The Window Seat: Some people just aren't cut out to be TransLink bus drivers in Vancouver
(The following is a write-up of an incident that occurred on a city bus today [July 6]. It will be sent to TransLink as a formal complaint. I regret the length, but I wanted to make sure all the relevant details were included. Perhaps it will generate some discussion about the suitability of certain people to be employed in a job as stressful as that of a bus driver in a large city.)
So there I was on the #9 Alma bus, westbound on Broadway, just about three hours ago. Once or twice a month I have to pick up some medications at the Children’s Hospital pharmacy for one of my kids, and this entails my taking four (yes) buses to work on those mornings.
The #9 is the last of those four buses, and I pick it up at Broadway and Oak; my destination is the Straight building at Broadway and Pine, a bit too far to walk when you are 45 minutes late for work, even on a beautiful day like today.
A stop or two into the westward trip today, I noticed, without paying full attention, that the driver was speaking to a few people outside the front door. By the time I was alert enough to the situation to focus on the exchange, I heard the driver say that “the bus is too full” and they would have to wait for another bus.
Well, the bus was actually only about half-full. I was standing near the rear exit, but there were still some seats available. That’s when I saw that the people outside had an infant in a stroller.
If there are already two strollers (or wheelchairs or passengers with walkers) taking up the designated seating areas (for such mobility aids, the elderly, and those requiring assistance, etcetera) upfront, the driver would be justified in saying what he did.
But if there aren’t, he is supposed to request that those occupying said clearly marked seats vacate them to make room.
There were no strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, or even very elderly people in that front third of the bus. There were about six people in those seats, and there was one middle-aged guy with a box about metre long, but nothing that would be an impediment to those people getting aboard.
But the driver shut the door in their faces and moved on. I made a mental note of the bus number and time (#2235, at about 11:05 a.m.) in order to shoot off a complaint email to TransLink about the incident. I believe in being aggressive about such things in order to let drivers know that their actions are noticed and noted. Most Vancouver bus drivers are courteous and diligent in their obligations to their less fortunate or vulnerable passengers. When they are not, though, they deserve to have it brought to their notice so it doesn’t happen again. (Between genuinely crowded buses and cranky drivers, depending on the route and time of day, a parent and baby could be stranded for quite some time, even hours.)
A stop or two later, three or four people waiting to step off the rear exit had to yell at the driver when the door failed to open and he started to pull out of the stop. Now, this happens all the time. Sometimes it’s the driver’s fault; sometimes it’s the passengers’ fault for not pushing the door strip so marked.
This time, though, the driver yelled back, rudely, that it was the passengers’ fault.
The two incidents hadn’t gone unnoticed by some of the riders besides myself. One man seated to my left yelled out loudly that it was the driver’s fault, that he should have let the people with the stroller at the previous stop board the bus, and that he shouldn’t even be allowed to drive a bus. He capped it off by stating that the driver was, in his opinion, “an asshole”. A few people muttered in agreement.
That got the driver’s attention. He looked back in the mirror, pulled in to the next stop (Hemlock Street), then stood up and yelled at the guy to get off his bus. When he didn’t move, the driver yelled that everyone might as well get off because he was parking it and calling security. To make his point clearer, he pointed to the offending passenger.
Except he wasn’t pointing to the guy next to me. He was pointing at me.
When I said, thinking that either he or I had made a mistake, “You mean me?” he said “Yes.” I quickly told him that I hadn’t said a word. He told me to get off. I said, louder this time, that I wasn’t moving a step and that he should be a little more sure of himself before accusing someone, losing his temper, and inconveniencing every passenger on his bus. I had medication that required refrigeration and it was uncomfortably hot on the bus. I was also getting later for work by the minute.
Other people stood up for me, but he refused to listen. I appealed to the guy who had spoken out to admit he had said it and just file a complaint with TransLink or the supervisor when he came along. He wouldn’t do it, perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the furor his remark had caused. A departing young guy yelled at him that he should “man up” or he was as much an asshole as the driver. It had no effect.
By this time, the bus had emptied and the passengers were milling about outside, waiting for the next bus. Some walked over to Granville Street close by. I noticed a few others, including the original commenter, speaking to a transit supervisor who had pulled up ahead of the bus and was listening to their stories, with the driver hovering nearby and offering his two cents’ worth.
I walked up and chipped in my version of events and reminded the driver he had the wrong person to begin with (he didn’t seem to care). I asked him if he would give me his name for the complaint. He refused. The supervisor told the three of us to call in a complaint and supplied the phone number, three times. I advised him that I would be writing a complaint and publishing it, instead. He said, politely, to go ahead, and that the on-board cameras would have recorded both video and audio of the incidents.
The supervisor also implied that—although “not to downplay in any way” what might have happened—that perhaps we should cut the operator some slack because he knew the driver had been involved in an incident earlier that morning with a “Native male” that might have put him on edge, so to speak.
I replied that I didn’t see what some unconnected person’s ethnicity had to do with what an entire busload of people had just witnessed: three unacceptable incidents by one driver within three stops.
The bus wasn’t going anywhere and the medications weren’t getting any cooler, so I walked the rest of the way to work. The bus still hadn’t passed me by the time I arrived, meaning the other passengers were still stranded back there on the sidewalk.
So, TransLink, here’s my complaint.