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Cambus confidential

BY WILL MATTESSICH | FEBRUARY 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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As the weather gets colder, Cambus ridership increases dramatically — and so do complaints.

Drawing on my experience of two years as a Cambus driver, I will attempt to enlighten passengers on the workings of the Cambus system and, hopefully, improve driver-passenger relations. Cambus is a well-run service that is often unfairly maligned by passengers. This problem would be solved if passengers would educate themselves on the way Cambus works and try to treat drivers with more respect and friendliness.

Bus drivers are not late on purpose, nor are they late because they are incompetent. (Some of you may find the latter difficult to believe, but I can assure you that driving a bus is not rocket science and that the months of training bus drivers undergo is adequate.) Bus schedules are calculated to be roughly the same no matter what traffic, road, or passenger conditions the bus experiences, and these conditions vary hugely. There will often be some minor discrepancy between the posted time and the time the bus leaves; schedules at a university are especially difficult to maintain, because buses pick up huge groups of passengers every 50 minutes when classes end.

With the new Bongo system, you can send text messages to a phone number and see when the next bus will arrive at your stop. You can also go to a website and see the exact location of every bus and the path of every route, so you can make contingency plans. If you find yourself waiting 30 minutes for a bus and you haven’t used those resources, it’s your own fault.

Another simple guideline is to remember that you are in a moving vehicle that is trying to conform to the schedule which passengers hold so dearly. If bus drivers waited for all passengers to take as much time as they wanted, the complaints about timeliness would skyrocket, and justly so.

When you get on during rush hour, grab a handhold as far to the back as possible or sit down. Don’t hang onto a rail with your elbow while sending a text message and complain when the driver tells you to move back.

Do not get on at the back doors. Ever. You may think you’re clever, or that it doesn’t matter because the ride is free, but drivers can’t safely monitor passengers getting on and off both doors, and drivers can only count passengers getting on at one door. If drivers can’t count passengers, Cambus does not know which routes are used most heavily and can’t accurately request funding, which leads to a system of lesser quality.

Many drivers enjoy closing the back doors on people, so you’re putting your health at risk.

Mayflower residents seem to complain the most, and many of their complaints would be solved by 10 minutes of research on the Cambus website. I can’t tell you how many times students asked me to go to Mayflower before the posted time on the sign. (Sometimes they offered me money, but never more than $5. If it had been enough, I might have done it — but remember that Cambus drivers are fairly well-paid.) Mayflower receives no fewer bus routes than any other dorm, and Mayflower’s residents are better off than Parklawn’s, who have to walk two blocks to a stop that is only serviced by Red and Blue.

Am I saying that drivers are perfect? Certainly not. As with any group of people, there are some unpleasant, self-important, or vindictive bus drivers, but the vast majority of them are nice people, and they are all students. Even nice people can enter a bad mood when dealing with passengers who are unpleasant or uninformed.

So the first step to a better Cambus experience is to obey the rules and start being nicer to the drivers (if you are loud and drunk it will not matter how nice you are — but that is the case everywhere you go, not just on buses.) Learn the schedules, plan your commute, and use the online resources.

If you think we need more buses, call your representative and ask her or him to stop cutting state funding for the university.

Next time you’re on a bus, smile at the driver and say thank you. If you are still unsatisfied with the quality of your free bus ride, you can always walk.


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