I think it important to give both sides of the story on any story, but I wasn’t able to speak to any of the Sun Tran higher ups until Friday. I left a message for Michelle Clark early Friday referring her to my post for details so I didn’t clog up her message machine.
I got a return phone call a few hours later and Ms. Clark, Sun Tran director of customer satisfaction, who was very attentive and pleasant, said the staff had been running tapes and time recorders to try to figure out exactly what had happened because of the time I referenced in my post.
She explained that the #6 bus that is supposed to be at the Euclid and 6th Street stop at 4:53 p.m. was indeed at that stop at that time (the buses have cameras and clocks recording their times) and arrived at my stop – Euclid and University – at 4:58. The following bus, which should get to Euclid and 6th at 5:08 and to Euclid and 6th at 5:11 was the one that didn’t arrive until almost 5:17. In other words, the bus that I thought was REALLY late had come and gone before I arrived at the stop at about 5:02, and the following bus, which should have gotten to Euclid and University at 5:11 was only sort of late.
While these are indeed the times in the schedule book, as I said in my prior post, I’ve been picking up Bus 6 at Euclid and University for four months and I always step on that bus at 5:08. So maybe this whole time the 4:53 has been running late. Who knows? What I do know is that if I can get out there a little before 5 (by working some of my lunch hour), I should be able to catch the bus that gets there by 4:58 and make my express connection.
I wondered aloud if Sun Tran could work with the city transportation and/or planning folks to work on timing street lights during rush hour to give priority to buses coming out of downtown, and Clark said she’d look into it. I also suggested, again, that drivers be allowed two-way radios with which they can communicate to the Express routes; she seemed less interested in that.
Clare also told me about the guaranteed ride home program, about which I was unaware. She emphasized it couldn’t be an every day thing, and, according to the GRH fact sheet, I wouldn’t qualify because “lateness of a bus resulting in passenger missing the final Express bus out of the Transit Center” is not listed under the “What is a legitimate emergency” definition. Sigh.
Since writing the original post, I’ve since heard from a number of people about their traveling constantly being a problem due to tardiness of the bus and it makes me nervous to ride. I’ve already bought a semester pass and gave up my UA parking permit because I was so sold on bus travel. It seems that the simplest solution would be two-way radios between buses so they can reach the final Express drivers when the downtown/university drivers are running late. Obviously, trying to go through an overloaded dispatch unit isn’t cutting it. Maybe it is like the disgruntled riders say: You can complain, but nothing really happens. And maybe it is like the drivers say: Until Tucson does something to show they are serious about public transit – like having bus lanes, lights that have preference for buses, etc. – both drivers and riders are at the mercy of a city system overrun by too many cars during rush hour.
On an aside, anyone interested in alternative travel in Tucson should check out the Tucson Bike Lawyer blog, at which I found the link to Michelle Clark, and where you can read about a bus driver that was aggressive with the writer and see a photo that illustrates that the city of Tucson/county of Pima – no matter what leaders say about encouraging public transportation – really could not care less about those riding public transportation.