Bus Drivers, Subway Operators and Other Transit Operators - What They Do

Bus drivers, subway operators and other transit operators drive buses and operate streetcars, subway trains and light rail transit vehicles to transport passengers on established routes. Bus drivers are employed by urban transit systems, school boards or transportation authorities and private transportation companies. Streetcar, subway and light rail transit operators are employed by urban transit systems.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

Bus drivers and streetcar operators

  • Drive buses or streetcars to transport passengers along established routes to local destinations
  • Drive buses to transport passengers and goods to intercity or long distance destinations
  • Drive sightseeing tour buses to transport passengers locally or over long distances
  • Drive buses equipped for wheelchair accessibility, and aid passengers in boarding
  • Provide passengers with information on fares, schedules and stops
  • Collect fares, issue and validate transfers, check bus passes and record transactions
  • Conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections of vehicle
  • Communicate with passengers, dispatchers or other drivers using two-way radio systems
  • Report delays, mechanical problems and accidents
  • May provide information on points of interest during sightseeing tours
  • May load and unload passengers' luggage and express freight.

School bus drivers

  • Drive school buses to transport children between school and home or on excursions
  • Ensure children's safety when boarding and leaving buses and crossing street while bus is stopped
  • Maintain control of student activities during travel to prevent distractions or behaviours that could compromise safety
  • May transport adults outside of school hours on chartered trips.

Subway train and light rail transit operators

  • Operate subway or rail transit vehicles as part of two-person crew
  • Observe signals at crossings and arrival and departure points
  • Operate controls to open and close transit vehicle doors
  • Report delays, malfunctions and accidents to control unit
  • Ensure passenger safety and welfare in emergencies, and direct passengers during evacuation procedures.

Job titles

  • public passenger transit driver
  • bus driver
  • motor coach driver
  • streetcar operator
  • subway train operator
  • school bus driver
  • light rail transit operator
  • sightseeing tour driver
  • bus operator
  • transit operator - transportation
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Up to three months of on-the-job training, including classroom instruction, is usually provided for all occupations in this unit group.
  • A minimum of one year of safe driving experience is required.
  • Bus drivers require a Class B, C, E or F driver's licence in Ontario, and a Class 2 driver's licence is required in all other provinces and the territories.
  • An air brakes endorsement and first aid certificate may be required.
  • Experience as a public transit bus driver is usually required for subway and light rail transit operators.
  • A three-year program leading to the Certified Professional Bus Operator (CPBO) designation is available for bus drivers.

Essential Skills


  • Read short text entries on forms and log books, e.g. read about equipment malfunctions on inspection reports and vehicle maintenance logs. (1)
  • May read notes, e.g. school bus operators read notes from teachers and parents to learn about drop off locations. (1)
  • Read bulletins, notices and memos, e.g. read bulletins to learn about changes to routes and company policies. (2)
  • May read online and print promotional material, e.g. tour bus operators read promotional material to learn about tourist attractions and historical events. (3)
  • Read a variety of manuals, e.g. read manuals to learn defensive driving techniques and the procedures that govern the operation of vehicles used for public transportation. (3)
  • Read policies and protocols, e.g. read company policies to learn about work procedures and protocols to learn how to respond to emergencies and passengers with contagious diseases. (3)
  • May read regulations and agreements, e.g. may read regulations, such as the Highway Traffic Act, that govern the operation of buses, subway trains and light-rail transit vehicles, and read collective bargaining agreements to learn about workers' rights. (4)

Document use

  • Locate data, such as speeds, grades and heights, on road signs, e.g. scan road signs that specify minimum and maximum speeds. (1)
  • Locate data from tags and tickets, e.g. scan dates and times on bus passes and transfers to ensure they are valid. (1)
  • Locate data from signal lights, dashboard displays and gauges, e.g. locate speed, pressure, temperature and electrical energy readings from dashboard displays. (1)
  • Complete a variety of forms, e.g. complete shift summary reports by entering data, such as hours worked, passenger counts, identification numbers, times, dates and monetary values. (2)
  • Locate travel routes using road maps and digital displays, e.g. use maps and global positioning system (GPS) displays to locate travel routes and distances. (2)
  • Locate data, such as gross vehicles weights, speeds, times, locations and axel counts in a variety of lists and tables, e.g. scan schedules listing vehicle and route numbers, routing instructions and departure and arrival times. (3)
  • Complete drivers' daily log books by entering data, such as odometer readings, dates, distances, cycles, load numbers, weights, locations, driving times, rest periods and hours of service. (3)


  • Write reminders and notes to co-workers, e.g. write notes to warn co-workers about equipment malfunctions. (1)
  • Write comments in the remarks sections of forms, e.g. write notes about the condition of bus trim and finish on vehicle inspection reports. (2)
  • Write short reports, e.g. write short reports to describe incidents, such as minor acts of vandalism. (2)
  • May write detailed reports, e.g. write detailed reports for supervisors, claims investigators and police to describe incidents, such as accidents and thefts. (3)


  • May collect cash fares and give change. (1)
  • May count and figure out totals, e.g. count passengers, pieces of luggage and the number of hours worked. (1)
  • Compare readings of electrical energy, temperature and pressure to the operating norms of buses. (1)
  • Compare arrival times at checkpoints to schedule times to determine if they are running on schedule. (1)
  • May estimate distances to travel against the level of fuel in the tank to determine when to refuel. (1)
  • May calculate fares. They determine fares according to factors, such as group size, time of day, number of zones travelled and ages of passengers. (2)
  • May total receipt records to balance shift reports. (2)
  • May calculate summary averages, e.g. calculate average driving speed and rate of fuel consumption. (2)
  • May estimate how long it will take to cover a certain distance, based on speed, number of stops, weather and road conditions. (2)

Oral communication

  • Listen to announcements made by dispatchers and other drivers over two-way and citizen-band radios. (1)
  • Greet customers, make announcements and provide them with information about fares, routes, stop times, transfers and delays in schedules. (2)
  • May speak with suppliers, e.g. speak with mechanics about equipment faults. (2)
  • Talk to supervisors about topics, such as hours of work, routes, job tasks and expectations. (2)
  • Participate in meetings, e.g. discuss road hazards, routes and vehicle operations in meetings with co-workers. (2)
  • Communicate with other drivers and dispatchers by radio, e.g. report the progress of the trip, discuss traffic, accidents, delays or road conditions. (2)
  • May talk to teachers, principals and parents regarding students' behaviour. (2)
  • Defuse and de-escalate confrontations between hostile and uncooperative passengers, e.g. use appropriate language, gestures and tone of voice to de-escalate potentially violent conflicts between passengers. (3)


  • Make driving decisions, such as when to pass, whether to proceed through an intersection and whether there is enough space to pull over by a sidewalk. (1)
  • Refer to route and schedule information and speak with dispatchers to learn about route changes. (1)
  • Encounter delays due to construction, heavy traffic, bad weather and closed roads. They inform dispatchers about the delays and find alternate routes around affected areas. (2)
  • Encounter mechanical problems. They assess the situation, make adjustments and arrange for mechanical help and alternative transportation for passengers if necessary. (2)
  • Decide if vehicles are safe to operate. They consider the pre-trip, en-route and post-trip inspections. (2)
  • Decide to deny transportation to passengers who are disruptive or who board without sufficient money for fares. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of road conditions. They consider weather and road conditions, spaces between vehicles, speeds and the behaviours of other drivers. (2)
  • Evaluate the mechanical condition of buses. They consider the results of inspections and how well the vehicle operates. (2)
  • May plan tasks to ensure they meet the schedule. For example, city bus drivers may plan to be at certain points at the right time to pick up or drop off transfer passengers and may pre-punch transfers to save time. Sightseeing-tour drivers plan when to refuel and which restaurants to use to stay on schedule. Bus drivers and subway and other transit operators may encounter unexpected problems, such as bad weather conditions, construction or passenger emergencies. Such circumstances may cause the operators to reorganize their routes or activities. (2)
  • Refer to databases and operator's manuals to find information about the operation of vehicles and special procedures. (2)
  • May use travel books to find information about tour sites, the location of restaurants and which stations sell diesel fuel. (2)
  • Encounter medical emergencies, such as a passenger having a heart attack. They stop the vehicle, call dispatchers for emergency help, provide basic first aid and calm other passengers. (3)
  • Encounter accidents. They use flares and cones to warn other drivers and prevent additional accidents. They deal with the injured and maintain control of the situation until emergency workers arrive on the scene. (3)
  • Decide how to deal with emergency situations, e.g. decide how to contend with medical emergencies and accidents in manners that minimize further complications. (3)
  • Evaluate the severity of vehicle faults. They consider pressure, temperature and energy gauge readings, unusual vibrations, noises and odours and the outcomes of inspections. (3)

Digital technology

  • May use databases to access vehicle information and job assignments and to input information about trips. (1)
  • May exchange text messages with dispatchers to share information and provide updates. (1)
  • May use calculators and electronic data processing devices to calculate conversions, e.g. convert kilometres to miles, litres to gallons and speeds in kilometres per hour to miles per hour. (1)
  • May use computer-controlled equipment to enter fares. (1)
  • Use global positioning systems (GPS) to locate travel routes and estimate travel times. (1)
  • May exchange email and attachments with co-workers, such as dispatchers and supervisors. (2)
  • May use browsers and search engines to access weather reports. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by trainers, suppliers, employers and associations. (2)
  • May use fleet tracking software to generate printouts of load information and send and record data, such as speeds, locations, routes and the status of equipment, such as auxiliary motors. (2)
  • May operate audio and visual surveillance equipment to observe passengers and equipment. (2)

Other Essential Skills

Working with Others

Bus drivers and subway and other transit operators mainly work independently while co-operating with other drivers, dispatchers and mechanics to ensure high-quality customer service. They consult other drivers and dispatchers to co-ordinate their routes and work together if problems occur. Occasionally, when there is an overload on a trip, bus drivers may drive in tandem, co-ordinating who will drive non-stop and who will make pickups.

Continuous Learning

Bus drivers and subway and other transit operators have a recurring need to learn. This includes learning to drive new bus models or preparing for driver refresher tests.