Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I don't feel so lonely now

Last week after work I did my fast walk to the bus stop, and I waited for the bus I was expecting at any time. And I waited. And waited some more. Perhaps I should have realized that something was amiss, because the people who board the same bus were nowhere in sight. Finally the bus arrived after forty minutes. Except that it wasn’t my usual bus arriving late; it was the next bus, arriving late. A perusal of Metro’s summer schedule for this route revealed that for some unexplained reason, bus arrivals had been moved back five minutes, coincidentally applying only to the 4 and 5 PM time periods when the day shifts where I work end. I have to clock out at 4 PM if I want to get my full pay, and because Metro decided without public comment to move bus stops from the airport terminal to the street, it is a 12-minute fast walk to make it on time. Now, the arrival time at the closest stop location is 4:08 instead of 4:13, meaning I now have to wait for a bus that never arrives at the posted time of 4:38. Since my day typically lasts 16 hours from the time I wake-up to the time I arrive home, that’s just another 30 minutes of lost sleep. So I am left to ponder Metro’s poor service and complete disregard of customers.

Sometimes I think I must be the only person complaining about Metro service, because nothing ever changes; it seems Metro prefers to blame the passenger for being an annoyance. But I’m not the only one complaining. According to Metro’s own figures, there were 400 complaints per one million miles in March; in 2010, Metro averaged a little over 300 complaints per million miles. It appears to be a rather odd way of quantifying, but if Metro transit vehicles logged in 44.5 million miles in 2010, that comes out to about 15,000 customer complaints. One must remember, however, that for every one complaint, there are many more incidents that passengers are unaware that they have a right to complain about, and where to do so—especially if you are one of the targeted immigrants. The media, of course, is more interested in the “dangers” of riding a bus, so for the sake of fairness here are those numbers: 85 cases of assault on Metro drivers in 2010, which of course can be defined any way Metro wishes; I’ve seen notices on a couple of buses stating that touching a driver is a felony (I also once saw a drunken passenger fall out of a bus because the driver was impatient with his slow exit progressive, and moved before the passenger was fully off the bus; the passenger fell so near the bus that those of us looking out the window were certain that he had been run over. Does this constitute assault by bus driver?). There were also 2,659 “arrests and infractions” out of nearly 120 million passengers logged. Most of these cases fall under “infraction”—which does not necessarily have to occur inside a bus—and which Metro defines as “a notice issued by transit police on a non-criminal matter commanding a person to go to court for resolution of the suspected violation.” I suppose it's better than getting your head crushed against a wall by Transit deputies.

And for those with other concerns, Metro’s “on-time” percentage on weekdays this year is between 75 and 80 percent—that is to say if the bus doesn’t drive past you despite the fact that you are waving your arms madly to get the blind driver’s attention.

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