In Accessible Transportation

Above photo: Arnold, pictured right, with Darrel Harder during our 2011 Bus Stop Hop.

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With so many incidents of bus drivers’ bad attitudes, it’s easy to overlook the drivers who do extra things to make their passengers’ days better. With the hassles of navigating through Metro Vancouver’s streets with a giant 40- or 60-foot bus, it’s easy to just say “screw it” and stick to driving, and letting the tension of certain incidents build up over time.

However, there are some drivers who use the passengers as fuel to make their jobs and their passengers’ rides a lot more enjoyable. I haven’t come across nearly enough of these drivers but it’s always nice when I do. Here are a couple of them I’d like to share.

On one of the routes connecting UBC to the Kerrisdale area, there was a driver who liked to give the afternoon students a bit of a puzzle before he left the campus. As the bus would leave 16th Avenue towards the “highway” stretch of Southwest Marine Drive, he would give a trivia question on the PA and the passengers would have until 41st Avenue to answer it. The correct answer earns you a candy bar. This is especially nice during midterm times, when students need a chance to unwind after a rough day.

Another driver is one who drove a pre-Canada Line peak hour route connecting downtown Vancouver to Richmond. (I know his name but I won’t post it here for privacy reasons.) His route is a tough one, because it involved doing one from downtown to Tsawwassen, then making his way back to downtown to finish the day with the Richmond route. A lot of the passengers on this run knew about it, so we usually cut him some slack whenever he was late. (This type of run was poorly planned by TransLink/Coast Mountain Bus Company to begin with.)

busspeedsupBecause his run was one of the last ones of the day, it would get dark whenever he started making his way from Broadway towards Richmond (unless it was summer). He drove an Orion V for that route, so it was really comfortable and a lot of people would sleep during that trip; it made sense to sleep because traffic to the bridge was often nightmarish at that hour. Realizing that, he would do something neat after leaving the Broadway stop — he would briefly give the day’s headlines and then say, “I will be turning off the lights shortly so you can take a nap. The lights will turn back on once we enter Richmond.” A lot of people on board that bus really appreciated this gesture.

I also liked him on another level. Because he knew that I often rode his bus, he would actually check to see if the wheelchair lift on the bus was working before accepting it (since the Orion V buses, unlike the regular buses, can’t take a wheelchair user if the lift mechanism is broken). And sometimes if he’s a bit early and sees me coming, he’d roll out the lift and wait for me. Very nice guy.

Those are the two drivers that really stick in my mind. I’m sure there are many others out there.

This post was originally published by Arnold in his blog Priority Seating, which is about taking public transit as a wheelchair user in Metro Vancouver. Arnold also has two other blogs, Ask A Wheeler (a Q&A blog for those curious about disability) and Confined Abilities (which is edgier, less tame and more controversial). You can find him on Twitter (@PurpleWhlchair) sharing insights on accessibility and disability issues on a daily basis.

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