During the months of January and February I traveled back and forth from Oakland to Alameda nearly every day. Although I don’t have a car and use public transportation on a regular basis, and I’ve had many reasons to complain before now, riding the bus every single day to the same destination, under difficult circumstances and time considerations, caused me a great degree of psychological and physical stress.
My disabled adult son was in a rehab/nursing facility in Alameda, having been hit by a car that necessitated surgery on his broken ankle; I went to visit almost every day. The situation was highly stressful, especially since the facility was not all I would have hoped for. AC Transit, however, contributed greatly to my emotional upheaval.
I had to take two buses, and at first used a route that took two hours, until I discovered a way to go that took half that time. On the longer route, the driver of the second bus took a 15-minute break when she arrived at my stop, and then, upon arrival at the Fruitvale BART stop, ended her shift, to be replaced by another driver—a process taking anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. I cannot for the life of me figure out why someone who is about to end their shift in ten minutes needs to take a break (and this is partly why the trip took so much time).
Besides this daily annoyance, every few days there’d be some disaster: once a windshield cracked and they had to send another bus; another time the relief driver didn’t show up for over 20 minutes. Also, drivers completely ignore passengers who misbehave—for instance, on the way home one day three teenage
girls stood in the front of the bus and danced around during the ride, until one of them actually fell on top of me. The driver never told her and her friends to sit down, and I was left to fend for myself. I got the distinct impression the driver was afraid to exert authority, and he’s not that unusual among AC Transit drivers. (Because of this, I try to time my trips so as not to be on a bus at the same time teenagers are let out of school.)
I recently read in the newspaper that AC Transit is planning to reduce fares for a few months in order to attract more riders, and then raise the fares even higher after that. Such manipulation is almost as disgraceful as the level of service the company provides. It astounds me how little they care about the people who use their services. Believe me, I have a lot better things to do right now than write this letter, and if I didn’t feel strongly about how abused I was by AC Transit I wouldn’t bother.
As I said, I ride the buses regularly, even though it takes four times longer to do anything than it does when using a car. I come from New York City, where bus service is excellent. I felt good about getting rid of my car back in 2005, because I was no longer contributing to the destruction of the planet. Besides, I would much rather read, or listen to music, than fight traffic. I believe in public transportation. For environmental reasons everyone ought to ride public transportation whenever possible—but with this kind of service, I ask you, how can we be expected to do it?
- A Fork in the Road (whoisylvia.typepad.com)