Announcement about Announcing….Bus stops

Transit companies in small and major cities all over North America are having a shakeup and a bit of a meltdown.  Why?  Because  people (mostly Blind) are advocating for policies that direct bus, trolly car, and subway drivers to ANNOUNCE STOPS on all routes.  Why should they announce stops?  Consider this;  People who are Blind or partially sighted, as well as ANYONE who is unsure of the area they are riding through (including tourists),  have a right to get to their destination safely and also to have assurance that this will occur consistantly.  Not only that, but announcing major stops AND all requested stops is being ruled a right, and not a hit and miss courtesy provided by transit drivers.  The Human Rights Commission ruled (twice) in favour of David Lepofsky in Lepofsky vs The Toronto Transit Corporation.  Mr. Lepofsky, a blind lawyer, won both challenges.  The ruling has ordered TTC to announce ALL stops on transit routes.  Then, in Ottawa, a similar case was launched and won by another individual (also a blind lawyer).  Winnipeg, has directed its transit drivers to announce all major  and requested stops on bus routes as of January 1 of 2008.  There is resistance by Transit Unions.  Some drivers are whining that it announcing stops is onerous.  Gosh, I recall riding buses in Montreal as a child…a time when drivers DID announce major stops.  Not only that, but they also kept busy making change, helping women onto the bus with their strollers, giving directions and bus route information, handing out transfers and more.  And they usually had time for a pleasant word with their passengers.  OK, this is 2008 and the world has changed, but drivers’ jobs are usually no longer involve making change.  Buses are more comfortable and easier to drive. Drivers are unionized and get a good wage. Admitedly, they do face instances of verbal and physical abuse in these modern and complicated times.  Regardless, they choose to do the job, and should comply with the conditions of that employment….including announcing major and requested stops.  In some cities, automatic sytems which are looped into the GPS of the transit company, have been installed.  As the bus or subway moves on its route, the GPS tracks its movement and an audio system automatically announces stops. This is ideal, but very expensive.  The cities that don’t have fancy gadgets that can do the transit drivers’ job of announcing, will have to deal with the reality:  Drivers must announce major and requested stops.  I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  It’s a lovely mid-sized city with quite a large group of Blind and partially-sighted residents…lots of seniors.  We are a tourist destination as well (come see our ‘quaint’, seaside city!).  I am often directing tourists, especially on the buses and ferries (come ride the world’s longest running salt water passenger ferry!).   On several occasions, when I have asked the driver (I wait till I am sure I am near my stop ,if I can) to announce my stop, they have blown by it…for no apparant reason, except “I forgot”…gee, I think, I just asked you two minutes ago….totaly unacceptable. I also chair the Halifax Regional Municipality Advisory Committee for Persons With Disabilities. Our committee has asked the city Legal department to urge Metro Transit to announce major and requested stops. In a personal stab at it, my legal aid helper is eager to launch a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, as we are getting nowhere with attempts to reason with Metro Transit.  I have suggested driver training include a specific component about passengers with disabilities. They should recognize a white support cane or ID cane as an indicator of someone who is visually challenged, and not just the traditional white long cane or guide dog team as indicators.  When a bus pulls up and someone asks, “what number bus is this?”, the answer should be “#4” or “#19”, NOT, “can’t you see it?”  There is presently no obligation on the part of the driver to oblige people to ‘give up’ their seat at the front, for a person with a disability, but could it not be policy for the driver to politely ask if someone would do so?  Would it not be reasonable to have all buses cary the courtesy ‘please yield seat to handicapped’ stickers, instead of the select ones that actually do? Would it be too difficult for drivers to consistantly,  say to the blind person getting on, “there’s a seat behind me” or “there’s a seat by the door”?   I have heard people who are legally blind, but wear corrective lenses  say that drivers have been known to say things like…”I thought blind people wore dark glasses” and other gems.  I am the first to say that there are many great drivers out there who are courteous and respectful to everyone.  I don’t think a driver should be turned loose on the public until they get the proper training.  Handling a bus is more than just  driving.

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One response to “Announcement about Announcing….Bus stops

  1. In Prague there have been automated announcements for years and years… not requiring GPS. It announces 1 – upcoming stop, 2 – announces the stop and next stop, 3 – says to finish unboarding and boarding, 4- announces upcoming stop, and so on…

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