Friday, February 13, 2015

The saga that is the 90A

You lucky assholes who drive to the station will never know the struggle.

Over the past four years, I've been blessed with some fantastic drivers on the 90A. Unfortunately, most have heard or have been told who I am, either by description or by stop, and have been hesitant to tell me their names. I don't want a name so I can lampoon you online. I want a name so when I run into you at Home Depot I can say, 'Hey, Bill, what's up?!" Seriously. Purely friendly stuff here.

In September, after having the same four drivers rotating on the 90A morning route since forever, a new driver popped up. A rather sour fellow who many of us passengers felt needed a vacation. I tried to like him. I really did. But his customer service skills were terrible and God forbid you boarded with cash fare. He'd bark at customers to get a Presto card. There was an older gentlemen who visited his wife once a week for all of October while she was in the hospital in downtown Toronto, recovering from major bowel surgery. He was too nervous to drive downtown he had told our driver the first time he boarded and paid his fare. The driver didn't even acknowledge him. Hey, I get it that no one wants to be subjected to someone's life story, especially where there's a schedule to keep, but for chrissake, a smile doesn't hurt.

This driver rarely ever arrived at stops at the scheduled time. He ran, on average, eight to 13 minutes behind schedule. Looking at my PRESTO transactions for December, his track record was dismal. In my opinion, "on-time" is within five minutes of a scheduled stop, plus or minus. Unlike trains, buses have a lot of factors that can affect travel, but I'm being fair when I say weather and traffic are not the problem with the 90A.

The bus I take starts its route in Bowmanville, at Waverley Road and Baseline Road, at 6:18 am. It is 8.89 kilometres from its starting point to my bus stop. On average, the December driver would reach my stop seven to eight minutes late every morning. That's okay, right? I get to the bus stop usually eight minutes before the bus arrives just in case it were to run early. This has happened only once that I can recall but it's a fear every single bus passenger has. There's nothing worse when using a regional service or being in a rural area than missing a bus. It's usually an hour until the next one, or anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes if it's rush hour. This meant on average, in the cold, I was waiting 16 minutes for a bus, sometimes up to 25 minutes.

In January, we got a new driver. Many of us practically wept with joy because we all hoped this meant we would return to the level of service was had come to expect.


I am working on a formal letter to GO Transit. These drivers have been questioned by passengers (and me) and the answers have ranged from "as long as I get to the station by 7:13 ... ", "the times are only suggested" and "we're allowed to run a 10 minute window".

I hesitated about putting this online because I'm not out to get anyone into trouble. I just want to know why this particular travel window is a problem. Is it construction? Is it Tim Horton's? (Bowmanville folk will get this one) Is it traffic? Is it the bus? Is it difficult to drive the speed limit? Is it too dark? Is it too early?

If this route has become challenging then the schedule needs to be adjusted. That's all I'm after. It's not fair to any of us who arrive at our stop ON TIME to stand there for 10 to 15 minutes in these ridiculous temperatures for a bus.

Fix the schedules. Fix the route. Re-train the drivers. Let's just get this fixed.

This morning I had my husband drive me to the station because I really wasn't up for a 16+ minute wait. As we drove along the route, I saw fellow passengers waiting and one texted me to tell me the bus arrived at her stop 11 minutes late. Had we drove the entire route, without turning on Park Road in Oshawa, we would have seen my bus companion and picked her up. I really wanted to carpool the others but my husband wasn't up for it. He wasn't even up for driving me because he thought it was ridiculous he even had to, asking, "What the hell are you paying for then?"

Exactly, what am I paying for?


Anonymous said...

Buses are for suckers. I've yet to find a service - in any country I've lived - that works. They serve mainly poorer travellers (sorry CJ!) and thus don't get the attention other transit gets. Good luck with your uphill battle!

MATT said...

"he thought it was ridiculous he even had to, asking, "What the hell are you paying for then?""

Well, as you fairly laid out in your blog, sometimes one just isn't up for a wait in the cold. Same reason why I will sometimes take the GO Train instead of the TTC (on those RARE days when I don't have to pick up my daughter from daycare). Sometimes, the "usual" means by which we commute rubs us the wrong way and we'd like a temporary "upgrade". Whether that be a ride for part of the trip, or changing the method/transit agency we use; I don't think it's unreasonable.

In any event, I think he could have been a little more understanding. Maybe it was just too cold and early for him too? He strikes me as a fair kind of guy from what you've written before.

C.J. Smith said...

He played a late soccer game last night. Didn't get to bed til 1:30. He was grumpy plus he's irritated by the situation as much as I am. I wasn't mad at him. he wasn't mad. We're just irritated it's come to this. He has to get to work just like I do. If he drives me, he's late. If we go earlier, the sitter isn't up yet. What can you do? We can't do much and I had to catch the train today. The 7:53 was not an option

C.J. Smith said...

Someone wrote I should buy a car.

All that expense plus GO Transit fare just to get to a train station. No thanks.

Nahid said...

Since you're probably getting pretty fit now, it would probably be faster to bike to the station than to take the bus (though I wouldn't do it in the winter). Finding an appropriate route might be tough though.

C.J. Smith said...

Hi Nahid
I've thought about it.
Bloor is terrifying where I am. Highway 2 is a disaster and it's too far north.
BUT... I think with a proper road bike and the right tires, I could make this work.
The only drawback is sweat. Oh, and the whole walking the kid to the sitter ...
When she's older and going to school on her own I am seriously considering the bike.

Anonymous said...

I've read your rant about the bus being late. Not because of just one driver but it seems all of them. So it appears to me that maybe one of the problems lies with the passengers boarding the bus. Have you ever considered starting the trip from the beginning to get an accurate account as to why it could possibly be this way. Just like the fellow you said called to you and asked you to let him know when the bus was coming was sitting comfortably in his car at the stop, not waiting at the stop but near the stop. Which I imagine took time getting out of his vehicle kissed wife goodbye, collected his things then proceeding to the waiting bus, just for him to board. How about that Bowmanville carpool lot, I imagine those 20-30 people do something a little similar. Sitting warmly in their running vehicles till that bus is on the platform waiting for each and everyone of them to board. Throw in a ticket sale (ticket machine on platform) but, it's so much easier to get from the driver or someone needs a presto loaded all takes time. Could just be why your bus is always late.

C.J. Smith said...

Are you alleging that some time in September someone started a situation at the Bowmanville Park and Ride that forces the drivers running the 618 to 713 travel window to be late every day?
I don't think it's up to me to investigate this as I don't have a large news organization I can expense my cab fare to so I could get over to the park and ride at that hour.

I will be writing a follow up on Tuesday. I have heard from GO Transit where the schedule is to be adjusted and also there will be follow up by bus operations about the situation.

It's plausible it's stemming from one thing or maybe a combination of things. What ever it is, I have to trust it will be addressed.

C.J. Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krupo said...

Too bad the GO tracker app doesn't work for bus routes, eh?

Michael Suddard said...

I had similar issues with YRT's Viva Orange going from Dowmsview Station to York University to connect to the Viva Purple years ago.

The schedule had the Orange pull into York and drop off passengers to cross the street and 2 minutes later the Purple would leave.

I was pretty fair with the drivers of the Orange in doing my research after 2 weeks of missing the connection EVERY TIME and seeing the Purple tease us as it left going the other way as we pulled out.

I called into the YRT call Centre to explain the bus averaged 15 minutes (or whatever it was at the time) in travel time no matter which driver was at the wheel. The schedule said 12 minutes no matter what day it was.

A couple days later I got a phone call from the YRT Supervisor I used to know saying he had just finished driving from Downsview to York. In theidfle of the afternoon, never mind rush hour, he couldn't do it in his car never mind in a 40 ft bus with three stops in between. He said the schedule was ridiculous and would be relooked at using GPS times averaged from some of the drivers who know the route.

Hopefully GO will do this for you as well in the coming days.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I live relatively close to work. I rent, people call me stupid for renting when I could have bought a house an hour commute away from Toronto, but I have options.

My car didn't start last night because of the cold. Even though it was 2am, I would have still gotten home safely even if I didn't get a boost from my really nice coworker.

It sucks to take the bus, and it sucks even worse to have to rely on it, but it's better than the alternative. If I owned a house outside of Toronto last night and my car didn't start, I would have been sol praying for a boost from someone, or waiting in the freezing cold for the tow truck to come.

C.J. Smith said...

My husband works in Oshawa. We moved from Markham to Durham Region so he would be closer to work and would not have to set foot on a highway every day. When we moved out here, I was a consultant working from home. We had no need to live in Toronto. I had no plans to ever work in Toronto or anywhere further west. I would commute occasionally into Markham for on-site work...

Then 2008 happened and shit hit the fan. My employer in-sourced its IT/business communications strategies and shuttered the division I was responsible for.

I was out of work. Jobs were scarce in Durham, even Markham as many IT companies trimmed their bottom lines.

My only option was downtown Toronto and joining thousands of others commuting into the city on GO Transit.

My husband is happy, VERY happy where he works. We're so blessed that he has such a great job working with wonderful people.

I LOVE my job.

I deal with the nonsense because we're happy where we live but truth be told, it would be awesome to live close to work. I am envious of those who do.

Anonymous said...

I don't check your site very often simply because I don't find it funny and its a waste of time. But FYI it is almost impossible for a GO employee to get fired. And certainly NOT from customers complaints or not doing their job. Trust me , I've been here for almost 20 years. The few people that got fired got their job back thanks to our strong union. Don't waste your time with phone calls or letters, trust me we get thousands a year.

C.J. Smith said...

Well thank you for finding some time in your schedule to pay me a visit.

So you're telling me that a GO bus driver who hypothetically took selfies on himself while operating a bus on Highway 407, with passengers on board, who posted these pics to Instagram clearly showing the bus was in motion and he was on the job, along with also posting photos of female passengers' legs, butts and cleavage, all hypothetically of course, sometimes out of focus due to the fact he was obscuring his phone to take the photos, and also posted these on Instagram with hashtags identifying his employer ... WOULD GET TO KEEP HIS JOB?

This is a company you'd want to keep working for, and be proud to work for?

Please, if you do come back, please help me understand how a union (and my dad was a Union President for a trucking association for 15 years so I've got it my blood) could, in good conscience, fight to reinstate such a driver. And ... insure such a driver even with photographic evidence.

ALLLLL hypothetical of course.

Please, do tell us how the driver gets his job back.

Iona Pintó said...

Anonymous (February 21, 2015 at 8:06 PM),
From what I’ve seen, termination might happen if an employee’s negligence resulted in physical injury to a passenger. I think it’s a case of weak management – not strong union – that reinstated those employees you referred to. Conscientious drivers make every effort to meet the times prescribed by their trip paddle. I discussed with an employee the replacement of the 90A driver. Without skipping a beat, the employee said, “And so it should be.”

I disagree with your advice to not waste our time with calls or letters. Yes, some customer complaints are frivolous and should be dismissed outright. However, if there is a serious or recurring issue with the service delivered, as on Route 90A, then a CIT is warranted, IMO. Just as important are letters of commendation for exemplary job performance. And yes, it would be nice if management fast-tracked positive feedback to employees, as they do with CIT’s.

For the record, I’m a passenger.