A woman sits on the bus driver's armrest greeting passengers
Maybe I’m being a bit of a prude, and insufficiently open-minded. And I know it can get boring when you’re driving a bus late at night.
But it just seems somewhat … inappropriate to have someone sitting with you in the driver’s seat as you’re driving the bus. Not only does it look rather unprofessional when people start to board the bus, but I’m pretty sure the people who tested the bus for safety don’t recommend people sit there.
There’s a seat right by the front door, and at this particular moment it’s unoccupied. Maybe you can sit there instead. Don’t worry, your conversation shouldn’t suffer.
After recent injuries to pedestrians due to rear-view mirrors on STM buses, some are asking why these predatory reflective objects are allowed to keep recklessly and deliberately attacking poor bystanders whose only crime was standing less than four inches from the driver’s side of a moving bus.
The STM has refused to retrofit their buses in order to remove these threats to our (taller) children, even after discovering that people can get hit with them.
This is about safety. The ability of a bus driver to look at himself or look back at roads he’s already driven through should not get in the way of keeping our streets safe for pedestrians.
We must not rest until our buses are mirror-free.
To most people, this is just a bus. The kind that will take you to work on a daily basis.
But to a select few, this rust bucket is something special. A group of about 30 public transit fans chartered this RTL bus for a day last weekend, just for fun. I tell their story in today’s paper.
If you take the 211 bus to work, you might want to reconsider. Not only does it carry a risk of bursting into flames, but there’s also the minor problem of wheels falling off on the highway. But that’s OK, because at least the faulty brakes were still working.
UPDATE (April 10): The Chronicle reports the STM says it’s a coincidence (duh).
The text, in case you can’t read it:
COOLING IT Montreal Transit Corp. crew and a city firefighter check a 211 bus that caught fire outside the Lionel Groulx métro station yesterday. The fire was caused by mechanical problems, police said, and no one was hurt.
Death trap? What death trap?
(As I mentioned to a concerned fellow traveller yesterday, nobody is seriously injured in these kinds of fires, since they take a while to get this intense and the buses are pretty well designed to be able to get everyone out quickly. Still, spontaneous combustion is a concern.)
Back in 1996, it was seen as the biggest leap in Montreal transportation in decades. The STCUM was replacing the
General Motors … MCI … NovaBus Classic series with a new, revolutionary low-floor (LFS) bus being developed by St-Eustache-based NovaBus. The new buses would be more accessible, both for people with low mobility who would now have one step up instead of four, and people on wheelchairs who would have a ramp at the back door and a place to park their wheelchair safely.
NovaBus wasn’t the only low-floor player, nor were they the best. But they were Quebec-based, which meant it was politically favourable to buy from them and have the buses produced locally, and tax incentives made it much more economical to buy from them.
The problems with the bus began rather quickly. First, there was the minor issue of the brake lines freezing in winter, which caused them to accelerate when the brakes were applied. Then there was their propensity to randomly catch fire. And a host of other problems that mechanics are having to deal with: the wheelchair ramps don’t work (the STM still encourages use of their adapted transit network), the back-door sensor doesn’t work reliably, two seats in the front faced a wall behind the driver (causing clients to hit their heads when the bus came to a sudden stop).
But the STM kept buying the buses. 480 of them over three years. After that, the STM stopped buying buses due to budget constraints, and NovaBus revamped their design. The second-generation LFS buses, which the STM started buying in 2001, solved most of those problems, but there aren’t enough of them on the road to take the first batch (or for that matter, 6-7 years worth of Classics) out of service. So we’re stuck with them.
And the problems keep coming. For the past two days, about 60 of them were taken off the street for various problems, cutting service during rush hours by about 1 per cent. (via mtlweblog) It’s gotten so bad that the STM prefers using the older Classic buses longer than the first-generation LFS, since they’re still working fine.
The city today released its 155-page transportation plan (PDF), which focuses on public transit, cycling and other green initiatives. Heck, even the report itself is green, so you know they mean business.
The report includes some very common-sense ideas: Extending the blue line metro East to Pie-IX and then Anjou, extending the orange line northwest to the Bois-Franc train station, connecting bicycle paths across the island, adding bicycle parking and adding express buses and reserved bus lanes to major arteries.
But just in case you’re hopeful that any of these initiatives will see the light of day, remember that it also includes a promise to finish the Cavendish Extension. Yeah.
As ambitious as the plan is, it’s not as crazy as tramway fetishists Projet Montréal’s plan (PDF), which proposes putting tramways on the highway and all the way out to Ile Bizard. (Well, some people at least think it’s worth the trouble)
Hidden in the sea of Montreal’s plan is another common-sense idea that I think would make a huge impact toward getting people to use public transit, especially in suburbs: Make express buses run all day. It works brilliantly for the 211, why not have something similar for the other suburbs?