There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

RT's blind customer service

I wonder sometimes about the operators of the light rail trains, isolated in their cabs, separated from the people they are transporting. Are they deliberately mean, or just uncaring?

Last night, the No. 82 bus pulled into the 65th Street transit center just as the light rail train headed toward downtown was entering the station. It was 6:32 p.m.

In the bus, I could see two people standing in the door. I've been there. You are on the bus and you see the train pulling into the station, and you are wondering if you will have time to run from the bus and across Q Street to the train before the train doors lock.

Only tonight the two anxious bus riders couldn't see the train. They were blind.

When the bus came to a stop and the front door opened I immediately recognized the blind twenty-something blonde co-ed wearing a gray Sacramento State sweatshirt. I've seen her several times on the bus between Sacramento State and light rail.

The woman bounded from the bus in a remarkable display of sightless prowess. She quickly negotiated the step off the curb onto Q Street and then raced across the street, waiving her cane to warn when she reached the other curb.

I watched in amazement as she flew through the station to the train in time to open the car door. Only then, as she stood partway in the doorway, did I realize that there was a young blind man following her. He was clearly not as sure of himself as he cautiously made his way across Q Street tapping with his cane.

As I boarded the bus I heard the woman yell for the man to hurry. Everyone on the bus stopped to watch what was happening at the train.

Just as the man reached the woman, the train doors closed. The woman pushed the unresponsive door button several times.

The mechanical voice of the train announced the train was departing. Bells chimed and the running lights flashed. Then the train rolled away, leaving the blind woman and the blind man behind.

Later, as our bus was about to head out onto 65th Street, we crossed paths with the blind couple. They were walking together away from the station.

"Man, I got them there in time, but they missed the train," the driver lamented out loud.

The driver wasn't the only person on the bus disappointed by Sacramento Regional Transit that night.


Kate said...

Hey, its really funny that i happened to find out about this posting because we are positive this was us. The 82 line always seems to be late, I've almost gotten used to having to run for lightrail which i was supposed to have 10 minutes to wait for.

They want more people to take RT rather then drive but they make it inconvienent. Why ride a bus that will probably be late, because they are SO often, which could cause you to miss a connection and be late, when you can just drive. As a blind person since birth RT has always, unfortunately, been apart of my life.

Also so many of the drivers don't have a clue where they are going. I tell the driver where I am going since i can't see the stop and so many times they have no idea, some straight say they don't know and others seem to just kind of pick a stop and tell me I'm at my stop, that is the most annoying and frustrating. Complaining to RT does nothing,they don't ever seem to care about their riders. Ok I'm done on my RT rant.

John said...

Hi, Kate,

If you are the same person I wrote about, I have ridden with you three or four times from Sacramento State to the light rail station. Your skill at getting around is quite remarkable. I would describe it as athletic. The guy with you that night rides to and from school on the No. 82. I have ridden with him several times.

As for the problem with the bus and light rail connections at 65th Street, RT could help the situation if it would route buses into the station on Q Street from 65th Street. There is a turn lane with its own light. By entering on Q Street, the buses could drop off people at the light rail station and then move into the bus lot to pick up people. Everyone would benefit, but especially the blind and wheelchair passengers.

As the station is arranged now, RT pretends bus riders transferring to light rail will walk to the crosswalk at either end of the bus lot. Of course, people in wheelchairs are forced to do this, but everyone else -- including the blind -- jaywalk across Q Street. This is just not safe.

I proposed that RT change the bus drop off to Q Street, they said no. I blogged about in RT's response in a post PSR 07 1409

I sympathize with your problem with bus drivers not knowing their routes. At least with the newer buses, the stops are announced by the automated system.