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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 11/ 8/2010

Ride-On's bad attitude

By Keith Berner

When I first moved to Takoma Park nearly 11 years ago, I found Ride-On drivers to be a joy. They were almost always friendly and courteous. “What a welcome contrast to Metrobus,” I thought.

Since then, I have watched year after year as Ride-On drivers have become ever surlier, ever more distanced from the basic concept of customer service, ever less cognizant that riders -- and taxpayers -- pay their salaries. (Of course, not all drivers are part of this negative trend, but most seem to be.)

Apart from the general negativity emanating from the driver’s seat, there are some clearly documentable issues that – despite numerous complaints on my part – have shown no sign of improvement. I’m reporting on experiences at Takoma Station.

· A substantial number of drivers leave early on their routes. It is indeed a lovely thing when drivers want to keep up with scheduled arrival times along the way. But when they leave early at the start, it means riders who know the schedule can get left standing as bus tail-lights trail off in the distance. This is an especially delightful experience when buses are running every 20 or 30 minutes.

But expect a defensive reaction if you try to point this out to an early-departing driver. The last one I spoke to responded thus: “I don’t tell you how to do your job. Don’t tell me how to do mine!”

· Once a bus pulls away from its bay at Takoma, it has to travel through the bus area for a minute to two before it exits onto the street. During that time – and especially when it comes to a stop at the end of the driveway -- it has numerous chances to pick up any passengers who didn’t arrive in time to catch the bus at the bay (like, when it leaves early). Many drivers do stop and let folks on. But some ignore waiting passengers and speed off into the night. This is especially infuriating when the buses stand at that departure stop sign for, say, 30 seconds and folks are literally pounding on the door.

The epitome of the latter case took place earlier this week, as I was sitting in a restaurant near the station. A woman came in crying and bruised. She and several other passengers had tried to flag down a bus within the pick-up area. The driver not only refused to let passengers board, but in fact stopped twice to shout abuse at them. The woman then ran after the bus in a last, futile effort to get him to stop, when she tripped and fell on the asphalt. She was convinced the driver saw her tumble but drove on anyway.

On several occasions, I have spoken to one Ride-On supervisor who completely agrees with me about the problems, but he is apparently powerless to make a difference. I think it's time for MoCo politicians to get engaged and remind these county employees whom they really work for.

Keith Berner blogs at Left-Hand View. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Keith Berner  | November 8, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland, Metro, Montgomery County, traffic, transportation  
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Keith, are these drivers MoCo employees, or are they employees of contractors? I ask because I was told several years ago that contractors operate some RideOn buses, especially the smaller ones. I have ridden RideOn buses that were literally falling apart -- one had broken plastic on the side seat that looked like a plastic sword. I have also experienced some very nasty passengers. Since many of buses are smaller that Metrobuses, the ride is more of a shake/rattle & roll, noiser, and people are jammed more closely together. This level of noise and stress may be wearing upon the drivers. If they are contract workers, they may feel even more stress.

Posted by: catbird500 | November 8, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

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