Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And now for a follow-up on on last week's "Dear Bus Passengers" letter

Redux … If you see me standing near the stop ... drive on by!

It appears a prior submission to this blog stirred up a bit of controversy in the comments thereto.  It’s time I explained why the story was presented as it was.  First, I am not a driver I was a passenger on that bus.  

And I wrote the story based on a conversation I had with the person who was ignored.

Here is my PRESTO log:

I boarded the 13:54 bus at Burlington station and we left on time.  As we crested and descended the railway overpass bridge on Plains Road, a pedestrian, some 300 m. ahead, stepped out onto the curb lane and waved at the bus with both hands, quite obviously attempting to flag the driver. Although it is not a GO Transit stop, it was a clear indication this was an intending passenger, as she was standing near the Burlington Transit bus stop.

But our bus didn’t stop.  It proceeded to enter the left-turn lane at the intersection with Brant Street.  I looked at the intending passenger and recognized her as a GO driver.  I scrambled up to our driver and informed her of who we just went by.  She asked me if that location was a regular stop.  I answered I wasn’t aware of anyone boarding there, but that’s not to say other drivers haven’t made the stop.

I suggested that if she pulled over on Brant Street, I could run back to assist and expedite the boarding of her colleague.  That offer of help was summarily rejected … with silence.  The driver checked her rear view mirrors for the passenger, but as the light turned green, she shrugged her shoulders and told me the person was walking in the opposite direction toward the train station.  We made the turn and were gone.

I exited the bus at St. Catharines and decided to wait the hour for the next bus to roll through.  I needed to know whether my eyes had deceived me or whether the person I saw was really who I thought it was.  I had my answer soon enough; she was on the bus.  I waved to her and she exited the bus just long enough to explain things from her perspective.  I could tell she was not amused by what had transpired.  I asked if there was significant traffic near or behind our bus that would have prevented our driver from making the stop.  The answer – only a Burlington Transit bus was behind us.  I thanked her and wished her well as she re-boarded the bus to The Falls.

The aforementioned recounting of events was how I wrote the story initially.  Pretty boring, don’t you agree?  I needed a different angle. 

What stood out most in this incident was the look of utter disbelief, shock, and anger in the aggrieved passenger’s eyes as our bus drove past her.  I decided to rewrite the story as if I were she.  This person is not a rookie driver; she knows her stuff and recently received yet another service commendation.

The Twitter posts that were the lead in to the story are just a smattering of similar incidents that afflicted paying passengers.  I drew on recollections of conversations with several drivers regarding unscheduled stops.  The theme of the story was to show how GO Transit’s policies and procedures are subject to interpretation on the frontline and, hence, are applied inconsistently.

I wish to apologize to the driver whose point of view I assumed for purposes of writing the article.  If my actions have caused you angst in your dealings with other GO Transit drivers or fear of reprisal from your management, I am truly sorry.  I hope you can forgive me.

I found the comments to the story enlightening.  Thank you to the driver who took time to share TTC’s policy on the matter.  It correlates to what a Greyhound Canada manager of driver training and safety told me; their drivers regularly make unscheduled stops, especially in urban areas.

There was conjecture on how unsafe it was “to cross three lanes to the turn in a very short distance”.  Let’s look at the Map view and the Aerial view of the bus stop in relation to the intersection.  There are only two lanes of traffic where the local transit stop is. 

In comparison, here are the Map view and the Aerial view of the GO Transit stop at Mapleview Mall in relation to the intersection of Fairview Street and Maple Avenue.

Buses inbound to Burlington GO station occasionally drop off passengers at that scheduled stop.  Sometimes on busy Friday afternoons, Fairview Street is quite congested with traffic making the left turn onto Brant Street a long drawn out affair.  What drivers of MCI buses have done in those circumstances is cut across three lanes to make the left turn onto Maple Avenue.  It's a detour that can be made with MCI buses but not DD's, because there is a low railway underpass on Plains Road.

Are we to believe the longer MCI buses (13.7 m.) can be maneuvered successfully across three lanes in 90 m. on Fairview Street in heavy traffic, but the shorter double decker buses (13.5 m.) can’t cross fewer lanes in 130 m. on Plains Road in very light traffic?  If that vehicle maneuver is so dangerous, why does Burlington Transit force their Route 5 drivers to do exactly that?

I found the admonishment “you were not the one driving the bus so you have no say in whether they deemed it safe to pull over or not” interesting.  By inference, every “follow-up” executed by a supervisor is invalid, because they are not on the bus.

The polarity between senior / retired drivers and the current breed is quite stark.  The comment by “retired GO” leaves nothing to the imagination.

In conclusion, I have one question for GO Transit.  Is “I was that driver and I would do it again!” the new standard for bus service?


Squiggles said...

Thank you for the explanation. But once again: She was not at a proper stop! Had this happened at a proper stop, then yes, I can see the outrage.

Whether the woman in the story was a driver/bicyclist with commendations or not, she should have been aware that the driver in this situation does not need to stop.

As for Greyhound and TTC: does that reflect GO transit's policy? Because from where I am sitting, just because another transit agency does it and they have a policy doesn't mean that GO does.

C.J. Smith said...

And now that there's a follow up, there's a few things I'd like to say.

1. Most of the comments came from the same IP address. I don't care that people want to chime in and pretend to be someone different to back up a point or add to a comment. but to outright pretend to be more than one GO bus operator? NOT COOL.

2. GO bus operators are paid to be a customer service ambassadors. You're not just a driver. So act like one. If the comments are true and if the person who wrote that she was the driver is really the driver, then I as a paying GO Transit passenger am angered that my fare dollars contribute to your paycheque. Your attitude stinks.

3. If a driver is off-duty, it doesn't matter what he or she does for a living. Without the uniform on, he or she is a paying GO Transit customer. Treat them like one.

4. If the other comments written are really those penned by other GO bus operators - you should all take a good look at yourselves and how you represent the agency online. If morale is so low, don't let passengers catch on. It doesn't instill confidence.

And lastly, this is the internet. People write things all the time saying or implying they work for GO Transit. Take everything you read with a grain of salt.

C.J. Smith said...

I've had drivers roll up to an intersection, metres before the actual stop, and ask me if I would like to get off there.

Is this not the same principle as being picked up before or after a marked stop?

Skin Man said...

I like to think that we generally live in a civilized world by common sense prevails. Yes stopping at a location that is not a designated stop is unusual, but by practice is acceptable b/c that's part of good customer service.

I hate when people hide behind the word "safe"; "In the name of safety we can't do X". Too often that is an excuse for "not interested in helping you".

Wonderful story!

C.J. Smith said...

^ What he said.

C.J. Smith said...

I didn't publish a comment and I will tell you why.

Prove the drivers are who they say they are. Otherwise, it's all fiction.

Your attitude doesn't mirror or represent the drivers I know and love.

Ali Gator said...


re: “I was that driver and I would do it again!”

Perhaps you will, but not with GO Transit.

Apparently, management got fed up with this driver’s continuing antics and “completed their employment” with Metrolinx — finally.

How this bad apple got into the barrel, and why it took so long to purge it, may never be answered.

CJ Smith said...