An Urgent Cry For Changes In Public Transportation and Responsibility in Driving.

The sad thing about this posting is that the people who need to read this the most won’t be the ones to read – rather, it will be the people who least need it that will see it. It is a compliment to my friends, yes, as many of them, for the mistakes they may make, don’t commit the ones I complain about the most.

On Friday night I was involved in a bus accident, being one of the passengers on the bus as it got hit. Thankfully, the worst anyone on the bus got was a bruise and a scare, and there were only 4 people on the bus to worry about – a mom with her kid, the driver, and myself. (Of and for the record, it was the kid, who was near the door, that got the bruise – other than that, no one got hurt, and the kid was ok.) The bus had dents near the front and back end of the drivers side, and the support beam was crushed into the drivers side tire just far enough to make in undrivable.

The accident itself was relatively simple: The bus had just started turning from Mulford Road into Forest Plaza when those of us on the bus felt the bus rise as if it had drove over something, and the sound of metal and glass crunching was what was heard. I was sitting on the drivers side, so I had no idea what hit us until after the fact. The only people who actually saw it were the bus Driver and the mother, and both said that as he was turning, there was nothing there.

those who are familiar with the area know that this is not a particularly well-lit area to drive in: The road we were turning onto had a jewelry store, which at one time was a yogurt shop, then a tire/rim store, on the northeast side – our left. I’m not sure what the building is on the southeast side, but on the southwest side is an old standby: K-Mart. The road itself is relatively short, splitting into two ways, one which leads to the front side of Forest Plaza, and one leading behind it. It is ill-advised for anyone to stand there, be it day or night, as it is an extremely small area, and very poorly lit – the bus driver could easily pass you by if he/she doesn’t see you, and could even hit you, if other vehicles don’t, for not seeing you.

This isn’t the first accident I’ve seen in that intersection, though it’s the first one I’ve personally been in there. There are a fair share of accidents there, mostly from people turning there and crunching into another vehicle. There have been times, as a passenger, where the bus had to take an alternative route; or had to drive around the mess, as that is the only entrance into the place from the Mulford Road side. (The one that is further up is inaccessible if you’re coming from any other direction than the south, and is not an entrance.)

There hasn’t been much said at this point about the driver because there is little to say about them. Neither the driver nor the mother, the only one paying attention to the turn at that particular moment, had seen anything in the area prior to or during the turn, which suggests any combination of these three things happened: First, they had their lights off; Second, they flew out of nowhere, failing to slow down or stop as the bus turned; or third, that they were out of their turn lane. (Note on that third part, and proof the driver was conscious: other than the stupid the person was spewing, the driver of the car involved said that they were waiting to turn south onto Mulford – meaning they would had to have been partly in the oncoming traffic lane to be hit.) Since no ambulance was called to the scene prior to me catching the next bus out, I can only assume that, had the vehicle been drive-able at that point, the person could have drove away, and the cops who arrived at the scene would have called an ambulance long before I left, having arrived within 10-15 minutes of the crash itself.

Since this is getting a little long, you may want to skip to the section that that is meant to be read by you; however, as the writer, I would suggest that everyone read all of the sections, since all are relative to each other, and may give you perspective to your own section.

For the Bus Drivers

The worst to happen from this accident may be yet to come, as many who drive large vehicles and require special licenses can tell you. A person who drives a normal vehicle and has a normal license doesn’t lose their job or their license, even when they are at fault, unless vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs, or other factors are involved. (The exception here would be taxi drivers, as their job IS driving normal-sized vehicles such as cars and vans.)

Drivers with special licenses, however, are often not exempt from this, as their rules are stricter. In the case of Bus Drivers, had this accident been fatal, he most likely would have lost his license for sure, regardless of fault. If it is found that he was the one at fault, he could lose his license – and therefore his job – for one year as a result of this accident.

You have to understand what these people have to go through. In addition to the multiple number of people they has to deal with getting on and off the bus at any given time, they have to navigate a vehicle that is usually 2-3 times the size of a normal car through the same streets that every other vehicle has to drive. This comes with a number of hidden dangers.

This often comes, from what I have seen, with a lot of disrespect from both passengers and other drivers on the road. Passengers often get upset for having to wait for the bus, and can be disrespectful and disruptive to other passengers as well as the driver. drivers, who often disrespect themselves by yelling obscenities, speeding and driving dangerously, also throw down a number of additional problems ranging from turning right in front of the bus to parking in front of the fire lane, resulting in the bus having to stop and blow their horn. When the bus driver does anything to let the other vehicles know they are in the way, they usually get ignorance from said individuals, although in more than a few cases, they have received obscenities from the drivers in the wrong.

This is all done within a time limit, as many routes the bus takes go from half an hour to two hours at a time, on a route that is expected by both their bosses and their passengers to be made, in order to get them as close to their destination as possible, with the passengers and everyone involved safe. They are expected to do this with little courtesy and nothing else – they are often told not to engage in conversation with other passengers, as the belief is that they are distractions.

I rode with this particular driver many times, and there have been times when I have even been the bad passenger, either getting frustrated because the driver was late, or I arrived too late, or because I was indeed a distraction. I have rarely had a problem with him, however, as he has always gotten me to the place I was trying to go to with a relative degree of safety, if not on time. (Sometimes, their tardiness is the fault of other problems going on, such as other vehicle accidents, road construction, wheel chairs, etc.) In short, he, like almost every other driver i have rode with, have been excellent with their jobs.

If I were the bus company, the last thing I would do is suspend him because of this accident. Not only were all of his passengers safe, not only was the bus repairable, but he went out of his way to try to make the whole experience as safe and as quick as possible. If anything, he deserves a raise or promotion for trying to do the right thing, even in a bad situation.

I respect bus drivers for the job that they do. When I get my license back, I am never going to intentionally do anything to disrespect them, because the job that they have is already difficult enough without me causing a problem.

In short, thank you for keeping me safe and getting me from point A to point B.

For the Bus Company

As I just stated, I would give him a raise/promotion, and asked for you not to suspend him. There are a few tasks I ask of you in addition, none of which are that easy.

First, I would fire the firm responsible for the tangled mess of bus routes we currently use and have, and – laws be damned – organize the routes yourself. (By law, the company has to hire firms outside of the state to make decisions on what is the best routes for the passengers.) Since changing your routes a few years ago, not only has many of the passengers run into more trouble, but the safety of said passengers have been in question, because the intersections a bus has to turn or go through aren’t the best for them. In this case, the bus never should have been forced through that intersection, as the intersection itself was never designed with busses in mind. It would be far easier and better to enter from the East State Street side by Taco Bell, turn west towards outback, and get to the front of the mall that way. Someone from out-of town would not know the dangers of that intersection, having, at most, records of accidents there.

Second, I would do something to make the routes easier on the drivers. The way these routes are scheduled are so tight that any obstacle that takes more than a minute to deal with can result in putting the bus river behind. At the same time, while the drivers drive within the time limits of the law, their days sometimes consist of being at work from sun-up to sun-down. The rules you place on them and the passengers are sometimes so stupid that many ignore them. These rules include the driver communicating with passengers while driving: While it is blatantly obvious that you don’t want an unsafe environment for everyone involved, making it so that the driver can not freely talk while driving is very unreasonable.

Third, more routes and drivers are needed. Passengers consistantly have to put themselves in danger to get just the basic necessities, such as work, school, and shopping done. For many, it is impossible to go out and enjoy life, because the routes you have aren’t spaced reasonably enough for a person to catch the bus in decent times – many routes have an hour-long wait, while some have an hour-and-a-half. A few are on the half hour, and two routes are every 45 minutes. In some cases – Especially at night and on the weekends – there is more than 6 hours to wait, with the longest being more than a full day to wait until the next bus. This isn’t fully your fault, as finding good drivers and getting more time and access from local governments for these routes can be difficult, but try putting yourself in our shoes, seeing the lives many of us, even the abnormal like me, have to live to accommodate the schedules you have.

Finally, something should be done in cases where accidents are unavoidable and yet the driver does more than expected to make sure that everyone is safe. As I stated before, this driver, who I believe was not the cause of the accident, did go out of his way to try to make sure myself and the mother and kid were safe, and even tried to make sure the other driver was safe. this was while other drivers who turned yelled obscenities at him, and while everyone was freaked out because of it. You don’t want to reward someone for getting into accidents, and that is understandable; however, nothing should stop you from rewarding those who do the right thing when an accident happens. If I had any business sense, I would still give him a raise, because that is the type of driver you want to be behind the wheel – one that cares about his or her job and everyone they deal with on a daily basis.

For the Local Governments of Winnebago County, IL.

The thing that makes me sick about having to rely on the bus is consistently seeing how it is ignored by the other governments. Instead of growth being encouraged, the Bus company has to fight in order to get just basic services to particular areas, if at all. Some areas have limited service, at best, and others have no service at all.

The area I work in is just such an example: There is no night or weekend services to this area, and only 3 busses that come into the area. the bus I need to get to and from work doesn’t come into the are until 6 in the morning, and the last run is at 5:30 – after that, I have to walk to the next closest stop to get out of the area, and that is on the outskirts of the next town, if I am lucky. Often, taxis are involved in getting me from point a to point b, and more than a few times I have had to rely on my friends. this type of schedule is great for a person who works first shift, but not so good for a second- or third-shift worker – something I do.

This isn’t limited to one area, though: on weekends, the bus runs from 5:30 in the morning until the last run starts at 5:15 at night – with all the busses being in by a quarter after 7. On sundays, it’s worse, having many of the routes cut – there are only 5 routs run that day – and starting from 9 in the morning to 5 at night.

The bus company gets its income from three sources: The passengers, who often can not afford to ride it; the advertising, which is limited to the number of busses they have; and the local governments themselves, who – in some cases – make it more difficult to have the busses come through than they should. For example, the area I work in has the problem because they don’t want night or Sunday service out there. In more than a few cases, they don’t want the busses there at all, and have prevented services that used to reach within their area to none at all. (Such is the case of Showplace 16, which used to have bus access on Saturday; now completely non-existent.)

I can sit here until I am blue telling you the infinite number of reasons why you should have the best possible service for everyone who lives here, but I think the most important one is this: Good Public Transportation is one of the most important necessities anyone could need. Not everyone is capable of driving, and more importantly, everyone should have a safe alternative to it. Good public transportation means getting people safely to their destinations within a reasonable amount of time. Having to walk for an hour, then wait for another hour, to catch the bus – as I have had to do in the past – on roads where there is no sidewalks, and little means to avoid being hit by cars – Is neither safe nor within reasonable timing. What if I had been intoxicated on top of that?

The passengers who ride these busses on a daily basis are no different from the people who drive on a daily basis: they pay taxes, shop in the stores and do business with the people in your area, and often have to go out of their way to accommodate themselves to the inadequate services we currently have. You should not have to be forced to have a drivers license and a vehicle to be forced to get to a place safely, be it someplace like a job, home, or even for entertainment purposes. The bus company needs your help, and passengers need you to do what you can to make our lives safer and simpler.

For Everyone Else

The thing that disgusts me the most, that gets under my skin and makes me want to hurt people, are those who forget the simple phrase driving is a privilege, not a right. Every day that I go out into public, that i have to walk around for any given length of time, I see at least one person who should never have been given a license at all. I’m not talking about the one-time mistakes that everyone makes at one point or another, I am talking about careless and reckless mistakes that endanger people. I can forgive someone who is going down the wrong way on a one-way street, as that can be an honest mistake. Yelling obscenities, throwing objects and racing by are not so easy to forgive.

While we waited for the cops to show up, a number of vehicles drove around us yelling at us to move out of the road – something the bus was, at that moment, unable to do safely. These are the same type of people who, even when I am a distance away from the side of the road, yell obscene comments at me while I walk to a destination. In more than a few cases, I’ve had drinks, eggs, and even rocks thrown at me, and one occasion, I almost got into a fight when they pulled to the side of the road. (I had to walk past in order to get to the bus so that I could get home – otherwise, I might have gone to jail that night.)

Taking the bus clearly shows a number of incidents where people risk their lives for rather stupid reasoning. There have been a number of occasions where the bus is forced to stop because a car decides it needs to turn in front of it – I have always been thankful we were lucky not to have an accident. In some areas, such as Forest Plaza, drivers do not give enough space consideration to the busses when they come to an intersection. the bus has to wait, or try to navigate a sharp turn, because the other vehicles pull too closely to the stop line to allow the space the bus needs to adequately make said turn. Although it happens more often during the holidays, a number of people park their vehicles illegally in the fire lane to try to pick stuff up, blocking the passageway of other vehicles, including busses.

In addition to what I have mentioned as a pedestrian, there are also the overly-cautious. These are the type that will make 5-6 other vehicles behind them wait for me to cross. (Yes, I have yelled – sometimes cussed out – people for doing this, especially when they do it when they have the right-of-way and I am stopped.) They drive slower than the rest of traffic when I am waiting to cross, thus making me wait longer because by the time they pas me, the other cars have caught up to them. While I can understand and respect their level of commitment to making it safe for them and for those around them, their actions often put me and others in as much danger as those they try to keep safe.

If I could make some changes to the laws, everyone would be forced for a certain amount of time to rely on public transportation, if for no other reason, than to learn and respect those who have to rely on it, and who have to work it. When you’re a driver, you can easily take for granted the privileges that come with driving a vehicle, and can forget that driving is not a necessity, as many people believe. while it may be fun to you to drive around on city streets at 80-90 miles per hour, the person you risk hitting by doing this are not going to find it fun at all. There are a number of times where accidents are not accidents, they are the end result of someone being careless and reckless, abusing their privileges. Those are the types that people get angry and upset about, because those are the types we should be trying to prevent the most.

In Conclusion

I have relied on others most of my life, in terms of transportation. I only had my license for less than 2 years, and it was my irresponsibility that cost me my license. The simple fact of the matter is that I never should have needed to rely on busses, as I still have to now.

That said, as grateful as I am that there is a system here to help my situation, the system is broken by everyone. Bus drivers are often stressed to do jobs that put them in the same number of risks as doctors who work long shifts; City governments fail to provide money and help for the services they (or their constituents) demand; and drivers and passengers fail to provide each other with the type of safety and respect we all need. This is a flawed system, and some things need to change.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s