Recently, I’ve noticed more bus drivers are calling out the stops.
Perhaps I am just fortunate enough to ride on routes, or at times of day, where the drivers find this easier to do, but stats collected since March seem to suggest the drivers are at least making an effort.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Transport Agency made a ruling ordering Ottawa drivers to call out major stops. In the absence of an automated system to notify riders of the next stop, this would seem to be the easiest and cheapest way to make the buses more accessible to riders who might otherwise have difficulty finding stops.
Apparently, having the stops called out by drivers has been the policy of OC Transpo for more than two decades, but up until recently, it hasn’t been enforced.
Since March, OC Transpo quality assurance personnel — basically a group of mystery “shoppers” who keep an eye out for what’s happening on the buses — have been keeping track of how often drivers call out major and requested stops. In March, that rate was 82.8 per cent compliance, and in April, it hit a high of 84 per cent compliance, while May’s rate was 80 per cent.
An 80 per cent rate is actually higher than I expected, but is it good enough?
The main argument has been that calling out of stops is one way to better serve vision-impaired riders.
But any of us who have been packed liked sardines on a crowded route, or had difficulty seeing out dirty or foggy windows, know that having bus stops called out is helpful for everyone.
On the occasions when I’ve been travelling an unfamiliar route, and have asked drivers as I boarded to let me know when a stop is coming up, they’ve always been accommodating.
I asked a friend of mine, who is blind, what her experience has been with drivers calling out stops. She said because she is a regular rider most of the drivers on her route know her well enough to wait for her if they see her coming, clear seats at the front for her and her guide dog, and remember where she wants to stop.
Though they may not always call out the major stops, she is willing to cut them slack — citing the fact they are busy with people getting on and off, asking other questions and getting transfers.
She thinks an automated system is probably the only way to have it work 100 per cent of the time, and she is probably right. But that will come with an exorbitant cost, too.
In the meantime, I hope the drivers will continue to call out stops and remember it’s not just because they are ordered to, but also because it really makes a better service for all riders.