Sunday, June 01, 2014

BUS STORY # 395 (What Happens On The Bus Stays On The Bus)

ABQ RIDE fridge magnet by busboy4
ABQ RIDE fridge magnet, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

Let me start by saying that I find ABQ RIDE and its schedules quite reliable. Let me add that, based on what I read on blogs covering other bus riders’ experiences on other metropolitan public transit systems, ABQ RIDE is very reliable.

That is probably why what happened this afternoon is a bus story here in Albuquerque.

I got off the Red Line at Louisiana and Lomas. There was no one waiting at the Lomas eastbound bench -- a disheartening sign because it often means you just missed the bus that picked up all the others that were waiting at that stop, which means you’re gonna be waiting the better part of 20 minutes for the next bus.

I was eventually joined by two walk-ups and a rider who got off the Red Line after mine. After 30 minutes, we started talking. Something was wrong.

One guy, an older guy, suggested the high school graduations on the State Fair grounds may have backed up eastbound traffic on Lomas.

One of the women thought, as I did, there may have been a breakdown. She called 311.

“311” is the name we all know for the “Citizens Contact Center.” It is, in my opinion, one of the smartest things the city has ever done. It is a single-point triage system for whatever it is the caller needs from his or her city government, and the caller is either given the information needed or is connected to the appropriate office.

One of the things 311 is often called upon to do is to tell people why their bus wasn’t where they think it should have been when it should have been. 311 told the woman who called they knew nothing about any problems with the eastbound 11. This is the same experience I’ve had on the few occasions I’ve called 311 wondering what happened to my bus.

I’m pretty sure this is not because the folks at 311 are covering up. What is more likely is that ABQ RIDE is not informing 311 of problems with the service.

I figure that might be because a combination of decreased revenues and anti-tax sentiment means people are over-extended, which in turn means no job is being done as well as it should and could be. The primary focus at ABQ RIDE is on getting the schedule back on track, not notifying 311.

On this afternoon, however, my would-be co-rider introduced me to a second consideration. When she had put away her cell after being told no problems with the eastbound 11 had been reported, she told us that meant the drivers weren’t calling in the problem.

And, she explained, the reason they weren’t calling it in is because they get dinged for being off schedule.

But what if the bus breaks down, a kid asked

Oh, that one they call in. They can’t be dinged for that, she explained. And that reminded me of a story I posted, “To Garage.” In this story, I tell about overhearing a conversation between a driver and dispatch, in which the driver is arguing his bus really is unsafe.

This gives the woman’s story some credibility. And, having been an employee rather than an employer all my life, I have no difficulty imagining an environment in which the last thing I am going to do is penalize myself by following some directive invented by some suit with no on-my-job experience who needs his stats to look good for some other bigger suit who is farther up the line than he is, especially when it is something beyond my control.

Which, of course, doesn’t mean my co-rider is actually correct about all this.

As it turned out, it was some forty minutes later when our bus was finally sighted. You can imagine the reaction when it got close enough for all of us to read the signage: “Bus Full.” And sure enough, it passed us right on by.

One of the walk-ups unloosed a string of profanities, then stormed off up the sidewalk

The rest of us waited another ten minutes for the next bus which the older guy told us was the one actually scheduled for the time it was now.

Of course we asked the driver what had happened. He told us nothing had happened as far as he knew. He hadn’t heard anything about any problems. As if we were the very first riders boarding his bus who’d been passed up by the earlier bus or buses.

Under the circumstances, it didn’t seem like the best time to ask him if he got dinged for reporting his bus was late when mechanical malfunction wasn’t the cause of the tardiness.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mike Anderson said...

"And, having been an employee rather than an employer all my life, I have no difficulty imagining an environment in which the last thing I am going to do is penalize myself by following some directive invented by some suit with no on-my-job experience who needs his stats to look good for some other bigger suit who is farther up the line than he is, especially when it is something beyond my control. "


And this is how the issues at teh VA began.

Cheers, Mi3ke

7:34 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Point taken, Mike. Administrators are employees, too, and dishonesty is dishonesty, regardless of the motives or impact. Thanks for your comment.

7:46 AM  

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