Photo by Oran

One of the most notable social interfaces that we make in the realm of transit is with the driver.  Chances are there will be some kind of greeting when you board, maybe a “thank you” or “bye now” when you de-board, and occasionally you might find some passengers will strike up a conversation with the driver during the ride*.  None of these verbal interactions are actually necessary; all they really do is foster politeness and social civility.  Of course, there are instances that do require the driver’s speech**: announcing stops, rules, and answering passenger questions.

However, sitting on a delayed bus while the driver is answering the question of a passenger who’s standing outside the front doorway can be infuriating for passengers already on board.  But beyond just the interests of the passengers, sometimes this can throw buses off schedule, cause bunching, and even break connections.  To be sure, there are times when driver assistance is necessary– visually-impaired passengers, for example, might need the route number read aloud.  Most of the time, however, the driver is asked information which is already readily available elsewhere.

Good transit systems actually minimize driver-passenger interaction, which does two things: 1) information about the route/system is clearly conveyed, either online, in paper, or posted at stops, requiring less reliance on the driver; and 2) precious minutes on the schedule can be saved to boost system reliability and efficiency.  And it’s not like we don’t already do this– train drivers and engineers, for example, are hidden away from public view entirely on our rail modes, simply because you can trust passengers to know what they’re doing without needing assistance.

As mentioned at the top of the post, there is also social component of driver-passenger interface, which can be good or bad.  Driver attitudes, for one, tend to rub off on passengers.  Any regular transit rider will know that a sour driver is more likely to inflame your own tempers, while an amiable one can spruce up your day.  While the trade-off is there, I’m a big believer that we shouldn’t have to intertwine drivers into our social lives, and that it’s best to just let them get on with their jobs.

*King County Metro actually discourages its drivers from casually conversing with passengers. This rule is often broken.

**Many of these functions are disappearing as Metro installs its new on-board system with automated announcements.

138 Replies to “Driver Interaction”

  1. The “sour driver” thing is a two-way street; sour passengers (and we deal with a lot of them) stretch our patience as well. Passengers who board the bus angry at the bus driver whom they’ve only just laid eyes on can ruin your whole day – especially when they’re angry about something you have absolutely no control over (traffic, bad schedules, their own ignorance and lack of preparedness, etc.).

    1. My favorite is a notorious passenger on Mercer Island. Many of us frequently hear things like “You’re 3 minutes late!”. I’ve always wanted to respond: “You’re kidding, right?”

      1. The famous “wish I could say it” response is “If you’d like you can catch the next scheduled bus. I’m sure that one will be on time.”

  2. While you feel that interaction with drivers is unnecessary, I don’t think you can apply a one size fits all here. As a driver who gets the same riders on most trips, I see things very differently. While I don’t involve into conversations with many of my regulars, many are happy to see me, greet ME, and wish me a good weekend. Riders inquire about days I have missed. One rider I had said “Theres a sense of community” on (our) buses. We know our riders, we know where they get off, we know they have a monthly pass (on that day they forgot it at home). While it seems you take a “whatever” approach to drivers, we are human beings, and many of us enjoy the work because of the interaction with passengers. You sotra of make me feel like “The Bus”, a thing that rolls in and out day in and day out, if thats what it was, this job would be boring!

    1. As a passenger, I gotta agree with your sentiments. Riding the bus becomes much less of a chore and a community I look forward to joining every day.

    2. So do you feel a passenger is rude if they don’t want to know you or interact with you other than a nod or hi? I honestly don’t want to know my driver anymore than I want to know the guy who rips my ticket in half at the movie theater.

      1. No, however I once had a passenger yell “just shut the door and drive!” At me as I tried to help a blind woman find the right bus. Its fine if YOU don’t want to talk to me, but not too nice to get pissed because someone else wants – or needs – to.

      2. Beavis, you and I once had a huge blowout because I had walked to the front of a crowded bus and yelled at a pair of drunken frat-boys to get on or go away before every single rider missed their late-night connection.

        Mind you, I didn’t yell at the driver, or even say a single word to him. But he was not doing his job by indulging drunken questions at the risk of every other passenger not getting home that night.* So for the sake of my own hide, I had to do his job before him.

        Delays have consequences. It is very important for anyone in a position where others are dependent on your job performance to be able to perform a proper risk/benefit analysis of being “helpful.”

        *(And this was at Pine & Bellevue on a bus that only went to Pine & 3rd. There is no question that could possibly have been being asked that couldn’t have been answered with “I go straight downtown, there are buses you can transfer to there, and cabs if none of them go where you’re going.”)

      3. d.p.,

        Uh – no, sorry. That certainly wasn’t me. For one thing, I encourge yelling at frat boys, and 2 as a driver I always put out my hand and ask folks to wait for exiting passengers before they themselves board (I always thank them for waiting to let them know its O.K. to get on). I also regularly let those crowding the front of the bus they need to clear the doorway and step to the rear to let others board so that they don’t have to muscle their way around them.

        Not sure who you had this “blowout” with, but ’tweren’t I.

      4. …and as far as the driver “not doing their job” -it is actually the job of the driver to answer questions from passengers – intending or otherwise. When delayed by irritatinly long questions or delays, the driver is in an untenable position, having to balance customer service to those onboard with customer service to those with questions who may or may not board. Most drivers that I know (including me) will indulge questions to a point, then let the person know that they need to move on as they’re blocking traffic, possibly referring them to the customer service phone number or if downtown to the office at Westlake.

        Meanwhile, clearly you’ve never been hauled in front of your boss to respond to a complaint that a driver “was rude, refused to answer my question, and slammed the door of the bus in my face before driving off”.

        Meanwhile, if you’re on a bus that I’m driving and feel the urge to yell at drunken frat boys – do feel free. I’d appreciate it if you got off the bus to do it, as your actions will probably cause further delay rather than preventing it. Besides, if you get off the bus and do your yelling, you can appreciate the full consequences of doing so.

        Good luck with that.

      5. You weren’t the driver. You and I had our blowout on the pages of STB when I vented about the incident. You accused me of stepping on my toes, despite the fact that — and I am not exaggerating or tooting any horns here — literally 40 people made their 1:05 connections solely because I intervened.

        No one was getting off and no one else was getting on at that stop, so there was no need for the “wait” hand. Everyone on the bus was trying to get downtown, and the fratboy q&a literally lasted from 12:59 to 1:02. Until I stepped in, it showed no signs of ending, as they debated among themselves whether to board as if it were a taxi.

        My yelling at them to get on or stop making everyone miss their connections was met with the expected fratty hostility, but it also gave the driver an opening to actually shut the doors and go. And the bus load of people made their transfers by the skin of their teeth.

        Again, being too “accommodating” has consequences!

    3. I remember this sort of thing when I worked in Snohomish County and rode most of the length of the CT120 every day. It seems a lot less possible on more frequent and well-used services, though.

    4. I think this represents only one kind of rider, commuters that ride the same bus day after day. Those that have more variable schedules or ride transit for reason besides commuting to work have a different interaction with drivers.

    5. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of one. If a driver is holding up the bus because he is answering question after question from a passenger, he is acting unprofessionally and isn’t doing his job. If someone is confused about where something is, the driver should answer only one question, then after that, tell them to call customer service, or ask a passenger to help them out. But the primary job of the driver is to drive.

      1. I agree.

        Last year, when I was in Portland, I saw a teenage girl push the Emergency Call button inside a MAX train. The train operator responded immediately. The girl asked where she could transfer to a 6 bus. The operator politely and matter-of-factly answered her question without without ever pointing out what an Emergency Call button in intended for. Customer service is nice, but I rather think that was going a bit far.

      2. I’m actually surprised this doesn’t happen more. After all, they have to run PSAs to educate folks on what constitutes a legitimate emergency worthy of a 911 call…

    6. I don’t like it when people strike up conversations with the driver if I’m near the front or if I’m in the very back and the intercom is faintly picking up the conversation (I have sensitive hearing). I prefer to be alone with my thoughts, or if I’m very lucky napping, on the bus.

  3. 1. There’s a big difference between trains and buses, in that trains are on tracks and there’s generally a map available (often right above the door) telling you where those tracks go. Stepping on a bus from a corner with a little sign with a basic schedule does not tell you enough information to get where you’re going. It’s fine to blame the rider for not knowing this in advance. But having a driver available – a true expert in the city’s transit system, it’s geography, and wayfinding – is a real social benefit that would be a shame to lose.

    2. My favorite driver-passenger interaction is a certain 2X driver that announces the trivia-of-the-day as he drives. There’s a charm to that which would be lost in automated announcements.

    1. Drivers may or may not have more knowledge about particular routes than passengers themselves. There are over 350 routes serving King County, with tens of thousands of stops and what must be hundreds of thousands of time points. Expecting a fixed-route driver to have instant-access knowledge to any and all questions about the system is unrealistic, does cause delays when that information is available elsewhere, and passengers whose questions are not able to be answered by the driver often persevere by asking other questions, or getting angry and rude with the driver for not knowing what even people with a computer right in front of them don’t know without looking it up.

      That said – this idea that drivers shouldn’t converse with passengers at all – or “keep it to a minimum” even when people engage in a positive way, is not an outlook that adds to the transit experience.

      The “Trivia of the Day” driver, the “SMILE!” driver, the driver with all the trolls on her dashboard etc. I can do without as both a fellow driver (“why aren’t YOU like that?”) and as a passenger (man – I’ve had a shitty day. Shut up already.)

      1. Yes, sometimes people ask tough questions. You’d know more than me, but most questions I hear are ones that should easily be answered even by a fixed-route driver*. The most common questions I’ve heard are: “How do I get to the Space Needle?” and “Does this bus continue down 3rd?” Expecting every passenger to have full knowledge of every route is a bad idea, and without being able to ask the driver these questions, us riders would be pulled uphill on the 13 or downhill on the 66 when we just want to get to work.

        Besides – even fixed-route drivers still drive a bus for a living. They must know more than the average person about bus routes. If not, they should. I’d be happy to use my tax dollars to train them.

      2. Sometimes questions are difficult and confusing, sometimes the geography is difficult and confusing, sometimes people are difficult and confusing.

        I recently boarded the 44 at Montlake/520 and we were held up by a woman standing half on the bus, half on the sidewalk, who asked the driver, “The sign says you’re going to Ballard, do you go all the way to 15th and 50th?” The driver thought she meant 15th and 50th in Ballard (I did, too), and started trying to answer her question (“I go to 15th and Market”, etc), which confused her, and after a bit of back-and-forth she mentioned something about going up 15th, which made it clear she meant 15th and 50th in the U District. That took a lot of time, and then she had to decide whether she really wanted to get on this bus that only went up to 45th, and whether she wanted to get off at 15th/43rd or 45th/the Ave… not a good use of time for, you know, every single rider from Montlake through Ballard delayed by it.

      3. But imagine you’re that rider, in a system where the driver is in a closed box. You pretty much end up in Ballard when you want to be in the U District. Not making that mistake might have saved her an hour of time.

        Yes, that would be her own fault for not finding a computer and looking up the correct route to take (rolls eyes). But with our complex bus system it’s not a terrible thing to have real people to ask when we’re confused.

      4. Wrong, Matt. Even with zero driver interaction, the rider would have made it to the corner of 15th and 45th, and would have gotten on the bus as soon as she realized it was turning left rather than going straight. Then she would have walked her last five blocks, and all would have been right with the world. She would not have “ended up in Ballard.”

        Meanwhile, Al and all of those other passengers would have gotten to Ballard minutes faster.

        1 person’s inconvenience is not worth 50 people’s delay.

      5. As someone that has ended up in Ballard when a simple question would have avoided the trip (on the 15X: is this the last stop before Ballard?), and who has avoided two trips to West Seattle by asking the driver, I politely disagree.

        Maybe she wouldn’t have ended up in Ballard on that trip. But making a mistake on a bus trip can cost you a huge amount of time.

      6. I don’t know what to say, Matt.

        Every 15X driver I’ve ever had has announced the beginning of express service at Bell, then announced “last stop before Ballard” at Denny Way.

        The 54 turns on Columbia and has a stop there, which is a pretty good clue that it’s heading toward the Viaduct. And even when some of the West Seattle expresses ran down 1st, anything with an “X” took the viaduct. Not a lot of surprises there.

        And both of your examples are irrelevant anyway.

        There’s no east-west “X”s from Montlake, and even if there were, someone intending to go less than a mile would be stupid to board one without knowing its route in advance.

        This was a local, it was headed north, and a considerate person would have found a way to ascertain its usefulness without wasting 2 minutes of everyone else’s time — either by letting the bus depart and waiting for a “sure thing” 48, or by getting on the bus and asking someone where it turned as it was already underway.

      7. And I’m sure every announcement you’ve ever heard was clear and understandable throughout the bus. I’m not saying it wasn’t my fault for ending up in Ballard. I’m saying this attitude of *never talk to the driver* is a waste of resources.

        No, she should not talk to the driver for a whole 2 minutes. Probably nobody should – 2 minutes is a very long time, and that adds up for a busload of passengers. But asking basic questions should be tolerated or even encouraged.

      8. I think we can agree that both content and context are important.

        I’ve been here 5 years, and at least some of Seattle’s habits (including the ubiquitous “thank you” or “have a nice evening” to the driver) have rubbed off on me. Now when I’m Back East and reflexively do the same thing, I get the most cockeyed looks.*

        The last time I was home in Boston, I had to make a cross-South End trip and had the unusual fortune that a #9 bus happened to be within view. (At low-by-Eastern-standards 25-minute frequencies, it is never something I’d have waited for to go the single mile I was going.)

        Being familiar enough with the route to know generally where it headed, but unfamiliar enough to not know exactly where the stops were, and being past midnight on a night with fairly dark skies, and seeing as there were only a few people on the bus, I was chattier than I might otherwise have been, and spent most of the trip figuring out with the driver where it would be best for me to get off the bus. I didn’t cause her to miss any lights; perhaps I slowed the bus down by 5 or 10 seconds (total) as she chatted and drove in “casual mode.”

        Had this been a crowded bus in the middle of the afternoon, I wouldn’t have said anything to her. I still would have gotten to my destination, though perhaps I would have hopped off a stop earlier or a stop later than the ideal thanks to not knowing their precise locations. Big deal — it would have cost me 60 extra seconds walking in the safety of daylight, and I wouldn’t have even caused those 10 seconds of harm to my fellow passengers.

        As I said before, this is a matter of risk-benefit analysis! To demand more than your fair share of attention, to the real and quantifiable detriment of others, is selfishness. (This isn’t that different from the phenomenon of Joanna And The Won’t Transfer 2s).

        *(though only on the very rare occasions when exiting the front door is appropriate; fortunately, I haven’t internalized the Seattle habit of getting off the front for no good reason)

      9. I was recently driving the 18 and was asked if I went to 65th St. The 18 does go there (at 24th) as does the 17 (at 32nd), the 15 (at 15th), the 28 (at 8th) and the 5 (at Phinney).

        Do you simply answer a question like this with a “yes”?

      10. Last quarter, if I was running late enough that I had to catch the 2:15 67 from my home (I may be off by half an hour), having to suffer through his trivia questions and “sage advice” was punishment enough for running late.

      11. Well, it’s slightly wordier, but…

        “Ma’am, I go to downtown Ballard, and then I continue north on 24th Ave NW.”

        And if that doesn’t suffice…

        “If you are sure that your destination is in Ballard, you can either walk to it or transfer to it from this bus. I will announce the relevant transfer points. Now please either board or step aside, as I have a busload of passengers who deserve to get where they’re going in a timely fashion.”

      12. Passenger response: “But which bus do I take to get to 65th near Trinity Church (waves hand-drawn map in drivers face)? I don’t know what the cross street is.”

        d.p., you need to work a day or two as a bus driver – as you clearly don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

      13. “d.p., you need to work a day or two as a bus driver – as you clearly don’t know what the hell you’re talking about” +1

        FWIW: That “Blowout” you mention could have been with me. Your scenario of coming up to the front and yelling at drunk frat boys raises the hair on the back of my neck. Dealing with drunk passengers is already tricky enough without somebody else coming up and getting involved/throwing gasoline onto a potentially volatile situation.

      14. But which bus do I take to get to 65th near Trinity Church (waves hand-drawn map in drivers face)? I don’t know what the cross street is.

        You’ve already answered her question, though. You’ve already said, essentially: “Get on and figure it out on the way, or stay there and figure it out on the curb. But I have to keep moving.”

        If you continue to engage her after making yourself clear, you’re just as much at fault for the delay as she is.

        Dealing with drunk passengers is already tricky…

        They weren’t passengers. They were not on the bus. They were drunken revelers on the street who thought that any vehicle that came along was their own personal taxi to banter about possibility of getting in.

        They were far too stupid to have any idea that they were risking 40 people’s chances of getting home. The driver needed to let them know it. The driver didn’t do his job, period.

      15. “They weren’t passengers. They were not on the bus. ”

        Right… And my point is having you come up and insert yourself into the situation could have easily turned them into assailants. Honestly, from your comments you sound like the kind of person who gets in people’s face and brings them to a point of rage. Regardless of whether I’m “doing my job” or not, having somebody like you on my bus is unnerving. Hopefully you’re not as much of an asshole in person as some of your comments would lead one to believe. I’ve heard others at STB say that you are actually pretty nice in person, FWIW.

        All I’m asking is that you at least try to understand our world a bit instead of wagging your finger at us and saying that we’re not “doing our job”. You really don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

      16. My “Northeastern disposition” may give me a lower threshold for annoyance than some, but the truth is that I keep it civil in all but the most egregious circumstances.

        In this particular instance, I was legitimately freaked out that I wasn’t going to get home at all, thanks solely to these fratboys.

        The back-and-forth had been going on for quite some time, and there were no signs that the driver was planning to put a stop to it. The fratboys may weren’t the world’s nicest people (shocking!), but the bus constipation they were causing had more to do with their cluelessness than any form of hostility. I could tell that nothing bad would happen because I stepped in. Even then, I was able to contain my anger enough to articulate the problem in complete sentences: “Hey! Every single person on this bus is about to miss their last connections! Either get on bus or go away!”

        Regardless, my threshold for annoyance must still be lower than the statistical majority of Seattle residents, who get screwed over a couple of times by Metro unreliability and never come back.

      17. “my threshold for annoyance must still be lower than” a weightlifter overdosing on steroids while stuck in traffic with a full bladder and empty SuperGulp and the radio stuck on full blast to bad rap music?

        Kidding of course.

      18. Well said Velo. Having some friends from NY and Boston they really don’t get the NW/Seattle scene. They are efficient; we’re not.

      19. The irony in this comment thread, d.p., is that I’m your kind of driver. Once I get beyond 3 or 4 minutes late, I’m pretty ruthless about not waiting around. About the only time I hang around is when I’m driving the last bus on 30+ minute headway service – In that case, I’m typically driving the bus you’re trying to *catch* so you probably want me to be mellow about my pace.

        Sadly, this behavior doesn’t get me many kudos. I only get commendations and “Thank you’s” for waiting for people, not for being an efficient and punctual driver. I even go as far as attempting to “train” folks who hold up the bus because they are disorganized about paying their fare. Trust me, I’ve never received kudos for that.

        If you want to change how we “do our job”, you really need to be yelling at Metro to change it’s culture. I’ve heard many stories of the *slowest” drivers in the system who get mountains of commendations because they wait for runners, help little old ladies with their groceries, spend extra time answering detailed customer questions, etc… I like doing that stuff when I can keep from being more than 5 minutes late but that’s getting hard to do these days. As such I pick frequent headway service where a degree of ruthlessness has a fighting chance of being useful and even appreciated.

    2. The flip side of the lack of driver-passenger interaction on the train is that when something goes wrong, it’s up to the driver to let you know what’s going on. During the snowstorm, passengers were stuck on light rail at Columbia City Station for well over an hour with zero information from the driver. I suppose you could push the emergency button, but it really shouldn’t come to that.

      I’ve never been a driver, but I’ve worked plenty of service jobs, and I know that a friendly greeting can definitely improve a job that can be pretty dreary.

    3. While living in Stockholm there was a subway operator that was very funny. He always made everyone laugh, which was always very funny to see.

      1. I have plenty of childhood Green Line (Boston) memories of amusing and entertaining characters in the driver’s seat.

        The difference is, the transit never moved slower as a result.

        I’m extroverted; it’s nice if you’re friendly too. But unless it is absolutely necessary (e.g. the blind person needing to find his correct bus), we shouldn’t be getting there slower as a direct result of that friendliness. And it doesn’t make you any less friendly to recognize that.

      2. Yeah exactly. If I understood correctly, the driver was once commenting on how slowly a group of girls were getting onto the train.

    4. My thoughts on this whole thread. When I go to a grocery store I expect the people working there to know where 45,000 items are in the store and they always do. Even the bag boys/girls know where everything is or they can find out. When I get on a bus I expect the bus driver to know where there bus is headed. If they don’t know where they’re going then why are they driving a bus?

      I do hear the questions like “Does this bus go near trinity church?”. The answer is “I don’t know where that is so you’ll need to be more specific”. However, a lot of times other passengers do know the answer because that’s THEIR bus and they may live/work along the line. I’ve answered countless questions from other passengers on my local routes.

  4. Could be a generational thing or an age thing, but tend to look askance at expensive “tweaks” as a substitute for getting the basics right.

    Transit driving is an extremely demanding career skill that’s equal parts vehicle handling and service to people. If you like large vehicles but people bug you, over-the-road semi is rightly your trade.

    Passenger treatment is by far the harder skill to learn, and harder yet to train by instruction. In my own experience, a lot of passenger problems early on cease to happen after a couple of years, and most go away five years in.

    Would be best if everybody in instruction, labor and management, started out in the drivers’ seat- but more important that they bring the right lessons from there with them. Attitudes are contagious, good and otherwise.

    For specialty work, meaning trolleybuses and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel it’s critical that instruction come from people who both respect and like the equipment- and the trade. Due respect to seniority, but for the sake of the union itself, let alone the agency and the profession, above are non-negotiable.

    I owe thirteen of the best years of my working life to my instructors: to Elmer Turner, and to the late Jeff Lindstedt and Roland MacVay, God grant them the rest they’ve earned.

    But underneath it all, from my experience a huge percentage of passenger-handling trouble results from prolonged exposure to working conditions which do the same thing to drivers that wear, unskilled handling and bad maintenance do to their machines.

    I loved driving the 4000-series 60′ trolleybuses. From the time I clicked the switch to “forward” and palmed down the emergency brake, my hands were on my life’s work. PM rush hour on the Route 7 (which in those days meant all the wire between the U-District and almost Skyway) was what I did in the world. Heavy passenger loads were a positive- boredom leads to inattention, which leads to crashes.

    But six hours into an 8-hour shift with no observable breaks, I risked a gross misconduct charge every time I spoke to a passenger. Major part of my fury about drug testing: fatigue, stress and violated sleep schedule kill passengers too- but still waiting for the War on those things.

    Not my call since I last paid dues going on seventeen years ago, but 587 should have gone to the streets on its way to the Feds over last year’s savaging of recovery time. Fact that the King County Council used a consultant’s word for justification was road salt in the wound.

    I’m aware of possible trade-offs, but as a professional driver would rather risk a layoff than a preventable accident on my record. Especially if I killed somebody. Twenty years ago I literally watched a man’s hair turn white in a couple of months after one of those.

    Transit driving is the exact kind of skilled trade that this country is endangering its survival by losing: individual people putting their technical skills and personal qualities together to do a very hard job with their own hands, eyes, and minds. The kind of work that enables people to earn, in every sense of the word, their living. The way you really revive an economy.

    Encourage younger people in the uniforms now to stay with the trade and master it, on condition you also get active in the union and in transit politics to assure yourselves a long, healthy life as well.

    Also: careful about closed cabs and barriers. You always want to be able to smell instantly when somebody sets the vehicle on fire.

    Mark Dublin

  5. “587 should have gone to the streets on its way to the Feds over last year’s savaging of recovery time.”

    YES!!!!

  6. Good transit systems actually minimize driver-passenger interaction, which does two things: 1) information about the route/system is clearly conveyed, either online, in paper, or posted at stops, requiring less reliance on the driver (…)

    Couldn’t agree more. The basic route information that metro displays at the stops is barely more than the final destination of the bus. If it included a list of stops or some indication of how it gets to that point, I wouldn’t have to ask the driver “do you go down Foo St all the way?”.

    Here’s a standard display from a Zurich bus stop. Notice that as well as the complete timetable, it gives a list of stops and approximate travel times to each stop from the current location.

      1. YES. I was going to comment about CTA’s awesome signage somewhere here. I actually sometimes wished the CTA posted route maps inside of buses, although it would take some work to replace them all the time.

        Even on the Mag Mile (which has service patterns roughly similar to our 2nd-4th couplet, and thus no room for all those maps) the CTA has concise text descriptions of all the routes and their service spans. It takes a few signs about that size, double-sided, to express the information we get in one of our enormous downtown signs.

  7. I may be misunderstanding this post – it’s written in a general way without details. Is the point to give more information to passengers so they don’t have to ask the driver? If so, I’m in – dynamic maps in buses, good paper maps on signs, good IT tools, even smart bus signs that tell you when a bus is coming – would all improve the rider’s experience and speed up the bus.

    But if you’re talking about walling off the driver from the riders, or implement tougher “no talking” rules, count me out.

  8. Some drivers really put in the extra effort to know their routes – I know visitors are appreciative of their knowledge and I appreciate it as a regular rider because it gets us going faster.

    What amazes me is how infrequently people ask me for directions while I’m waiting at the bus stop. I’m usually very attentive, I look like a regular guy (if I may say so), and I try to look approachable. I certainly don’t mind helping out someone, if only people would ask.

    1. It isn’t about “effort” so much as repetition and exposure. Board operators may be on a route that they haven’t driven in weeks, months or years since qualifying. After a number of years driving the same route, you may know every street and stop along that route, but most of us drive so many different routes and haven’t been on the job that many years, so we may not know every nook, cranny, cross street and 7-11.

    2. Agreed on the infrequency of folks asking. That being said if I’m at a stop I usually look busy, reading something on my phone or in a book, but 99% of the time I’m happy to answer questions, and I’ve been known to walk up to folks who spend too much time at the schedule sign asking for where they’re trying to get to.

      I kicked over a suggestion to a friend who is with one of the transit groups in the area. That metro should launch a marketing campaign where folks could have a button or something that would identify them as being happy to answer questions about the bus system.. I already do this, but I can see metro supporting this to reduce the number of folks hanging out in a bus door asking drivers questions about how to get to point a, b, or c…

      I think this’d end up gaining a little efficiency from the system without really costing much.

    1. A nice goal, especially the “cheerful” part when you’ve had several people call you a “fucking asshole”, throw wadded up transfers at you, and generally treat you like crap for an 8-hour shift.

      “On-time” is also a nice goal when Metro “efficiencies” have cut our recovery times to the point where we don’t even have time to take a leak much less have a sandwich and a soda for 8 straight hours.

      1. If several passengers are throwing wadded up transfers at you, treating you like crap and calling you a fucking asshole over an eight hour shift, guess what? You are a “Fucking Asshole” of a driver.

        As a driver (who has always driven late, crappy routes), I’m so tired of other drivers blaming recovery times for their bad moods. Some drivers were still assholes when the recovery times were liberal. There are plenty of drivers out there today who drive routes that have useless breaks and they are happy and are pleasant with the passengers.

      2. “If several passengers are throwing wadded up transfers at you, treating you like crap and calling you a fucking asshole over an eight hour shift, guess what? You are a “Fucking Asshole” of a driver.”

        Not really, no. I question whether you’re really a driver at all if you’ve never had the experience of the unsolicited verbal assault.

        Yeah, some drivers are assholes, and undoubtedly they help contribute to the poor treatment the rest of us sometimes get from a public who has a bad experience with a driver having a bad day. But to blanket paint every negative experience a driver has with an abusive passenger (or passengers) as the driver’s fault is out of step with reality.

      3. My original point was that it can be challenging to say the least – even for the best of us – to maintain a cheerful, “up with people” attitude for the totality of our shift in all situations, particularly on those days we are subjective to unrealistic, snarky, and abusive behavior at the hands of some of our passengers.

      4. Yes, I’m a real driver (I’m driving till 2:02 tonight) and no, I repeat NO, I don’t get unsolicited verbal assaults. I get solicited verbal assaults (and COA’s) when I start acting like a fucking asshole(and even then, I’ve NEVER had anyone throw anything at me).

        Reading the condescending attitude in some of your posts I can really see why you have the issue of people being unpleasant with you. Even the supervisors at the window can point out the drivers who’ll have issues with passengers just in the way they carry themselves around the base.

        It’s not that I have an “up with people” attitude, I just TRY to respect people as fellow human beings. I have my good moments and bad moments sometimes in the same run.

        YOU CREATE YOUR OWN DRAMA EITHER GOOD OR BAD! Maybe you haven’t figured that out yet.

      5. I’ve seen several wadded up transfers thrown at the driver on a single trip on the 358. I don’t know how drivers put up with the crap on that route.

      6. Not sure. Wha5 I can tell you TS, except that my experience differs from yours. A~ for this particular thread, I don’t recall being as disrespectful to you as you were to me just now. See you on the road, and I hope your good luck streak continues.

      7. I agree with Kevin, the patience shown by most of the drivers of the 358 is astounding to me. Seriously, I would stab myself in the eye after just one day driving that route.

  9. Take the case of the ST/BNSF conductors, they really can make a passengers day. Last night I barely made the 1702, and as usual he gave me a good teasing, saying to the effect that he wasn’t gonna leave w/o me.

    It’s little things like and others when I interact with IT drivers that help towards fostering better communication and goodwill. Many thanks to the ST Sounder Northline onboard staff, they rock!

  10. I much prefer chatty and friendly drivers to grumpy, sour and non-communicative ones. Some don’t even respond when you do say ‘thank you’ at the end of a ride and it does affect ones day for a brief while. (Thanking the driver by the way or wishing them a good evening or weekend is an endearing Seattle thing which always impresses my parents when they come over from London. Most drivers seem to appreciate it but it is a very Seattle thing we should be proud off and doesn’t take much to do.)

    Overall, I have noticed some decline in driver friendliness over the years. Partly this may be a reflection of the horrible economy and lack of funding inducing uncertainty into all of our lives at hte present time.

    People that hold up the buses are annoying – especially those who hold up an already well held up bus long past its scheduled time. Yes, some questions can be easily answered with a minimum of thought. If a bus that looks like a regular bus making a regular stop at its regular time in its regular direction with a healthy no. of existing passengers is unfortunately marked with something other than its route no. (such as to Atlantic Base or something), it doesn’t take much to see that the signage is a mistake or a fault than for real. However, I have seen folks have lengthy discourses on the subject to verify that their bus is going where they want it to go.

    By the way, Amtrak personnel are almost always very friendly and on the Coast Starlight, there are often two particularly friendly conductors on the stretch from Portland to Klamath Falls and from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo. The latter is retiring soon but he is a great credit to Amtrak. On the whole though, pleasant staff is one of the reasons why I have enjoyed choosing the Coast Starlight over the many other ways I could get to Los Angeles. I have made 12 trips on the Coast Starlight since June 2010 and have yet to meet a staff member to truly dislike. More on this in a future ‘open’ posting.

    1. “If a bus that looks like a regular bus making a regular stop at its regular time in its regular direction with a healthy no. of existing passengers is unfortunately marked with something other than its route no. (such as to Atlantic Base or something), it doesn’t take much to see that the signage is a mistake or a fault than for real.”

      What if there are multiple buses making that stop at that time?

    2. “Some don’t even respond when you do say ‘thank you’ at the end of a ride and it does affect ones day for a brief while.”

      Sit in a seat up by the driver of a pay as you leave commuter route sometime and think about that a bit. I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time coming up with a routine that allows me to be interactive with passengers and polite but not literally say “Good night” or “You’re welcome” 30-40 times at the South Bellevue Park & Ride as I am unloading a packed 550.

      That said, I’ve experienced being the lone passenger exiting a bus and saying “Thank you” only to be greeted with silence and not even a glance. It’s even creepier when I know the driver…

      1. The only passengers that I don’t greet or say goodbye to are those entering or exiting through the back door. I tend to vary my greeting (“good morning”, “hello”, “welcome”; goodnight, have a great day, thanks) to not sound too robotic. Some respond, some don’t. Some have headphones on and are dead to the world and I have to wave my hands in front of their faces to get them to stop passing their ORCA card in front of the reader over and over and over again so that I can tell them that “passback” means it got them the first time.

        What some folks posting here (and some folks in general) tend not to realize or think about is that my interaction with them is one of literaly thousands I will have that day. I try to make each interaction unique, meaningful and sincere – but occasionally may fall short due to the sheer repetitive nature of the job.

  11. d.p.–you really need to chill. Sometimes drivers will indulge the stupid people asking stupid questions for too long, but people are humans. You can lecture us or yell at drivers and customers all you want, but people will still help people.

    1. I’m going to have to side with d.p. here. From a cost benefit standpoint,
      the benefit of helping one person navigate the bus system is simply not worth the cost of making everybody else on the bus miss a connection and be forced to sit around downtown an entire hour late at night.

      1. I`d wager that this seldom if ever actually happens. Some of you folks claiming that spending an extra moment answering a question causes the bus to run late would likely be among the first to defend the fumbling cyclist, or the late runner that misses the bus because they didn’t consult a schedule (or a watch) and the driver didn’t stop to wait for them.

      2. A just-slightly-too-slow 10 caused me to miss my 18 by mere seconds tonight.

        As a result, I had to wait for the 15 and then walk further, getting home 25 minutes later than if that 10 hadn’t made me late.

        When seconds can turn into half-hours, there is no excuse for wasting time.

        (Metro’s advice to “get to your stop a minute or two early” is a cruel joke when you can’t control anything about your first bus. That’s advice for the one-seat purists, but it’s useless in a transfer-based system. That’s why a transfer-based system can’t have a million Achilles’ heals!)

      3. Was the “slightly too slow” 10 (10’s run on a 10 minute headway during certain time of the day) too slow due to driver dawdling?

        If your connection was so tight – why didn’t you catch an earlier 10?

        Classic case of not taking responsibility for your own poor planning.

      4. …due to driver dawdling?

        I have no idea, since it was already a couple of minutes late when I caught it.

        Classic case of not taking responsibility for your own poor planning.

        Bull-fucking-shit, Beavis. The previous anything I could have taken was at least 15-20 minutes earlier. Your definition of “taking responsibility” is to significantly lengthen my expectations and time blocking for fairly basic trip.

        I should always “responsibly presume” it will take 75-90 minutes to get anywhere and never fault those cause that to be the case.

        You need to work a day or two as a bus driver.

        And you need to spend a day or two on a real transit system. If you’re not willing to be a part of the solution, then you’re a part of Metro’s problem.

      5. The contentiousness on these topics can be pretty crazy. Can’t we try to understand each other’s realities here?

        People don’t just have the option of getting off work whenever they want, or setting the schedules of their connections. It is legitimately frustrating to miss a connection to an infrequent service. It’s ridiculous to call people irresponsible when they’re really doing the best they can.

        On the other hand, there’s only so reliable a transit service can be running in traffic. If you choose a commute that has a “seconds that can turn into half-hours” transfer, it’s pretty unfair to blame a driver on the ground for dropping you off a few seconds late sometimes. You just have to be mentally prepared to accept that your commute is unreliable. I say that as someone that has had seconds turn into half-hours many times. Campaign for more frequency and infrastructure/policies that allow for reliability. Advocate for better signage so people don’t have to ask so many complicated questions.

      6. So, if the bus stopped at EVERY stop along the route what would happen to the timeliness of the bus? It’s likely going to be late. The route is tuned based on an average number of stops and I would posit that the route timing should also anticipate regular congestion, and the occasional bumbling passenger or person with a question.

        What I’m also irritated at are buses leaving starting points or passing timed points several minutes early in part because they know by mid-route they’re going to be late. Today, I had to run to catch the ST 594 because it was going to arrive at it’s time point more than 3 minutes early. Fortunately, the driver saw me and was nice enough to wait. But he still left that stop 2 minutes early.

      7. There are lots of routes out there, especially during off-peak times that are unreliable and the unreliability has little to do with traffic and everything to do with dwell times at bus stops.

        Normally, drivers learn that freeways are faster in the best case, but surface streets are more reliable. However, during non-rush hour, I discovered that freeway-running buses are often more reliable than their surface-running counterparts because the freeway routes make fewer stops and the risk of a bus being delayed at a bus stop is much more than the risk of a bus being delayed at traffic.

        For example, if I want to go from the U-district to downtown on a Saturday morning, I always go 510/511. Since they have very few stops, I can trust them to be right on time. And since the 510 and 511 come back-to-back, I get some extra redundancy because if one of them gets delayed, I can still take the other. (Normally, I plan to be at the bus stop right at the moment the 510 is supposed to come, but don’t start running unless I see the 510 go by leaving me 3 minutes to make the 511). By contrast, the 71/72/73 are a lot harder to trust. On paper, they come more frequently and require less walking to access. But in practice, you just never really know when they’re going to come, even with OneBusAway. Anyone who’s seen OneBusAway claim a bus is 5 minutes away, only to observe 5 minutes later that the bus has advanced from 5 minutes away to 4 minutes away knows what I’m talking about.

    2. Sorry dude, but listening to your whining and unrealistic complaints based on some fantasy world existence where every piece of public transportation exists to serve you and you alone (and is capable of levitating above traffic, avoiding mechanical issues, and for the sake of topicality only serves well-behaved and well informed passengers).

      I have ridden on many “real” public transportation systems all over the U.S., and have been a consumer of Metro transit since I was but a tyke right here in Seattle. Ours isn’t the best – but it’s a long way from the worst. One thing I have learned to count on both as a passenger and a driver is that there will always be narcissistic individuals ready to focus all of their personal shortcomings, job stresses, and negative energies on the most convenient target they can find. In your case, that appears to be those of us who wear the uniform and sit behind the wheel.

      Nevertheless – you (and those like you) will always be welcome aboard any bus I’m driving, any time of day. I will do my best to provide optimal customer service, and strive to maintain on-time performance (even though at times – sorry Mr. Unrealistic Fantasy Man – it will be impossible).

      As to critiques such as yours, I will take them for what they appear to be: the hot-air bloviating of a self-centered, entitlement-focused hothead with no clue as to the realities that those around them face, and a sense of empathy that has apparently be surgically removed.

      1. Whatever, Beavis.

        I maintain that if “planning ahead” means adding 30-minute blocks to every leg of every journey I ever take anywhere at any time, that’s extremely sub-par and the kind of unacceptable situation that drives reasonable people away from transit.

        You’re in denial if you think otherwise.

      2. This seems like a structural issue that plays out in conflict between drivers and passengers. Metro doesn’t do a good job of helping folks navigate transfers – particularly late at night. I think that’s a big reason many folks were so resistant to some of the 9/12 restructuring that would have required more transfers for more people.

        Back in the day when I used to hang out on Capitol Hill at night I’d much rather go for a through-routed 43/44 to get back to Wallingford or Ballard (the two neighborhoods I lived in when I used to stay out past 10pm) than trying to transfer Downtown.

  12. One thing drivers can do if someone isn’t sure if a route goes where they’re wanting it to is to tell the person to get on and read the route guide… That of course presumes we have any paper route guides left on the bus..

    1. I have also found that riders, at least several riders together, can often answer complex questions as well if not better than the driver.

      1. Heaven knows STB readers are experts enough to answer questions about the system. I know there have been more than a few times I wanted to answer a question just so we could get back on the road, and I think there have been a couple of times I knew the answer to a question when the driver was having trouble even properly understanding it.

      2. So what stopped you from helping out? Many drivers are driving routes they may not have driven in some time, and unlike the commuters they are transporting, they may not live in the same neighborhood (or even the same city) as the one that route is servicing. As a result, a driver may not know every stop, streetsign and bush along that route, whereas a resident of that neighborhood (and regular commuter on that route) might.

        No crime in chiming in to help with a question. When this happens on a bus that I’m driving, I always thank the passenger who jumps in to answer a question when I can’t.

      3. Beavis,

        Sometimes, it’s passenger expectations, and trust in public figures. I was once riding a 43 to downtown late at night, and a passenger got on a few stops before Montlake and asked how to get to Redmond. The driver thought for a minute and said, “I think you want to take the 550, from downtown.” I chimed in that the passenger probably wanted the 545, and they should get off in two stops. The passenger thanked me, and then proceeded to skip Montlake and continue downtown.

        I don’t actually know what happened, but I think there’s a reasonable chance they got on the last 550 to Bellevue and then had to call a friend (or a cab).

        There isn’t really anything that went wrong here; everyone had good intentions, and it was just a misunderstanding. But it would have been nice if the driver had said something like, “Hey, can anyone on the bus help this person?”.

      4. After 10 PM, the 545 runs only once an hour, so it’s entirely possible that if the customer did get off at Montlake, he/she would have been stuck at Montlake for an entire hour. If that’s the case, 550->B is probably better. Maybe the driver did know what he/she was talking about after all.

      5. This was about a year ago. The B line didn’t exist. Anyway, the driver didn’t mention anything about the B or the 230 or 253, so the passenger would have had to figure it out once they got to BTC.

      1. The bottom line is that it isn’t the driver’s responsibility to know where you want to go, or to make sure you got on the right bus – it’s yours.

  13. Hey, welcome to the world. Some bus drivers are outgoing and fun. Some are not.

    Some bus drivers drive their bus like it is a stolen turbo-charged Honda Civic, most don’t.

    Generally, I like the bus drivers. As for talking to bus drivers, I usually follow the age-old rule for children: Don’t talk unless spoken to.

  14. I rather like the little “information gladly given but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation” signs that are up on Muni buses and streetcars down in San Francisco…

  15. The reason light rail operators are locked in a cab is for their own protection not because poeple know what they are doing which is a lot more previlang these days especally wih trip planning tools and mobile internet access. Ava systems are also standarding and improving communication with riders as well. Standardized clear announcements, althoguh you do loose some of the charms of committed operators annoucements who announce major things bug some minor things as well

  16. Some of my favorite questions from passengers:

    Do you go by Starbucks?
    Do you go to the mall with Barnes and Nobles?
    Why is bus xyz(ie.not mine)late?
    Is there a stop at Safeway?
    When is the next bus going the other way?

    An all time favorite asked in the DSTT Do you go to the waterfront?

    1. Thank you :)

      I’m not a bus driver, but I was once asked how to get to “the stop under the bridge” on the UW campus. Also, “when the last 255 going the other way leaves IDS” while waiting for a westbound 545 at Evergreen Point.

      Passengers are ridiculous. If they knew how the fare system worked, they would line up by the back door when necessary and move to the back when it’s crowded.

      Though if they didn’t exist, we transit-elitists wouldn’t have anyone to make fun of.

      1. I would log that driver’s response as “not cool”. My own response would havee been “I go near there. Get off at Westlake station, take the stairs to the surface and go 3 blocks West (towards the water) on Pine Street.”

  17. The adding of automated announcements that I’ve encountered on several buses is very much welcomed. Major stops/intersections are announced and the lesser ones are still on the reader board. I hope that Metro will continue to roll these out and hope that they’ll continue to add this GPS technology to lots of buses. I fear though that some buses will never get them since they’re likely on their last legs and it would be a waste of money to outfit them with the new reader board and GPS.

      1. The automated stop announcements are part of a major radio system upgrade that the FCC has mandated be done by the end of Q2, this year. So, by June or July all the busses should have them.

  18. I will occasionally engage the driver in conversation, but I only do it when the bus is almost empty. I tend to talk to the driver the most when I’m the lone passenger on a deadhead back to the base.

    That being said, sometimes buses do quirky things that aren’t obvious from the headsigns and the only way to know for sure what the bus is going to do is to ask the driver. For example, I once boarded a 510 bus from downtown to the U-district around 7:00 on a weekday evening (way faster than the competing 71/72/73 series). On paper, the 510 approaching was the first bus of the evening that stopped at 45th St. However, it could have easily been a bus that didn’t stop at 45th St. that was simply running 20 minutes behind schedule. When the consequences of missing the 45th St. stop was having to go all the way to 145th St. and wait up to 30 minutes to backtrack to 45th, I was absolutely not going to get on without asking the driver first. But I was very conscious of making the question as brief as possible to minimize the delay to other passengers.

    1. Actually, the peak 510 doesn’t stop at 145th either. First stop north of downtown is all the way up at South Everett P&R. So a mistake would probably cost you an hour at minimum.

  19. I once had this happen… I was waiting for a bus in the tunnel at rush hour when someone near me held up 4 articulated buses (and god knows how many behind them) asking the driver of the first one in line for directions. After at least a minute of this, I said loudly “Wrap it up, you’re holding up 200 people.” Then the guy next to me called me an self-centered *******. Maybe it’s just a Seattle problem.

      1. And you should not wait. People MUST take responsibility for being at the stop some minutes earlier than the scheduled departure. That’s the least we should ask.

  20. I think it is laughable that people are so concerned about efficient bus times when there are so many factors that make Metro buses inefficient. Metro insists on running buses in long routes with low frequencies and is irked when they regularly become late.

    Asking questions about the route is a normal human activity and it should not be viewed askance. Drivers should be polite and provide ACCURATE information about where the bus they are driving goes. For example, I asked a driver on the Ave if that particular bus went to U Village, she said yes. Well, turns out it went about 7 blocks north of U Village and since I had never ridden that bus before, didn’t know that or where to get off. After it became really obvious that I was no where near my destination, she let me off with info on how to get back closer to where I needed to be. That was a customer service fail on Metro’s part.

    1. 7 blocks is within the U-village neighborhood. Stop blaming drivers for your own lack of preparation and ignorance. We don’t read minds, and we don’t hold hands. Meanwhile, you have OneBusAway, the customer service phone number, the web site, etc. to plan your trip. If you screw up and don’t get the answer you want from a driver – it’s your fault, not ours.

      1. Beavis, we actually agree here, believe it or not.

        This is exactly what SHOULD happen. He got on the bus (without delaying it), got close to his destination, and was dropped off and sent the right way by a driver her knew her stuff.

        That worked out so much better for the rest of the passengers than if she’d spent a minute and a half telling him all about the 25 or the 75 and how he had to walk all the way down to Campus Parkway to catch them and so on…

        My hunch is that it also worked out much better for Charles than any other choice would have, whether he knows it or not.

      2. Like I said – as a driver, its a lose-lose proposition. He’ll bitch because he thought he got “inaccurate information” (though not sure what planet has 7 blocks being “nowhere near” a destination. You’ll bitch because you think a driver is taking too much time !nswering someone’s question.

        So tell me – when I get called in front of my supervisor to respond to his bitch, and the next day I get called in to respond to YOUR bitch, with instructions to take both bitches seriously and Go Forth and Sin No More. . .wha5 should I as a driver do differently fo either of you?

        You want to know what a real waste of time and inefficiency looks like? Start with all the time that Metro has to spend dealing with complaints.

        Bottom line, if I try to provide good customesr service to customer “A”, it may result in a perceived lack of service to customer “B” (and vice-versa). Either ww!y as a driver, I’m screwed. This kind of irritated-customers-at-odds-with-one-another does nothing to make me a better driver. It just makes me feel helpless and cynical.

        It is litera)ly impossible to make everybody happy, and those who aren’t will blame the driver regardless.

      3. The question was do you go TO U Village. The correct answer was either no, or I go near it but not to it.

        Yes, I fashion myself a bit of a transit nerd and I had already planned a route using my favorite tools but I saw this bus and it seemed to be going to the neighborhood I wanted so I asked. I placed my trust in the driver to tell me the truth and I made a decision to trust serendipity.

        This Libertarian attitude of don’t you dare ask for clarification is rather disturbing.

      4. Thing is, U-village isn’t just a mall, its a neighborhood. 7 blocks from the mall proper reasonably falls within your limited question. I once was driving the 1t and had a passenger get angry at me because I answered “yes” to the question “do you go to Ballard?” This person wanted Ballard avenue and Market (17 or 18), not 15th and market. Should I have taken the time to ask this person more questions? Or should I assume that this person wanted a simple answer to a simple question?

        For you got on a bus after asking the wrong question. Bla’ing the driver for your mistake is just plain lame.

    2. Keep in mind that Metro provides virtually zero formal training on neighborhoods, route locations, and amenities located along routes. Route qualification only includes how to *DRIVE* the route. Any information you receive is entirely learned through on-the-job experience. In that context, I don’t believe it is reasonable to always expect the drivers to know answers to your questions.

      For my part I only answer questions I’m sure of. As such I frequently have to answer “Sorry, I don’t know” even when I’m relatively sure. I used to say, “I’m pretty sure …” but that recently got me into trouble with a passenger who started chewing me out for not being certain of answer to their question. A good reminder to just not bother and keep the bus moving. Sometimes, being the “peacekeeper” means just keeping your mouth shut.

      1. +1. Of course as this is a lose-lose situation for us, we risk a “see me” for the passenger that complains that we were “rude” and “refused to answer a question”.

  21. On the lighter side, one of the things that makes Seattle a great place to live is that we do have a culture of politeness. We sometimes do form bonds with regular drivers. Here’s a video I think from Denmark that shows the length that happy passengers will go to to appreciate their driver.

    http://youtu.be/xgOyTNtsWyY

  22. We need Uniformed Expeditors at all the downtown stops on October 1, to answer any and all questions, to tap ORCA, to assist with difficult boardings and alightings, to point the way to the nearest ORCA VMs, and maybe even to sell tickets (perhaps in the form of paper transfers).

    In the long run, maybe we could employ the same technology as the emergency call buttons, and hook up each stop to a phone system connected to Customer Service.

    1. It would be much better to have knowledgeable greeters and people on site in the downtown area for a period of time at the switch over. Far more efficient than a “batphone” to Customer Service.

      1. SO important all the way through the Holiday Season this fall and early winter. And from Memorial Day through US Labor Day each and every year.
        (Real Labor Day is on 1st May, of course)

  23. And I’ll repeat a sentiment from last fall: Seattle is now a huge tourist destination and in my travels over the summer I spent many a time assisting these tourists. People from out of town have a natural disorientation, our signage while adhering to standards isn’t all that helpful to these types of people and the signs often get lost in against the backdrops especially walls plastered with large ads.

    One of the most common points of confusion is which platform to be on to get to the airport. I’ve even made this mistake on at least one occasion.

    Just today, someone asked me if the bus I was waiting on 1st Ave for went to Pioneer Square. Well, I knew that the bus would turn East and probably before the square so I advised them to walk the 7 or so blocks down the gentle grade to get there rather than risk the bus.

  24. I’ve called in a complaint on a driver thrice. Once was for rudely kicking a passenger off the bus for no apparent reason, getting in a heated argument with the passenger, and then bragging that he wasn’t worried because he had never received a disciplinary action in all his decades of driving.

    The second was for a driver who stopped short of the stop, then pulled away while I was waiving for her to stop at the stop. I sprinted to the next stop. She saw me. She kept driving.

    The third was for not responding to the honks from the driver behind him/her to stop for a transferring passenger. Both buses were low-frequency, so the passenger was essentially stranded for a half hour. The front driver may have thought he was saving time, but behavior like this is what forces Metro to enforce timed transfers, which is not a cheap endeavor, and makes it harder to sell the idea of multi-seat trips.

    Most of my commendations are what I’d call “defensive commendations” — thanking the driver (or fare enforcement officer) for remaining calm and professional in the face of an abusive passenger. I suppose I should also send in commendations for the planners and other presenters who come out to public meetings and deal with screamers who won’t take no for an answer. I’ve found all of them to have the highest level of professionalism, except maybe one who got a little gruff at my neighborhood meeting.

    1. On the third complaint, the driver probably didn’t hear the honkin. That happens a lot, esp with artics. That complaint was bogus. Can’t speak to the others.

      1. The driver said it was rude of the other driver. I took him at his word.

        He honked several times for a few blocks, with no success.

  25. It really is difficult to hear honking – particularly if you’re driving a DE60LF with environmental controls turned on. The blowers are loud, and if there’s a bus directly behind you – you can’t even see them (no rear window). For what it’s worth, I once helped a passenger transfer from a 22 I was driving to a 54. I honked at 35th and Avalon – the driver didn’t hear me. I caught up to him and honked further down Avalon – the driver didn’t hear me. Finally I caught up and overtook the other bus at the 2nd stop down Avalon and angled my bus in front of his so he could see me and couldn’t pull out. He honestly didn’t hear me.

    You chose to conclude that the driver in front was trying to save time – I’m saying that conclusion isn’t necessarily the case, and your complaint was unwarranted.

    Not sure about the “short of the stop” complaint. Where was this stop? Mitigating factors here could include it being a downtown stop (passengers will often not pay attention when you’re the 2nd bus in line or expect the 2nd bus to make a 2nd stop – which we generally don’t do); or sometimes the shelter is located some distance from the sign or “flag” and drivers will stop where passengers appear to be waiting at the shelter (the person standing at the sign rather than the shelter may appear to the driver to be waiting for a different bus). As to the driver ejecting a passenger for “no reason” – whenver someone says something happened for “no reason” I’m suspicious. There’s always a reason – even if it’s one you’re not aware of or don’t disagree with. At any rate, each of your complaints appears to rely at least in part on some assumptions you’ve made.

    Don’t get me wrong – poor service rates a complaint, and this feedback can servie as important reminders to some operators in need of a reality check once in awhile. I’ve often encouraged customers to call customer service if they were unhappy with me or some other aspect of service from either drivers or the system. It’s just that often these concerns are petty, and fail to take into account factors that customer may be unintentionally (or intentionally) ignorant of.

  26. I am assuming this post isn’t advocating that we all stop tossing a “thank you” over our shoulders as we exit the bus, right? Because, I don’t think that slows things down, certainly not to the extent that long questions from people not on the bus does. I mean, there’s even a children’s song about thanking your bus driver, how bad an idea can it be? But I do agree that drivers should feel empowered to end a long string of questions from an off-board person without feeling like they’re being rude or getting in trouble with their supervisor.

  27. As has been noted, driver/passenger interactions fundamentally limit efficiency. On the other hand, along with contributing (either negatively or positively) to riders’ sense of community and customer service, interactive drivers also contribute to passenger safety. When no one else is willing to stand up to rider behavior as it drifts from rude to dangerous we tend to be able to rely on the driver to do so. However, asking the driver to be both security guard and driver limits her effectiveness in both roles.
    New York subways and old London double decker buses have conductors who help ensure rider safety while leaving the driver to drive. In London the actual role of the conductor is to collect fares but in New York it’s all safety–primarily in managing the operation of the doors, but potentially also serving as the underground flight attendant: there for information and emergencies. This is all the more the case with the L train, which has adopted an automated driver-less system while maintaining the watchful eye of the conductor.
    Since moving to Seattle I’ve been shocked and charmed by the great number of quaint and outmoded systems in use here, from the astoundingly clunky King County website to the use of paper transfers and the extraordinarily high degree of driver interaction, especially involving ability differences in mobility and vision. It’s like something out of Mayberry. Isn’t it time that we left Mayberry where it belongs (in Spokane) and started taking steps to assert our place as a world-class city?

    Sure, I like that people say hello to one another on the street and I’m charmed by the thank-yous and how’re-you-doings with bus drivers, and I love that people go beyond the surface of those rituals and seem to have actual relationships and concerns (often not the case in the Mayberries and Spokanes), but that’s no excuse for shoddy services that make using the city harder. We must have transit that is as fast and simple for everyone including those who don’t move, see or hear the same ways that others do and for those who’ve never ridden our transit system before. I’m looking for things like low-floor buses throughout the fleet, buses that announce their identities to the vision-impaired, no more buses that start as one number and become another in the middle of a trip. We must communicate with people and work to make our city user-friendly for all.

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