The Window Seat: Bus drivers should think twice before stranding passengers
So there I was on the #135 Burrard Station semi-express bus last Tuesday (November 22) at about 9:30 a.m., heading downtown.
Between Nanaimo Street and Main Street, the only stop is at Commercial Drive. Just ahead of me, another #135 blew through the stop, leaving a confused-looking woman frantically waving from the curb. The driver of the bus I was on was in the inside lane and didn’t change lanes to pick her up, although he could have.
He just drove on. At the next light, he caught up to the other #135 and opened his front doors. The other driver opened her window and they yakked a bit. Then my driver wagged a finger at her and said with a smile, as best I can remember: “I saw what you did back there.”
The other driver’s laughing response was that she was in a hurry and, besides, “There was only one person there.”
I’m still berating myself mentally for not intruding into their little tête-à-tête and taking the side of the would-be bus passenger.
I’m aware that schedules get tight and drivers are under pressure to get from X to Y and Z on time. But both of these buses were only half full, and there is no excuse for a pass-up (stranded passenger) like that.
That woman could have been late for an appointment or work or classes at SFU downtown. As a driver, no matter how annoyed you are at being behind schedule, don’t you have any empathy with how she must have felt while watching two buses with plenty of room blow by?
The drivers’ union, the Canadian Auto Workers, has campaigned for more buses to be added to the system. The CAW has also said, over the years, that Coast Mountain Bus Company figures for pass-ups are nowhere near the actual numbers because of how many go unreported by drivers. (Search “bus pass-ups” on the Straight site for much more on this issue.) But those strandings are supposed to be due to full buses being unable to safely take on any more passengers.
An Angus Reid poll commissioned by the CAW this fall showed that 85 percent of Metro Vancouver voters want improved transit service. CAW Local 111 president Don MacLeod said in an October 6 news release that only 26 percent of Metro Vancouver’s bus runs have service as frequent as every 10 minutes.
“Montreal and Toronto have service every 10 minutes or better on 58 percent of their bus runs,” MacLeod stated in the release.
That is a state of affairs that is, quite simply, scandalous. At minimum, Vancouver’s bus runs should be brought up to 50 percent with 10-minute frequency as soon as possible.
MacLeod figures that Metro Vancouver needs up to 800 buses added to its system to supply the necessary hours of service to approach that level of service.
Pass-ups might make bus riders more vociferous in backing drivers' demands for more buses and higher frequency of service.
But if passengers are being stranded for reasons as trivial as the one I witnessed this week, it’s going to be hard to convince them not to climb back into their cars in the meantime.