Unlike the majority of people in Saskatoon I’ve been a fairly frequent user of Saskatoon Transit since I was a pre-teen. I regularly used the bus through my teens and through university and ever since I began working downtown it’s my primary means of commuting to and from work during “snow season”.
For the most part I have also been fairly supportive and usually understanding when things don’t run smoothly due to circumstances beyond their control (yeah, I’m looking at you Canadian Pacific Railway).
However there are a few “sins” that I quite frankly consider unforgivable.
Buses that are early. Really? Come on now. there is no rational reason for that. In the morning on my way to work I typically get to my stop about 7-8 minutes before the bus should be arriving. I should not be seeing your tail lights three blocks away. This past December seemed particularly bad where this occurred quite frequently. The irony is that after hoofing it a couple blocks to catch a DART bus, the DART would pick me up, then proceed a few stops, and then stop. Stop and wait three or four minutes because he was getting ahead of schedule.
Drivers who don’t know the route they are driving. Again, this is ridiculous. Recently a co-worker of mine (we frequently ride the same route in the morning) mentioned that the bus was late one day because the driver got lost and didn’t know where they were going. Worse yet, they didn’t seem to know their way around the city well enough to get back on track quickly and efficiently. The next day a different driver again got lost and my co-worker had to ride at the front of the bus and literally tell the driver where to go. Turn by turn. I realize drivers probably get shuffled around to different routes and all, but being able to read a map and remember where to go seems like a necessary skill.
Heat. Too much heat. It’s winter, we’re all dressed for winter. If the bus is packed like a sardine can, and it’s only -15 C outside, you don’t need to crank the heat. I have frequently measured temperatures in excess of +30 C. Can you say heat stroke?
Overflow buses at peak times. While my experience with this is somewhat specific to the 70/80 DART buses, I’m sure this is not a unique situation. In the morning when the peak passenger loads are (university and work commuters), Saskatoon Transit will run “overflow” buses. Typically these follow the DART route, but only go as far as Place Riel at the University of Saskatchewan.
There are several different situation that lead to frustration for riders. The overflow bus arrives first, so everybody wants to get on it. The university students get where they are going, but the downtown bound riders have to transfer at the university. Typically the bus you want to transfer to pulls away just as you are getting off at Place Riel. Now if the downtown bound riders KNEW that the “regular” DART bus was coming right away, we would probably let the “university only” overflow bus go on it’s way without us. This would eliminate the need to wait for a transfer (that may or may not come in a timely fashion). But practically speaking you can’t do this. Because you can’t trust that the DART bus is actually going to come in a timely fashion, and even if it does, it might be full and just pass you by.
Sometimes the DART bus comes first, but since the university bound riders can’t trust that an “university only” overflow bus is coming soon, they too take the first bus that comes that is heading their way.
It would seem to me to make more sense if the overflow bus and the regular DART bus would travel close enough that riders could make a reasonable, informed choice as to which one to take. But this only works if riders can be assured that the bus they actually need is going to come, and stop to pick them up.
There has been talk for years of Saskatoon Transit getting their buses equipped with GPS. If that also includes real-time mapping of where buses are, riders could make rational decisions as to which routes to use based not only on timing, but on passenger volume. I think this would be a win-win for both riders and Saskatoon Transit.