This Saturday I was hit with a poor example/excellent anecdote while taking the bus downtown to BCIT where Vision Vancouver was holding its policy. For a person about to give a talk about the challenges facing progressives in the 21st century, the irony was rich.
At Broadway and 10th my bus made a routine stop. Oddly, an official looking man hoped on the bus and started talking to the bus driver. Over the noise of the engine, I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
At the same time, a second bus, one that drives the same route as the I was on, pulled up next to our bus. Its driver asked “what’s going on?” I too was curious as to what was going on… why were we stopped? Why was our bus driver conversing with this man?
But our bus driver casually waved the other bus on – and it dutifully took off. At this point our bus driver turned off our bus’ engine and said to the official looking guy: “see, it just isn’t working.” They then got off the bus. opened up a panel, and started examining something.
You can imagine my frustration… here we were on a bus that the driver believed didn’t work while a perfectly good bus had pulled alongside us and, rather then have us switch buses, our driver opted to strand us all…
But the story gets better. I wasn’t the only annoyed passenger. Another passenger walked up to the driver and asked: “Why did you waive that other bus on? Why did you let it carry on without us?”
To which the bus driver replied: “That bus had a schedule to keep.”
Ah yes, that bus had a schedule to keep – unlike the 20 odd people on this bus?
It raise deeper question too. Question such as: Is the purpose of the transit system to move buses around the city as quickly, timely and efficiently as possible? Or is it to move people around the city as quickly, timely and efficiently as possible?
I don’t want to blow this anecdotal story out of control, but what makes this disconcerting is, if we expect people to rely on public services, we have to ensure that service is always front and centre. As consumers, citizens have become accustomed to higher, and more personalized, levels of service. If public services don’t deliver to that standard let’s not be surprised if we see an increasing number of unhappy, and ultimately disengaged, citizens.