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, June 4, 2008

Train operator customer service

The train doors closed and immediately a woman arrived. She pressed the door button outside. I pressed the door button on the inside. We both pressed the buttons. Nothing.

"Oh, come on," she said. She threw up her hands and walked away.

I shrugged and mouthed, "Sorry." I tried the button one last time.

The train didn't start moving for what seemed like another full minute, plenty of time for the driver to have allowed the woman to board.

Just fine, I thought. This was just so fitting. Last weekend, representatives of Sacramento Regional Transit's finest were in San Francisco for the American Public Transportation Association's 2008 International Rail Rodeo.

How did RT do? First, keep in mind that the rules require that no supervisors, foremen or training instructors can participate. These are your Joe Operators. The operators were tested on appearance (perfect score, but then everyone was perfect), safety, train inspection, operating course and finally customer service. It was the customer service score that amused me.

The winning team from San Francisco scored a perfect 100. Second place Los Angeles scored 85. The Sacramento train operator team score for customer service? 45. Overall, the RT operator team finished the competition tied for fifth with that bastion of customer service, New York City's MTA, which scored 50 out of 100 on customer service.

Two stops later tonight, a guy with a bike arrived at the back door of the train just as the doors closed. The button didn't work. I tried to help. No luck. Fortunately for the guy, a passenger in the middle of the train stood in the door long enough for the guy to get on board.

When the train arrived at 65th Street station, I walked across Q Street to wait for the wife. A No. 81 bus was stopped at the light at 65th Street. A guy who had been on the train ran up to the door of the bus and pantomimed for the driver to open the door. "Please," he mouthed. The bus driver opened the door and let the guy board. As the door closed, the light changed and the bus and the lucky guy were on their way.

I appreciate that the trains run on a tight schedule and can't wait for people who are a block away running. But a rider who is standing at the door of a stopped train should be allowed to board, especially -- as in both cases tonight -- when the train operator hasn't given his "The train is departing; please stand clear" announcement.

1 comment:

The Derek said...

most of the people who were interviewed on tv that were riding for the first time said they loved it and would probably keep riding. I guarantee that even if RT keeps these new riders after the big fix, they will eventually leave once this starts happening to them, especially once the trains are back to their 15 minute schedule. I once had this happen to me at the Iron Point station, and havent ventured out on the folsom end since. A 15 minute wait is long enough let alone 30!