11.08.10 Ride-On’s Bad Attitude
This is cross-posted with the Washington Post’s All Opinions Are Local.
When I first moved to Takoma Park nearly 11 years ago, I found Ride-On drivers to be a joy. They were almost always friendly and courteous. “What a welcome contrast to Metrobus,” I thought.
Since then, I have watched year after year as Ride-On drivers have become ever surlier, ever more distanced from the basic concept of customer service, ever less cognizant that riders — and taxpayers — pay their salaries. (Of course, not all drivers are part of this negative trend, but most seem to be.)
Apart from the general negativity emanating from the driver’s seat, there are some clearly documentable issues that – despite numerous complaints – aren’t getting any better. I’m reporting here on experiences at Takoma Station.
· A substantial number of drivers leave early on their routes. It is indeed a lovely thing when drivers want to keep up with scheduled arrival times along the way. But when they leave early at the start, it means riders get left standing as bus tail-lights trail off in the distance. This is an especially delightful experience when buses are running every 20 or 30 minutes.
But expect a defensive reaction if you try to point this out to an early-departing driver. The last one I spoke to responded thus: “I don’t tell you how to do your job. Don’t tell me how to do mine!”
· Once a bus pulls away from its bay at Takoma, it has to travel through the bus area for a minute to two before it exits onto the street. During that time – and especially when it comes to a stop at the end of the driveway — it has numerous chances to pick up any passengers who didn’t arrive in time to catch the bus at the bay (like, when it leaves early). Many drivers do stop and let folks on. But some ignore waiting passengers and speed off into the night. This is especially infuriating when the bus has stood still at the departure stop sign for, say, 30 seconds and prospective passengers re literally pounding on the door.
The ultimate example of this phenomenon took place earlier this week, as I was sitting in a restaurant near the station. A woman came in to the eatery crying and bruised. She and several other passengers had tried to flag down a bus within the pick-up area. The driver not only refused to let passengers board, but in fact stopped twice to shout abuse at them. The woman then ran after the bus in a last, futile effort to get him to stop, when she tripped and fell on the asphalt. She is pretty sure the driver saw her tumble but drove off anyway.
On several occasions, I have spoken to one Ride-On supervisor who is in complete agreement about the need to change attitudes among the drivers. He is trying to make a difference, but I think it’s time for MoCo politicians to get engaged and remind these county employees whom they really work for.
©2010 Keith Berner