Every time I catch the bus, I feel a rant coming on

The bus driver got lost again this morning. Well, not lost exactly, just went the wrong way, and ended up spending ten minutes trying to do a three-point turn (in a bus!) on a busy street, all the while holding up the line of impatient traffic behind him.

This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon occurrence. Partly, this is because of the particular oddities of our bus route. As it winds through the suburbs, it passes through a series of T-intersections, and turns left at one, right at another, so you can understand why sometimes the drivers get mixed up about which intersection they’re at. But mostly it’s caused by the bus company’s completely irrational decision to keep swapping the drivers around, so none of them get the chance to get to know a route properly.

In the good old days, when our route was serviced by Leopard, we had the same driver every morning. He worked Monday-Friday, always on the same bus, on the same route, on the same shift. Because he drove it every day, he knew the route really well, and got to know the regular passengers. So he’d do things like notice if one of the regulars wasn’t at their stop and look back along the street to make sure they weren’t running for the bus. Or if you were carrying a heavy parcel he’d drop you outside your house instead of a few hundred metres further along at the proper bus stop. Or if you’d left your metrocard at home, he’d let you on the bus anyway, and just charge you double the next morning. And because he knew the route well, he knew where to make up lost time if he was delayed by anything, so the bus almost always arrived on time. And of course, he never got lost.

We didn’t realise how spoilt we were until Red Bus took over the route, and things changed. Suddenly, instead of one regular driver, we had four or five, who would be rotated onto different shifts every week or so. They eventually all got to know the route, but every time there was a change around there’d be a couple of days of confusion while they settled back into the route. Taking the bus wasn’t quite as pleasant an experience as it had been before. You’d have to be at the stop 5 minutes early (and often be standing there waiting for 10-15 minutes), because you never knew exactly what time the bus would arrive. And all the little courtesies were gone, because the drivers weren’t as aware of the special needs of individual passengers.

But now we’re starting to look back on having four or five drivers as the good old days. Sometime last year, Red Bus changed their shift system so that now we never have the same driver on two days in a row (and it’s not just because I take the bus so infrequently that makes it seem the drivers change constantly – a woman I often chat with at the bus stop, who takes the bus every day, said the same thing). In fact, they seem to have a policy of not having any driver drive the same route twice. Every morning there’s a different driver, and none of them know the route well. So they’re always getting lost, or having to brake suddenly because they almost missed a bus stop, or not noticing passengers running for the bus (which is very common, because none of them manage to stick to the timetable so you don’t know what time the bus will arrive), and the stress of always driving a new route means they’re always grumpy and rude to passengers, and drive more aggressively, so the ride isn’t as smooth.

All that would be bad enough, but there seems to be no logic to the change. Talking to one of the drivers, none of them can work out why they’re being shifted around all the time either. There surely can’t be any benefit to the bus company in running such an incredibly complicated shift system (they must be having to employ extra office staff just to keep track of it), and there’s definitely no benefit to either drivers or passengers. Completely inexplicable.

Ok, rant over for today.

(This is one of the many reasons I much prefer to walk to work – because if I take the bus, I spend the rest of the morning ranting about how awful the bus service is now. If only I hadn’t overslept this morning, I wouldn’t have been running late, so I wouldn’t have had to catch the bus…)

Currently reading: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Currently listening to: Dirt Music by Tim Winton

34 sleeps to go!

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  1. That’s a real shame. I remember many years ago (before I knew you) we were visiting your city and using the bus service. The drivers were so nice! It was really striking.

    We find the evening bus service is quite unreliable. We used to use it when we were going to shows, but so often the one we’d planned to catch simply didn’t turn up. So now we walk instead – it’s easy to estimate how long that will take!

  2. You want to feel good about your bus service? Come to sth Auckland and try to get a bus to where you need to go. Busses arriving on time and drivers who are polite or speak english at ALL? Surely you jest! Here they come at any old time, or sometimes not at all and a lot of drivers won’t even allow you on the bus if you don’t have the exact change. Then theres the pleasure of sitting among the great unwashed and often among the kind of ‘citizens’ you would NOT want to bump into on a dark night. Its a laugh a minute. Busses have automatic right of way (at least THEY think they do) no matter the traffic and signaling your intent to pull out right in front of a car is optional so maybe being on the bus is safer than in any of the cars around it!


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