Note to Bus Driver: Stay Cool, Be Cool

Today coming home from work I had a different bus driver than normal on Route 3. Driving eastbound on 3rd Avenue, a few blocks out of downtown, an SUV from out-of-state pulled out in front of the bus, only to immediately turn into the next driveway. The bus driver, of course, had to slow down, but instead of simple braking a little until the path was clear, she laid on the horn. It was completely uncalled-for, overaggressive and unprofessional.

I have experienced other incidents while riding CR Transit where drivers overreact and honk their horn if a car pulls in front of them or cuts them off. This can be frustrating – just as it can be for any other driver – or cyclist or pedestrian. But driving a 35-40 foot long, multi-ton bus safely and responsibly demands some restraint and a simple assumption that other drivers on the road aren’t paying as much attention as they should be. Honking the horn out of frustration, rather than an actual imminent hazard can be dangerous and make buses look like “bullies” and can give people a negative connotation about transit and bus drivers in particular – especially those who are being honked at.

The vast majority of drivers at CR Transit are safe, courteous and professional, however, as a bus driver myself with CyRide, l do notice a different driver culture and a higher tolerance of aggressive behavior. As a passenger these incidents degrade the quality of service and my impression of the system.

4 Comments

  1. Good topic, and I agree that CR Transit drivers seem more aggressive than what I remember riding on CyRide. As a driver, do you think this is a department “culture” issue, an issue with time constraints on routes, or even driving tendencies in the metro area? What does CyRide do to encourage friendly driving?

  2. Brady Dorman

    June 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Thanks for the comment – I actually deleted the post at first, deciding it might be best not to complain about the petty things if I’m trying to encourage people to take transit here. But good opportunity to discuss and be constructive.

    I’m not sure if “culture” was the correct term for me to use, since it may insinuates something that cannot be changed or that the drivers are unwilling to change.

    Obviously CR Transit is not a huge operation and has limited resources. I’m not sure how rigorous their training process is, but CyRide is pretty strict about “driving home” safety as well as maintain a good, friendly image to the community. Driver complaints and even the most minor “accidents” (ie. bumping a side mirror on a sign or scraping the side on a high curb) is taken seriously with some sort of review process.

    The time constraint may be a minor cause, but from my experience as a CR Transit rider, a bus being late isn’t really that big of deal. As you know, some drivers are consistently behind schedule and some routes are just too long to get through at certain times of the day.

    CyRide has a pretty fascinating schedule system with several extra, unpublished trips running during peak times that can be adjusted accordingly to need/demand. They also employe a couple of “mobile dispatchers” who are out on the street to assist drivers who are running behind with handling missed transfers or covering a portion of their trip, so they can make up some time safely. It is the driver’s responsibility to drive safely with good customer service, and it is the dispatcher’s job to keep buses on schedule.

    Finally I think the driving tendencies and environment do make a big difference. CyRide drivers are trained for and used to driving through a packed campus everyday with pedestrians and cyclists everywhere. It is pretty typical for people to walk out in front of the bus without looking or a bike to zoom past so drivers must be vigilant. So if a car pulls out ahead of a bus in Ames, the driver’s reaction is not that different than if it were a pedestrian or bicycle, so perhaps its a little easier to keep our cool.

  3. i finally noticed that you took the bus. very good of you. this is the first time in 4 years that i have driven to work (albeit i carpool), i don’t miss the aggression/frustration that comes with driving (bus or car). kudos to you Brady.

  4. I’ve noticed that quite a few times, and as a pedestrian on the street I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve almost been ran over by a bus that was turning. As a pedestrian I have the legal right away when crossing the street from corner to corner (not jay walking) when a bus is turning too often they don’t yield the right away. The entrance to the lot is a great example of that. In fact I’m a bit suprised that no one has been ran over in that lot, it’s poory desgined with busses going everywhere and pedestrians walking around everywhere.

    Now that I’m in rant mode, do you know what the policy is on over crowded busses? Back after the floods when the service was free the majority of the routes were experiencing higher ridership, and a couple of the busses I was on there were no seats available and the driver was passing up stops saying that they don’t allow passengers to stand. I feel for those people who had to wait another hour for another bus to come, and that bus was probably also crowded.

    In most places I’ve lived (I’m in Portland currently) you were allowed to stand but you couldn’t stand past the line towards the front for saftey reasons.

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