Bus Drivers VS. Cellphone Users

The debate between bus drivers & cellphone users goes back many years. Most bus drivers find them to be a nuisance not only to them but all the riders aboard his or her bus. This battle has even trickled down to riders vs riders with the same feelings being felt. On the other side of it, we have cellphone users who don’t appreciate being treated like a kid with restrictions on when they can use their device.

Mike Richard of the New York Times’ City Room Blog has a very interesting piece about the war between bus drivers/riders vs riders who use their cellphone. The article mainly focuses on a private bus company Lakeland Bus Lines who has a rule in place barring the use of cellphones unless it is for emergency purposes only. Here is Mike’s report:

The New Jersey commuter bus heading to New York City last week rolled to a stop on the side of the highway. The morning holdup was caused by a passenger who was talking on her cellphone.

“I’ve got all day, ma’am; I’ll wait till you’re done,” the driver announced into his microphone, with the bus idling, about a half-hour from the Lincoln Tunnel.

Nearly 50 passengers heard the warning, which the driver said was aimed at “the woman seated behind me in the third row by the window.” The woman, embarrassed by the sudden attention, hurried to wrap up her phone conversation.

Other riders — some on their iPods listening to music, others on their laptops or BlackBerrys, others reading, many others trying to sleep — craned their necks into the aisle to try to spot the woman with the phone stuck to her ear. Most seemed eager to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal en route to work.

Click here for the complete report.

I suggest everyone check out the responses left to this article. They have me scratching my head as to why people are such whiners. Don’t get me wrong I am not encouraging people to have loud cell phone conversations on a bus. However to sit here & publicly ridicule someone engaging in an act that is a given right is beyond ridiculous. All because something is a rule does not necessarily make it right or even legal.

I am amazed at all the whiners who act like it is a crime for someone to use their phone. While a few of the points of suburbanites feeling they are privileged have some truth behind it doesn’t mean they are completely in the wrong for wanting to use their phone. I feel “Johnny” made an excellent point when he said:

I’m sure that two passengers talking for the 1-1.5 hour ride wouldn’t get the hassle that the cell phone user gets.

I’ve heard & seen these so called anti-cellphone use crusaders in action harass fellow passengers for using their cellphone on “public” transportation. Yet I never see these same idiots go up to people who are being just as loud if not more so in a face to face conversation. What makes it fair for them to be loud but not someone using their cellphone? While some might call it a stretch, “Liberty Lover” makes an excellent point when he or she said:

The right to Free Speech is constitutionally guaranteed. The right to a pleasant ride on a public conveyance is not.

This has always been a pet peeve to me. I can’t stand hearing or reading about people whining about sounds when riding on public transportation. I usually hear the rhetoric from suburban commuters who feel because of the fares they pay, they are entitled to a ride which is completely quiet & good for getting some sort of nap or sleep in. WRONG! Your fare entitles you to a ride from “Point A” to “Point B” in a safe & timely manner, nothing else!

With saying all of that the worst issue I took from the responses was the suggestion of purchasing a “cell phone jammer” which would make cellphones virtually useless within a certain radius around the device. Who the hell do these idiots think they are in suggesting such a thing. If you are so bothered by the noise you hear, drive! I’m sick of riders feeling they are entitled to control how others act on the bus or train. Also stop bringing up the past when cellphones were not readily available. We have the technology so using times when it was not available does nothing but make you seem like you are grasping at straws.

I will say this, if a driver feels the need to alert a passenger to an activity that might cause them issues in driving safely, feel free & say something in a courteous manner. A good example of this was a female driver I had on a bus ride to Atlantic City around my birthday. She alerted someone a few rows back that the reading light was giving her trouble due to messing with her vision. She was courteous in alerting the passenger to a potential safety hazard. However if a potential safety hazard does not exist, stick to your job of driving.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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6 Teens Charged After Attempted Mugging At Rockville Center

On Tuesday 6 teens were charged after an attempted mugging of a 30 year old woman waiting to board a train at the Rockville Center station. The attack which occurred around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday was discussed with more details in this report by Newsday’s Joseph Mallia:

Six teen boys surrounded a woman at the Rockville Centre LIRR station early Tuesday morning, struck her and tried to steal her purse, police said. But they ran off as a train pulled into the station and the victim started screaming, Nassau police said.

Responding officers from the First Precinct quickly arrested six suspects near the Long Island Rail Road station after the 12:30 a.m. attack.

Two suspects were charged as adults, and were to be arraigned Tuesday in First District Court, Hempstead. Shyrone Reape Jr., 17, of 305 Langdon Blvd., Lakeview, was charged with attempted robbery and menacing. Ronald Spencer, 16, of 414 Jefferson St., Lakeview, was charged with attempted robbery.

The other four, who were all 14 or 15 years old, were charged as juveniles.

Click here for the complete report.

Absolutely disgusting act by these thugs who clearly have nothing better to do but be horrible citizens. I hope they get the book thrown at them to teach them a valuable lesson!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Select Bus Service Drawing Rave Reviews

Select Bus Service on Bx12 has been up & running for a few months now. The service has gotten such rave reviews & been a success that the MTA is already looking into expanding it to other routes. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue writes about the reviews & upcoming plans in an article that will appear in today’s print edition:

A speedier bus service launched as a pilot in the Bronx and upper Manhattan is off to a fast start, with a bump of nearly 5,000 daily riders, officials said Thursday.

The Bx12 route, where riders pay at curbside machines before boarding to shorten loading times, is slated for expansion, according to NYC Transit.

“It’s working out better than we planned,” said Joseph Smith, NYC Transit’s vice president in charge of buses.

Approximately 26,565 weekday riders are taking the new Select Bus Service, compared with 21,700 passengers who took the limited-bus service it replaced, officials said.

Bus trips during peak travel periods are 20% quicker since the service began and other fast-track strategies were launched in June, the agency said.

Click here for the complete report.

As with anything, you can expect your share of gripes. Based on the complaints listed in the article, I can understand where these people are coming from. While it is nice that a driver directs a passenger to depart the bus to buy their ticket & waits for them, that defeats the purpose of faster service. This is not a service where the bus is running once an hour, if someone does not have their ticket, they should be forced to wait for the next bus.

Lets assume this passenger causes a 2-4 minute delay which is quite possible. I mean if they did not know to buy a ticket in advance, who is to say that they know how to work the payment machine? While 2-4 minutes does not sound like a lot of time, it can add up if we are dealing with multiple offenders. As far as payment machines go, the MTA must stay on top of them to make sure they are working at all times. If not this could lead to people claiming machines were not working to skip fares or other potential headaches that could slow the trip down.

Overall it seems Select Bus Service is getting the job done. If they can iron out the kinks, this plan will go from hitting a home run to a grand slam!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The Harsh Reality Of Being A Bus Driver

In the previous entry I discussed the MTA’s potential partnership with the NYPD to crack down on fare evaders on NYC buses. In that entry I had made mention of how drivers are in a no win situation in confronting fare evaders from a policy standpoint but more so from a safety one. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue wrote a piece on fare evasion but more so on actual data of bus driver assaults. Here is his report:

They are the toughest bus routes in the city, the ones where riders beat the fare – and sometimes the driver.

Drivers working 11 routes, most in Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been assaulted 103 times between January 2007 and July, an NYC Transit listing of the most attack-prone routes shows.

Many of those routes are also on another roster – the one for the most fare-beating.

“Most involve drivers getting punched, kicked, beaten,” said Joseph Smith, senior vice president of buses. “Some have had their eye sockets broken, teeth broken, you name it.”

The agency has a broad definition of assault, ranging from being spat on to being punched or seriously injured with a weapon. Most of the 103 reported assaults are not minor, Smith said, adding that many start with a “fare dispute.”

Because of the risk, drivers are instructed to politely remind riders of the fare, but not to challenge them, officials said. Still, even that can lead to trouble with the most volatile of riders, bus managers said.

Click here for the full report.

I agree with TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint who feels the laws needed to be strengthened due to court interpretations. As one commenter (mosaic) said in response to the article:

it’s a dang shame how the drivers are treated. They’re doing their jobs transporting us around the city and don’t deserve to be assaulted, cursed, or anything.

It is a shame that bus drivers have to deal with this nonsense every single day. No disrespect to the many T/O’s I know personally or overall but being a bus driver is harder due to the public interaction they face. They don’t have a metal door to block them from the small percentage of savages or rude people who ride the buses. To think that some felt they had no right to want more money for their job. I invite those who share that belief to be a bus driver for a month or even a week & see if you feel the same way. It is not as easy as some make it out to be.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA & NYPD Team Up To Crack Down On Fare Evaders

We all know this familiar scene, a bus pulls into a stop with a ton of would be passengers. Many grow impatient & board through the back of the bus & blend in with the crowd avoiding paying a fare. If it is not that scene, it will be someone being bold & entering through the front & ignoring any & all requests to pay the fare. Either way you slice it, fare evasion is a problem that plagues bus routes throughout NYC.

The MTA recently took steps to punish fare evaders when along with the introduction of Select Bus Service also introduced stiffer fines for fare evasion by raising each fine to $100 from the previous amount of $60. Now the agency hopes to do even more to curb fare evasion by teaming up with the NYPD to crack down on fare evaders. NY1 has more with this report:

Transit and police officials said Wednesday that they will begin cracking down on those who try to beat the bus fare, after a new study identifies where it occurs the most.

New York City Transit officials said that they are targeting the approximately 130,000 riders each week who get on the bus without paying fares – costing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority millions of dollars each year.

Transit officials say they have identified the routes and stops where the most freeloaders are getting on. The worst is the B46 in Brooklyn, where an estimated 4,000 people beat the fare each week.

Click here for the complete text along with video of this report.

I am glad to see the MTA attempting to do something which has been long overdue, cracking down on fare evaders. I feel most sorry for the bus drivers who are stuck between a rock & a hard place. If they choose to confront the fare evader, they are not following policy & risk getting attacked (more on that in the next entry) or being hated by riders for threatening to go out of service.

The other side of the coin is no better as they look like pushovers if they let it slide. When it comes to the reaction, it depends on who the driver is. I notice that the veteran drivers let it slide as they are of the belief I want to drive, stay out of harm’s way & go home to fight another day. A younger driver might be more brass & fight for that fare. Either way it is truly a no win proposition for the driver. I seriously hope the MTA & NYPD really stick with this potential partnership to crack down on fare evaders. While jail seems like a stretch since they are overcrowded as it is, some sort of swift punishment is in order especially for repeat offenders.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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