Things have come to a rare pass when you have to sic the regulators on OC Transpo just to be told where to get off.
And yet, this is the story of Terrance Green. The Ottawa lawyer, who is blind, applied to the Canadian Transportation Agency to order drivers to call out major and requested stops. This after incidents of missing his stop and ending up in parts of town neither he nor his guide dog knew.
The agency sided with Green and by March 31, all drivers were supposed to be announcing the stops. That deadline has been missed and fines against the city are likely the next step. So the public, because it isn’t receiving the service it should be, will end up paying the penalty.
Strangely enough, calling out stops has been OC Transpo’s policy for some 20 years — drivers just aren’t doing it one-fifth of the time, according to the company’s own figures.
Eighty per cent compliance with the rules is, well, OK, but just how hard is it to call out stops?
Apparently, hard enough that OC Transpo is in the process of installing an automated voice system at the cost of $7 million.
In the meantime, some worry about the safety implications of drivers calling out stops at the same time as they deal with heavy traffic. OK, then, when it’s hairy, how about naming stops when actually stopped at them? Yes, it’s yet another distraction for our multi-tasking drivers, but these are, after all, the rules.
Announcing stops is a simple courtesy that helps not only the visually impaired or any tourists brave enough to take on the intricacies of our transit routes, but anyone taking a bus into an unfamiliar part of town.
A very intelligent, capable woman I know recently lost the use of her car and admitted she didn’t know how to use the bus system in Ottawa. What seems simple enough to the regular rider can have a daunting learning curve for the newbie.
Even the everyday rider, plugged into an MP3 player or a book or a daydream, can miss a stop.
In winter, on foggy-windowed rainy days and at night, it isn’t even easy for those with 20/20 vision to see exactly where they are.
The bus driver’s primary job is to get you from here to there on time and safely, and Transpo’s record is pretty impressive in this regard. But as front-line public employees, they are also representatives of our city. That’s worth a couple of stop announcements.