therefore be corrupt. That drivers are overpaid is inescapable—not because of any compelling argument, but because it must be so according to his belief system (I will prove this soon enough).
The other reason Lars has come to the conclusion he has is his simple ignorance of both jobs. Looking at a profession they have no experience in and giving a rough opinion comparing it to a different profession, while lacking any insight or experience into either, is simply folly.
Who would accept criticism or, worse yet, comparison between jobs from someone who knows nothing of either? By this logic, saying security guards and cops are the same, one could say that trolley conductor on the Astoria Oregon riverfront is the same as a locomotive engineer on a cross country run. Such comparisons are so flawed as to be laughable.
I will now analyze the reasoning behind Lars’s argument and then submit evidence for my own beliefs. Unlike Lars, I will have some basis for comparison.
Refutation #1 Error in Logic.
Remember above I said that Lars’s argument is a product of his hatred of Trimet? I called it a TAAET or The Are All Evil Trap. You may not have agreed with me, you may have been so enamored with the numbers and so predisposed toward that TAAET yourself that you fail to see the logical loophole in this statement.
To reveal this I must trust you here to clear your mind. If you believe that Lars is right then this should be no risk to you. Just clear your mind for a second of the argument being made.
Maybe think of walking through a nice mountain meadow… are you there? Good.
Now let’s not jump back into the argument. Let’s jump instead into the math. Oh, look up ahead in the meadow: an old fashioned chalk board. Hurry up and get there. You got some math to do.
Ok let’s not Label anything Trimet drivers or school bus drivers. Remember, I said we are just looking at the logic of the argument—at the bare bones math. So let’s write it on the board. We don’t even need to look at the numbers. We know that $X is more than $Y so lets write that down
$X > $Y
Not hard to do. Let’s accept Lars’s statement that $X does the same work as $Y.
So if $X is greater than $Y can you now tell me two ways to make them equal? I will give you a moment to look around the pasture and wonder who put a chalkboard here. Ok ready!
Solution 1: through subtraction ($X - $Z) = $Y.
Solution 2: by addition $Y = ( $Y + $Z).
Now the question of logic. Forget about the entire bus argument. We are just looking at the math. What solution is more right than another? Is either solution better than another based on the math? It is only when we add our biases to these numbers, when we add our arguments, that we get the solution we want.
But the numbers are compelling in neither way. Void of biases, with no further data either, city busdrivers are ove paid and should be paid less or school bus driversare underpaid and should be paid more.
Stripped of bias, these solutions are equivalent given that they each do the same work. Although you may claim that your political bias is superior and that may or may not be so you cannot say that math supports your conclusion. The logic of the math is neutral here.
So What is the Real Question?
The real question that Lars does not want you to ask is the crux of the problem. You see, he doesn’t want you to think deeper; he wants you to react on bias under the guise of mathematical logic. Now that we have
disproven a logical mathematical premise in the above refutation, let’s get to the real question..
You see, this isn’t merely an academic statement to be dismissed. It’s very real and important to how we think of this problem.
You have the Lars approach that says “Quick everyone jump into your Ideological boats and start paddling the same direction you always
I’m saying let’s get to the heart of it.
Bus Drivers are paid $25
School Bus driver are paid $18
The Difference is $7
Lets check the math there.
25 - 18 = 7
Yup! And they say that public schools suck... HA!
So the real question is this…
Is there a free market explanation for the difference in pay of $7 or is it as Lars would have you believe in the second part of his statement:
“All overpayment caused by our unions”
Once again, I’m going to have to rely on your honesty to make that judgment.
So do School bus drivers and city bus drivers do the exact same job? Or
does the city bus driver do an additional $7 worth of work?
Now before you jump into your ideological boat and start rowing, may I please be allowed to state my case? Thank you. Now clear your minds and let's look at the facts, shall we?
Item 1: More = More “People”
In our free market there are no guarantees, no promises. But overall
what does prevail is this: More = More. You score more baskets, kick
more field goals, get better ratings on the radio with your talk show
and overall you get more money. Not always. There are exceptions, but
by and large the premise of the free market is that people get what
they deserve, not what is ideologically is dictated—not what you want
or what politicians believe.
So as far as people are concerned, a city bus driver moves more people
in a day than school bus drivers do.
Yes I know there are slow routes for city buses, and the same is true for
school bus routes, but overall driving a city bus in an 8 hour shift
you are moving more people.
Item 2: More = More Part 2 Hours
The average city bus driver spends more time behind the wheel on the
road. A few school bus drivers can compare, but full time city bus
drivers work longer shifts than their school driver brethren.
So… snap quiz
Question 1 “Lars Larson...”
A. Did extensive research by talking with School Bus Drivers and City Bus Driver and sought out especially those driver that have done both jobs
B. Pulled his arugment out of his cake hole without consulting anyone who has done both jobs?
Question 2 “Dan Christensen…”
A. Actually talked to the many drivers at Trimet who moved up to city bus driver from school bus driver to gain insight as to the difference between the jobs and what job is harder.
B. Loves his Buick Park Avenue Ultra
C. All of the above
So what would Lars do? He has two employees who both work hard but one works ten hours and one works seven. Even if their output is identical who is going to get the one raise he can afford?
A. Workers who show up early and stays late gets the raise.
B. I would rather lie and say the seven hour worker so Lars isn’t wrong.
What does the free market say?
More = More
That’s right. Not always, but eventually this rule prevails.
Item 3: More = More “More Miles More Stops”
Ok. I’m getting a bit repetitive with this one. Hands down city buses
cover far more miles and make far more stops. School buses count
their stops in a few dozens. Most city buses count their stops in a
few hundred. Sure there are exceptions, but there are exceptions for
More miles and more stops means more actions.
In almost every market in the type of transportation Lars favors (the
open free market) the drivers who travel more miles and do more work
get more money.
So the following question is for Lars.
In a free market who is more valuable? The worker who does ten units
of work or the worker who does thirty units of work, given that those
units are the same?
Come on Lars
Let me shut off your microphone and repeat the question, giving you one
chance to answer or I’ll hang up… no wait that is “What you would do?”
Please pick Lars I will wait for you:
A.) 10 units of work guy
B.) 30 units of work guy
Item 4: Physically Handicapped and saving money
City buses move more physically handicapped persons on average than
school buses. I’m not talking about Trimet lift program or the short
buses with lifts. I’m talking about regular buses. I buckle in,
strap down, help board and deboard more special needs riders in a
month then most school buses see in a year.
City buses move those who could not afford to get around in society
any other way. Scooters, strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, giant wheelchairs and crutches we get them all. All our city buses have ramps or
lifts and can accommodate almost anyone.
How does the city bus save money?
Well remember I mentioned that lift system above? It’s a small van-based bus system that picks up people who are physically challenged.
The cost to you the tax payer is about five times more for a lift then a
city bus. So the more people we move on a city bus the more money you,
the tax payers, save.
Unless you are against the mobility of those less able, this is a good
thing. It may not make up for all of that $7 difference, but it
is a part of it.
Item 5: Restricted Drivers
There are many people out there. Eventually almost everyone will
end up in this pool for one reason or another. Restricted drivers can
be medically caused: stroke victims and epilepsy are just a few of the many
medical conditions that will leave you unable to drive.
There also those who, through age or mental illness, may no longer be
able to manage the operations of a vehicle. To them, the bus is a
godsend, allowing them a quality of life that they could not have
There are those who have made mistakes in life. I know it may not be
publicly acceptable to advocate for those who have had their licensees
revoked through criminality or carelessness, but I know this: having
the option to ride the bus prevents them from getting behind that wheel again
and doing more damage.
School bus drivers deal with a few people in this category; a city bus driver
I don’t judge these people. I move them. I believe they deserve a
chance. Yes, it costs tax payers but I don’t see anyone out yelling that
some old guy or a stroke victim shouldn’t be riding a bus.
Item 6: More = More “Work Days”
You ever have one of those friends who keeps talking until they hang
themselves on their own argument? Well, Lars, now is your turn. I have
heard you on many occasions talking about teachers and how they don’t
even work a full year—that they have summers off.
Well most school bus drivers have summers off as well. (Yes most, I know about the exceptions.)
City bus drivers do not get the summer off. I know it may come as some
surprise to you Lars that city bus drivers actually… are you ready?
Work a full week of work, year round.
So. Lars. a driver that works more is usually--not always, but usually--paid more.
If you reduce city bus drivers’ pay to that of a school bus drivers’
are you giving them all three months off?
Isn’t that a benefit that an employee is choosing as a member of the
free market? I could work for A and get more pay, or work for B get paid
less and have more hours off?
If, as you say, both workers are doing the same job, who is overall move
valuabl:e a worker who gets three months off a year, plus weekend and
holiday; or one that rolls year round, including weekends and holidays?
By your own words about teachers and their three months off it’s
obvious you agree with me that bus drivers should be paid more.
Item 7: Foul Weather/Regional Emergency
Two years ago in the big snows that left this city paralyzed, the
buses kept rolling. It wasn’t perfect but we were out there. I didn’t
see any school bus drivers at all on those days. Where were they?
(Granted, one day was New Years Day) Even when school could be opened they
were grounded. When the chips are down the school buses are not
running but guess who is?
Come on Lars... that’s right: the city buses.
During that blizzard I slept under my boss’s desk, drove 16 to 18 hours every day,
and didn’t make it home for three days.
Not a single school bus driver in Portland was to be seen.
When there was a chance of having to evacuate NW Portland
neighborhoods because of a dangerous chemical leak, did the fire
department call school bus drivers? When there are riots, do the police
bring in school buses to back them up? When there is a crime scene,
are school buses called in to secure witnesses? When there is a fire
in an apartment and people are displaced, who provides a warming
Funny, I have done all of the above and never once did I see a school bus there.
So what does the free market say about workers who do more during
crisis situations? Like a clutch player on a basketball team who sinks
seven three-pointers in a playoff game: paid less or more?
Item 8: More is More Longer hours of service.
That’s right, we are rolling at quarter to four in the morning and our
last buses come in at almost three AM. This means we have drivers out
there far more often than School bus drivers. Never saw a school bus
after nine at night. I still drive my city bus for six or seven more
It’s not unusual for workers doing late work to get more pay. That was not
invented by our drivers unions.
Not every driver does this, but most are either working for hours
before the first school bus even fires up and are rolling long after
the last school bus parks in their yard.
Need I say it here? More = More.
Ride my bus and see how many school buses you see on my evening
commute through Rush Hour.
Item 9: "The Worse Roads"
The routes for school bus drivers are planned out and are designed to
minimize their risk to roads that are dangerously close or busy.
This doesn’t always work, but it helps, Not to mention that most of school
bus driving is done on surface side streets. Again: not all, but most of
City buses go everywhere. We regularly drive down roads that are
dangerously tight many, many times a day. How many school buses
travel down NW 23rd? What do you think that’s like driving it at
Christmas with everything from pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars,
motorcycles and freight trucks all inches from your mirrors?
If you commute home to SE tonight, see how many school buses you see
going through the Sheridan curves or crossing the bumper to bumper
close in confines of the Ross island bridge.
See how many school buses you see using narrow side roads on the Hawthorne
or the Steel bridges.
There are many more sucktacular road—too many to note. The funny thing
is, you don’t see Schools buses on them unless they are lost.
So again Lars I ask you: more risky job vs. less risky job?
Who should get more pay? What does the free market say about that?
Item 10: Taking Action
To be sure, school bus drivers do move a precious cargo. They are
chained to their buses and guard those kids. That is in no way bad,
but city bus drivers can take actions.
Here is a test. What actions have Trimet employees taken?
A. Tackled man assaulting a woman held him for police
C. Pulled out fire extinguisher out and stopped a car fire before it could
D. Called for medical help and saved a mans life.
F. Spotted an 11 year old daughter who had run away from her mom (ok
this one was a few years back, but it hits home with me cause it was my daughter).
There are more things than I can list here. A-E of the above are all recent.
We are not cops or firemen, but we are free to take reasonable actions
outside of our bus.
Item 11: Helping the Injured or Sick
You may not think it but I move more sick and injured people in a day
than any ambulance. Sure, most of mine are not critical, but then again
most ambulances are not moving all critical cases as well.
One of my most common questions is someone getting on and asking “Do
you go by (fill in hospital) on this route?” I have had everyone on
board my bus, from people with allergic reaction, cuts, broken arms. You name
it and they have ridden my bus.
You know what else? I help them get home. Although a school bus driver
may move people after they are injured, they have seldom have to deal with
injured people coming on their bus and seldom do they have a medical
crises on their bus. However, I’m hard pressed to find a driver who has
not had to call for medical support for a rider who can’t breathe or who
has chest pains.
Point 12: Money Handling, no one pays on a school bus
Not a big thing, but I have to assist people all the time with
payments. This makes me a money handler though a soft money handler to
be sure. I’m always dealing with payments.
Usually if two jobs are the same and one has the additional task of
money handling or assistance then guess who is paid more.
Something tells me the money handlers at the movie box office get more
than $7 an hour. Now I only do about a third of the money work that a
box office worker does so let’s say it’s $2.25 worth of work per hour handling
money and fare questions.
Part 13: Criminals
You may be surprised to know this. Many criminals take the bus. I
know it’s a shocker—criminals on a bus. I remember once picking up the
weekly busted magazine from a 7-11. We sat around the table at
work circling all the people we knew from our runs. You don’t want to
know how many they are.
Where do they go when they first get out of jail? On the bus.
Dealing with these piranhas is sometimes taxing and often dangerous.
Don’t see these people on a school bus I hope. If you do it’s
going to be national news to be sure.
Last week they had a crack down on transit and cops all over the
Portland metro area were at transit centers. On my break I got to talk
to the cops and they could not believe that we could not carry mace or
guns. They confessed that they would not do our job if they were
We do it all the time.
What would the free market say about that?
Two jobs that are the same: one has kids, one has criminals?
Part 14: The Deranged, Violent and The Ones Who Are Off Their Meds.
We call them “one percenters”: the people that are spoiling for a fight or are so
disconnected with reality that they do not see the consequences of
their actions. We get those rare individuals who believe that today it’s
time to go off their meds.
In truth its far less than 1% on almost every run, but weekly you come
into contact with someone who scares you on the bus.
Bus driver assaults are not as uncommon as Trimet would have you
believe because most of the assaults they don’t record as assaults or
the drivers just don’t report.
I can remember one year when a Trimet spokesperson said in the news
that only 8 drivers were assaulted in a the last year. I was at work, so I looked around
the table I was sitting at and we had 5 of them. What are the odds
that we would have 5 of them out of 900?
Just listen to the city bus radio in the evening on a weekend to hear what goes on.
Tell me if that souunds like delivering children from a fixed points, to fixed points.
Do I need to ask about a comparison with school bus drivers? What is
common for us is rare for them. I can promise you that.
Part 15: Living Tom Tom Guide
Apparently a magic wand is waived over each city bus driver and they
are expected to know every place and shop location in the region. We
do our best we can given that we must also drive a bus. I do
everything from trip planning, to tour guide commentary to assisting
the truly lost.
No one is flagging down a school bus, hopping on board and asking how
to get to the Hillsboro airport.
Nothing big here, really, but one of the many small ways we are
different than school bus drivers.
Ok, there are many more points I would love to go into:
Part 16: fewer cars, more drivers choose to ride Trimet = less traffic
and less pollution.
Part 17: Cyclists can board our buses, giving them more options, less traffic.
Part 18: Economic opportunity to those starting out or unemployed
Part 19: Trimet transports many of the High School kids in Portland as well
The problem I'm having is selecting a few items for this list. I got upto to 30+ but on advice from my editor I have cut them in half.
As we have already discovered, there is no implied logical mathematical proof that bus drivers are overpaid. It could be that school bus drivers are underpaid. The math does not imply one way or another; it just states a difference.
Clearly there is no basis for the premise that driving a city bus is the same as driving a school bus. How can that be so?
As far as the $7 dollar difference in pay, I have laid out 19 reasons (above) why city bus driving is more difficult overall than school bus driving. I will grant you that some of my listed items above are more compelling than others, but even if you discount most of them, you will have to at least grant me this:
That I’m making a valid argument.
You may not value the reasons I have given the same. Maybe you think we should only get $4 more or maybe you think after reading this we should get $10 more. Either way you are agreeing with me that Lars’s premise is logically flawed and factually inaccurate due to his lack of knowledge and experience behind the wheel.
School bus driving and city bus driving are not the same.
The evidence presented here proves the additional difficulties city bus drivers face.
I will leave you with one more bit of evidence. City bus drivers often retire and become school bus drivers. School bus drivers almost never retire and become city bus drivers.
I’m sure you can determine what that means.
As for me, I don’t take it personally. With no logical footing, or experience in the field how could you know the truth? It’s not possible. It would be like me saying that your job is no different from the guy at KBOO working for free. So you should be paid nothing, just like that volunteer at KBOO.
Yes, I know that’s not accurate—it’s unfair to compare those two jobs. Guess what? I know I’m wrong in my comparison and I will admit it. I wonder if you will.
Roll easy my friends