Saturday, 18 August 2012

Bon Service, Bad Service

The good news is: OC Transpo is doing a good job, and people seem to be happier. We had a record number of passenger rides last year, complaints are down, compliments are up, and we are on-time more often than ever. Pat on the back.

The bad news is: OC Transpo is doing a bad job, and people are "rattled" about service cuts. OC Transpo is "Going Downhill" according to the Sun's John Willing, and his interpretation of the same statistics listed in the Ottawa Citizen article. Now, kick in the pants.

Did you ever wonder why all the drivers look bewildered on a daily basis when reading the newspaper? We just can't figure out which newspaper is Jekyll and which newspaper is Hyde these days.

I must admit, we have been enjoying a bit of good? press these past few weeks.

John Willing says the buses are safer:

Managers are listening to your hashtagged tweets:

Complaints are down against drivers on phones:

Presto seems to be working, ummm, better?:

Underwhelming? You bet. Any compliment of the service usually seems a bit backhanded. But hey, that's about as good as it gets when talking transit. I mean, nobody ever writes about how great it is to take a bus, do they? I think the service is pretty damned good here in Ottawa. The problem with really discussing transit is the worldwide perception of taking a bus, and how that seems to sway your opinion of the service. We don't get excited about taking a bus. It is a slower version of taking a car. So why would we get excited? Talking transit is like talking garbage collection, or sidewalk paving.

Having said that, we sure do like to complain about it. Have a look at Hugh Adami's story about Marie Vavros and her ticket:

Now, I understand her frustration. I once received a ticket for failing to put the little validation sticker on the rear license plate of my car. I bought the sticker at a kiosk. I brought it home. I forgot about it. I got pulled over. I received a ticket. I was mad. I paid the ticket.

What I didn't do was raise a stink, because I realized that I was in the wrong. I had a task to do to validate my license plate. I didn't do it. End of story.

Look at the picture, right below the numbers. The pass tells you in bold letters what happens if you don't fill the numbers out. Now you can debate all you like. You can tell me that she paid her money. You can tell me that she's the greatest passenger in the world (and having served her, I would not argue with you, she's very nice!). But, the fact of the matter is this. If you don't ticket her, you cannot ticket the hundreds of other people who purposely avoid filling out their numbers in an attempt to defraud the system. "Family Passing" a monthly voucher is bar none the costliest fraud method to the taxpayers of Ottawa.

Discretion is fine on the 1st or 2nd of the month. This incident occurs on July 25th, or 25 days from when the pass needed the authorizing numbers on the pass to make it valid. So what discretion is the officer to draw upon? The customer's appearance? The way she is dressed? Her smile? Her demeanour? That is not discretion, it is discrimination. This passenger will have to explain it to a judge, who is qualified to discriminate.

Adami does a very convincing job of spinning the story into a bully's tale of the mean OC Transpo Police Gestapo. Hugh even spins out his sharpest pen to call the service "second rate". Ironic by any standard, coming from a complaints columnist. But I digress.

Fill out your numbers, or pay a fine. (Lather, Rinse, Repeat)

To the two columns posted today on OC Transpo... From my personal experience, I agree with Neco Cockburn's take on the recent transit survey. Customers were very upset with the broad sweeping changes that took place last September under Alain Mercier. The changes were painful at first, with confused and angry passengers taking out their frustrations on many drivers.

These changes however, had an unusual side effect.

Many drivers agreed with passengers on opposing the sweeping changes, which put us on the same team for the first time in a long time. We fought for passengers in many forums, and were kicked out of many meetings. We wrote letters to the editors, and we listened to passenger complaints daily that were not focussed on us.

There has been a change in attitude over the past year. Our relationship is better, drivers and passengers. On the same page, we really can get along. Seems like the more we talk to each other, the more we realize that we're all in the same bus, going the same place, facing the same traffic, and reading the same two opinions that try to divide us. So write your newspaper articles about the service free-falling downhill. Call us second rate if you must. Spin away. But, know one thing. We are on the buses, and you are not.

And that my friends, is why we know better.

Friday, 3 August 2012

OC-lympic Spirit!

I had a moment of inspiration last night while flipping channels.

In between Olympic Women's Beach Volleyball, the Pawnathon Marathon, and the International Firefighters Games, I became a little jealous that we bus drivers don't have a competition on television. Hey, don't laugh. Exterminators, Dog the Bounty Hunters, the crab fishing guys, guys who hunt for junk in a cat-lady's home, hoarders, little princesses being pushed by mommies into pageants, Kardashians, shipping wars, tow truck guys, cops, housewives, auctioneers, pawn shop guys... they ALL have shows! It's high time we bus drivers step it up and represent!
We could go with Busing Wars, or TRANSITion Wars, or the Bells Angels... the OC (Is that taken?)

I think in the spirit of the London Games, we should put together a Bus Driver Olympics.

Opening Ceremony:

We could have the whole fleet line up in a beautiful display of parking precision, having each bus within an inch of the bus in front, symbolizing an unbroken chain of humanity that spans the entire city, unified as one entity, one being, one unbreakable enduring spirit... or as we Ottawan's like to call it... The Mack Bridge.

Commuter's 100 meter sprint.

Bus vs Late Commuter. The commuter must begin the race from the end of their street, dash to the platform, and points will be scored if the commuter is actually able to bang on the side of the bus for three consequitive seconds without spilling their coffee or dropping their cellphone. The bus driver scores points for his/her ability to pretend he doesn't see the commuter dashing, or banging, or the onboard passengers who are yelling “One more!”. Gold medals are awarded to commuters who train their bus drivers to stop at the end of their driveways.

Artistic Floor Tumbling

The commuter must now take the 95 through the “S” curve between St. Laurent and Train stations, while standing, without the help of a stanchion. As the bus pitches and rolls through the curve at the speed limit posted in drivers imagination, deductions will be taken off for double stepping the dismount, and falls without full rotation. Extra difficulty points may be awarded for carry-on luggage, or performing while hunting through a purse for change.

Bus Driver's 100 Question Freestyle

The bus driver must answer the exact same question up to 100 times, sometimes three or four times from the same commuter, without losing his/her mind and turning into a drooling pile of mush. Extra points will be awarded for answering the question in different styles, using different words, and non-offensive hand gestures. Points will be deducted for sarcasm.

Bus Driver's Weight Lifting

The bus driver must raise and lower the bus using the kneel switch in rapid succession until his/her finger gets tired. What? Not strenuous enough? You'd swear that switch was a 150kg weight by the reaction of some drivers when asked to use it...

Commuter's 1.8M Statue

The commuter must stand perfectly still while the bus approaches the flag, then flag down the bus at the very last possible moment in a manner that suggests the bus driver is nuts not to have stopped in the first place. Points will be deducted for premature eye contact, or any type of body language that might clue the driver in on the commuter's intentions. Extra points will be awarded for making the bus driver feel guilty.

Articulated Javelin

This new take on an old sport involves throwing a 6 foot javelin with an articulated joint in the middle of it. This was originally a winter sport. However, after a light dusting of snow, it was deemed too difficult to throw the javelin up the Commissioner Hill. The Olympic Council searched all over Frisby's back lot for matching winter tires for the javelins, but decided instead that double-decker javelins were better anyway and that they'd just build outdoor storage for the articulated javelins and let 'em rust!

Presto Fencing

The commuter must use the Presto Card foil to find the precise spot on the reader that actually @#$%ing works. Try Again! No really, Try Again! That's not it! Try Again!


The commuter must guess where on Rideau street their stop will be as construction eats up the sidewalks like a hungry escalator. This has also been combined with a high-jump element as curbs are now nonexistent.


The driver must load up his bus with so many shopping carts and walkers as he/she can fit into the bus so that the entire scene looks like an episode of Hoarders. Or, as some like to call it “Wednesday on the 2, 12 and 14”, or “Synchronized Schedule Toss”. After the entire bus is full, the driver must synchronize the entire bus to move out as the lady in back with the giant oversized cart is always the first one who needs to get off.

Driver's and Commuter's Eights

In this event, the driver must drive the #8 route onto Heatherington rd, and find a way to slalom through the commuters who stand on the opposite side of the road, see him turning onto the street, dash to the that side to catch his bus, then dash back to the other side as they realize the other #8 is also coming in the other direction. Extra points can be gained by spotting the commuters waving from the apartment building entrance.

Medals will handed out for simple participation in this event, as anyone stuck on a #8, be it driver or commuter, deserves a medal.

So what do you think? It sure beats Zod the Bounty Hunter, or that guy who kills bugs! C'mon Ottawa. We'll never get a real Olympics. Ain't this the next best thing?