Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where do they find drivers like this?

This morning I was headed for work doing my usual routine of switching VIVA buses at Richmond Hill Centre Terminal.

The VIVA Blue Southbound and VIVA Purple Westbound buses both arrive at same time (6:53 A.M. ). I'm the third person out of the middle doors on the sixty foot articulated VIVA Blue bus destined for Finch Station.

The VIVA Purple, at the next bus bay ahead of the bus I'm disembarking from, opens its doors, allows one person to board and then abruptly closes its doors and pulls away. The VIVA Purple driver, the brilliant driver he is, misses the two people railing on the just closed back doors even before the buses moves. To make matters worse HE LEFT EARLY! Normally on your average ride into work making this connection with at least ten others, there is a three minute wait at Richmond Hill Centre between buses arriving and leaving.

Not Today! The driver of bus # 5135 decided it was more important to make record time in finishing his route to York University rather than provide decent customer service by waiting a minute. However, I had other ideas. I ran accross the platform to the opposite side. The bus had to drive all the way around the end of the terminal. I stood out in the middle of the bus way and guided him into the local bus bay. This was the only way to make this connection! Five other people saw what happenned and boarded the bus with me.

I chewed out the driver for YRT/VIVA having the audacity for raising fares a quarter per ride every year for the last two years and then provide such terrible customer service in cases like this. I also got a good look at his GPS unit which indicated he was FOUR MINUTES AHEAD OF SCHEDULE! The driver responded that "he only drives the bus". Talk about being out of the loop on what his job is. A public transit driver should also be aware of the pedestrians/customers around his bus which obviously was not the case considering he never checked his right hand mirror or noticed the two passengers ranging on his back passenger doors wishing to board the bus BEFORE he pulled out of his spot earlier than scheduled. Also, like his other fellow drivers, he should also be watching for the connecting VIVA Blue bus headed southbound to unload its passengers for possible connections.

Our bus, after leaving Richmond Hill Centre left at least another ten people standing on the platform. How do I know? A text message came in to the cell phone of one of the other passengers on the bus from a friend who was on the VIVA Purple bus that arrived 10 minutes later to Richmond Hill Centre, and it received the leftover passengers from the missed connection and other the regular passengers from the next two VIVA Blue Southbound buses. So it was standing room only on that particular bus.

Meanwhile on our bus, we never picked up anymore passengers at Promenade Terminal, Dufferin Street, or Keele Street stops which is abnormal. Perhaps this is because our bus arrived at York University, the final stop, five minutes after the one ahead of it arrived. Normally there is a ten minutes between buses arriving.

Did I call in and complain about the poor customer service? No because when you call YRT Customer Service you get the run around with "all times are approximate" and "connections cannot be guarenteed". What a load of hughey! How about dropping the script and providing proper customer service by listening to what is going on the phone.

On the plus side, the bearded and balding Russian accented driver of bus # 5135 driver is abnormal for VIVA drivers at this particular station when making this connection. Most drivers, like the balding bearded driver of the VIVA Purple bus operating 15 minutes behind bus # 5135, who operate do a check to see if the passengers disembarking from the bus directly behind them have made the transfer and nobody else is coming. Most drivers also are aware of other arriving buses to the terminal and go out of there way to hold for the connection whenever possible. This should be the policy to provide proper customer service instead of forcing us to stand out in the cold at one of the most poorly designed transit terminals in terms of protecting one from the weather (e.g. wind, snow, etc.), even in the "sheltered"area of the terminal.

So in order to raise the calibre of the VIVA service, the driver of bus 5135 needs to be pulled off the road for a while. He is notorious for not providing possible connections, looks dumbfounded when asked simple questions or pointed out the connections between buses at a major terminal like Richmond Hill Centre and often arrives way ahead of schedule at his end stop. Come on Veolia (the private contractor who provides the drivers and maintenance for VIVA) and YRT, get this guy off the road! One last worry, if this driver cannot see a 60 foot blue articulated VAN HOOL bus behind him in the mirror, what is the driver of VIVA Bus # 5135 doing on the road?

I cannot wait to see what happens next Wednesday at Richmond Hill Centre for this same connection. Perhaps an improvement will be made and this driver will realize his mistake. Naww.... I really don't have high hopes on this one, I better be dressed warmly as I think I may have to wait over ten minutes in order to climb aboard the overcrowded VIVA Purple bus that arrives after this idiot driver.

FYI to YRT/VIVA: This is one of my biggest pet peeves of riding the VIVA system...idiot drivers who don't wait a minute to make connections forcing passengers to wait ten to fifteen minutes for the next bus. No wonder "the car" is king of the road in York Region.

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