The DomPost is currently running an editorial on Wellington’s bus service. There are two major themes in there: driver behaviour and transport planning. For this short post, I’m going to focus on the first, since the second requires much more thorough work.
Last month, a young blind woman was rudely interrogated by a Go Wellington driver about her condition, despite having an official blind person’s pass. She jumped off the bus in tears.
Two weeks later, an Island Bay woman pregnant with twins was barred from taking her two-year-old in a pram on a near-empty bus, despite the rules allowing it.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are seeking a hefty fine for bus operator Wellington City Transport over a string of cases of people caught in bus doors. (The company’s register apparently contained 144 such complaints in less than two years).
Tramways Union officials are also currently advising drivers on two notoriously late routes not to “risk lives and their jobs in an attempt to maintain what are obviously impossible running times”.
Taken separately, these might be dismissed as aberrations, or the actions of the odd grumpy driver. Together, they look like a service which is stretched, with passengers bearing the risks and abuse.
It’s good to see the media starting to take up these issues. As Wellington grows, it’s going to have to put more of its transport eggs into baskets other than private cars. For the service to grow, it needs passenger buy-in. Passengers must need to be treated as customers, with all the respect that’s supposed to go with the label.
The editorial references this story about a driver refusing to carry a pregnant passenger and child unless the pram was collapsed, despite the change in policy. With that as context, I have an anecdote of positive change.
After heading to Kilbirnie with my son for a swim, I found myself waiting with another dad at the bus stop. He had been waiting before I’d arrived, but wasn’t keen to take that particular bus because he was familiar with the driver, having had been refused carriage for not collapsing his buggy. I was willing to have that argument, so I went to get on the bus. There was zero fuss. I tagged on and pushed the buggy into one of the appropriate spaces. The other dad followed my lead and set up his son opposite mine. We both got to where we needed to be without any hassle. We all thanked the driver on the way out, kids included.
It would be slightly presumptuous to guess why our driver behaved differently today than in the past, although NZ Bus has said that they’re getting the customer-service message out to drivers. All that really matters is that we all get to where we’re going with a minimum of hassle for everyone involved.