Words By S.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

On Public Transportation.

The scene was typical: pedestrian approaches difficult to cross intersection; however standstill occurs with pedestrian, car, and bus.  Not wanting to get run over, pedestrian allows vehicles to go first, and then makes a run for the bus stop, only to have bus pull off.

And so begins “Public Transportation: A Rant.”

I realize that buses aren’t mandated to stop and wait for patrons to get to the bus stop and board.  I also realize that, as a patron, I should be at the stop before the bus gets there.  However, it is just common courtesy and decency for the bus driver to allow a person who is running for the bus to board.

In addition to the frequency of bus drivers to drive off without the patrons, the bus drivers have a tendency to range between ten and 45 minutes of tardiness.  This isn’t merely an annoyance, it’s an inconvenience – particularly when patrons have places to be… like work.

It is bad enough that the powers that be over at the Port Authority offices recently increased pricing on a very shoddy public transport system, but now the drivers want to go on strike.

Now, I may be flawed in my thinking, but shouldn’t the service be at it’s supreme before its employees decide to be demanding of whatever goods it is that they are seeking?

I find myself hard pressed to care about employees who are rude, perpetually late, and make my life all the more inconvenient as a result of that rudeness and lateness.

To the Port Authority employees, I say – get your acts together and provide a real service rather than a disservice before getting demanding and boycott happy.



  1. In my experience, buses do often wait for passengers to catch up with them. I have seen this in London and other British cities and, more recently, in Paris.

    I suppose it comes down to the individual driver, his outlook and his mood and also the traffic conditions. For example, once the bus has drawn away in heavy traffic it would be positively dangerous (for the would-be passenger, among others) for the bus to stop and open its doors though I have seen them do so when the bus has been blocked by traffic.

    Then there is the converse: allowing passengers off where it is not an official stop. Some drivers will do this, others will not. I sympathize with the latter because passengers may complain if he doesn’t let them off but also sue him if he does and they get hurt as a result.

    Bus drivers are in a no-win situation: damned if they do, damned if they don’t. I’m surprised anyone sticks at the job.

    Comment by SilverTiger — Monday, 15 September 2008 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  2. You do bring up good points.

    Conversely, I have personally experienced drivers that are at a stop, sit and watch patrons running for the bus, and then drive off. I’m not saying that this is what happened this particular night, because it’s not.

    As I mentioned in my post, I don’t expect every single driver to allow passengers aboard. I am aware that there are circumstances that don’t allow for it (I’m not irrational); however, there are times (such as the ones mentioned in my post and in this comment) where it’s just assinine and rude for a driver to not allow a passenger aboard.

    I have personally received MUCH better service on public transportation in cities that I don’t reside. That said, other cities also have much better means of public transport (metro, trolley, el) than Pittsburgh, and for much cheaper.

    Comment by S — Monday, 15 September 2008 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  3. First, please allow me to correct a misstatement in the above blog. We drivers do not want to go on strike. We have never said that we will go on strike. You are hearing that from the media who love to sensationalize everything. We have families to feed and bills to pay just like you. Striking would pose a serious hardship to each drivers family. We simply want to negotiate a contract that is fair to all parties involved.

    Now to the point of your blog. I became a Port Authority bus driver at the age of 32. For twenty one years prior to that, I was a daily Port Authority passenger. From the age of 11 to 32, I was a monthly pass holder. I am well aware of what it’s like to run for a bus that won’t stop. I have stood in many icy snowstorms waiting for a bus that doesn’t show. I have watched countless buses pass me by because they are “full” knowing I could have squeezed on somewhere. After eleven years of driving, I still try to show as much sympathy for passengers as I can, but I now see the other side of the story.

    If you want us to try to stay on schedule, you need to be at your designated bus stop before the bus arrives. Part of management strategy to cut costs has been to cut run time, that is, the length of time to complete a trip on a specific route. For us every second counts. To wait on a passenger who is not at the stop is to risk missing the next traffic light. Those extra minutes here and there create a snowball effect. As I fall further behind on my schedule, I begin to pick up passengers who rightly should be boarding the bus scheduled behind me. Soon, my bus is packed to the window causing huge delays in service to passengers who need to make connections on other buses or arrive at their destinations.

    And please, never underestimate the effect road conditions in the Pittsburgh area have on our schedules. We are not permitted to drive around the block in the event of some type of road work or lane restrictions. We are forced to endure the delays in order to service each designated stop along a particular route. To do otherwise is to jeopardize federal funding. Something I never knew about until my employment at Port Authority.

    As for rude drivers, please believe me that most all of the drivers are very likeable people. There are a few bad apples in any bunch. But keep in mind that we are just human beings, too. When someone gets on and gives a snide comment to us, it’s hard to greet that person with a warm smile and cheery salutation. Believe me it’s hard enough to negotiate a forty foot bus through the streets of Pittsburgh during rush hour. Listening to some ignoramus in the back muttering loud enough for us to hear that we’re “all overpaid and we’re always late” certainly doesn’t help our disposition.

    Comment by Gary — Friday, 26 September 2008 @ 12:22 am | Reply

  4. Thank you very much for our comment.

    I definitely take Pittsburgh traffic and everlasting contruction into consideration, however that is not always the case.

    Take, for example, the 71C – which I regularly ride. The bus that I refer to take (the 6:36 am bus) has never once been at my stop at 6:36 am. That is two and a half years of being at my stop at 6:30 awaiting the 6:36, only to have it show up at 6:45 (at the earliest).

    I do, on occasion, wait for the 6:16 bus (which also always shows up a minimum of 10 minutes late), and as of late, I have just said “screw it” and just gone to the EBO.

    I also know that no matter what time I attempt to catch that bus, no matter what time of day, it will always be a minimum of 10 minutes late.

    The 71C is just an example of the perpetual tardiness that I’m speaking about.

    As far as rude drivers, it’s just like every other profession where I have met a large number of lovely and plite bus drivers, and also a large number of rude bus drivers.

    I completely understand what it’s like to deal with the general public, believe me. However, you also have to understand where the attitude comes in. And, I’m sure you do, having been a bus patron yourself.

    Also to be noted, NEVER would I remark that someone is “overpaid” for their job. That is the most ridiculous, rude statement and gets me beyond heated. BUT, that’s an entirely different rant in itself.

    Thank you for your insight into the business that is public transporter, it is much appreciated. Also, thank you for clearing up the strike business.

    Comment by S — Thursday, 2 October 2008 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

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