Friday, January 04, 2008

Calling the stops

Earlier this week, Winnipeg Transit introduced what is probably the most progressive transit policy in my lifetime: forcing bus drivers to call out the names of the approaching stops (ie: "Portage Place", "MTS Centre", "Fort Street", "McDermot Avenue" and so on. This is something the privately-owned Winnipeg Electric Co. did in 1948, according to Margaret Laurence's "North Main Car" poem, and the merits of re-introducing this on the city's transit vehicles are pretty obvious. Somehow, remarkably, some see this as debatable.

One group opposing calling stops is some bus drivers themselves, who, in the tradition of people over 25 or 30 of age who work low-to-medium paying shift work jobs, frusterated as they are by their lot in life, tend to piss and moan about absolutely any new policy that management--the people that hire them and pay their wages--introduce.

The other group is some citizens who think hearing the driver's voice at the arrival of every stop will be "annoying". At, one student at the University of Manitoba said: “it would be pretty damn annoying if I’m trying to sleep…I guess it’s a good service, but they should only do it if people need it.”

Personally, I find it annoying when I'm sitting across the aisle from today's slovenly excuse for a student who thinks its appropriate to sleep on the bus, but hey, that's the nature of public transit: you make sacrifices in your personal preferences for the common good. Sometimes you have the share the bus with people who have poor eyesight or are blind altogether. Sometimes--and this may be hard for the insular local mind to grasp--you may even have to share the bus with someone who is new to, or visiting, the city.

As someone who has in the past taken the bus into parts of Winnipeg that are unfamiliar (The Maples, East Kildonan, Windsor Park), having the stops identified would have been greatly beneficial. And as someone who is paying $2.25 for the priviledge of riding aboard the supposedly public transit system, calling out the stops is the least that can be done to improve the quality of my trip. At that price, bus drivers should very well fetch me a cup of coffee and a newspaper. They, after all, are working for me.



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