• Who’s driving the LRT?
Meet Peter Dornan, 58, an experienced OC Transpo bus driver who will be one of 50 rail operators driving the trains this fall. Matt Harrison talked with Dornan about the challenges he’ll be facing — and what’s going on inside that cab
Who’s “driving”? It’s similar in some respects to driving a bus, because you’re still aware of your surroundings and ready to react to what’s going on around you. But with the automatic mode, there’s much more computerization, so the responsibility is taken from me until I see something that requires me to act. There might be any possible problems ahead of me — issues with the track, overhead lines, trespassers, animals ...
What else might happen — jumpers? I’m being trained for all kinds of scenarios ... At some point in your career, the possibility exists that this will happen. I think there’s not much you can do if someone is determined to do that. We have to be aware at all times that this possibility exists and, if possible, stop the train before it happens. At this point in the training, it’s more about how we, as human beings, deal with it. I’m not any more anxious about this possibility than when I was driving a bus for 36 years.
Is access to the driver restricted? The doors [to the cab where the driver sits] will be locked at all times when in operation. There will be instances when I will have to leave the cab — for example, if there is a problem with a door or if there’s an issue on the track — but anytime I have to get out of the cab, I need to contact headquarters. I have to ask them for permission to leave and explain why it’s necessary — this includes needing to go to the washroom!
What about disputes, harassment, and medical emergencies? There’s the passenger intercom [located throughout each train car], and if someone alerts me to a situation using this, I then radio control and OC Transpo has special constables who attend to that.
What can you do (or not do) while driving? Just like a bus, you have to be alert at all times. You can’t be using any phones, radios, etc. When you’re in the cab, your focus is on the train’s movement and the safety of the passengers.
What kinds of weather could shut down the train? There’s no weather condition that I’m aware of where we’d stop the train.
What will you (or won’t you) miss about driving a bus? I thought I was going to miss the interaction with passengers, but I must admit, at the moment, I’m just loving this. What I won’t miss about driving a bus is all the fare issues. By the time people get onto my train, all the fare issues — the biggest bane of the bus driver’s life — have already been taken care of.
Driver’s seat Dornan sits in a training simulator, which includes a mock-up of the seating area. The simulator lets him become familiar with the cockpit, driving underground, and where passengers will be situated