The top complaint called into Halifax’s 311 service last fiscal year was about Metro Transit driver behaviour, according to numbers obtained by CBC News.
Between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, people complained about a bus driver’s attitude 2,593 times. There were about 34,000 complaints to 311 in total.
The city’s numbers show there were close to 8,000 complaints levied against the city’s bus service. Nearly 22 per cent of all the 311 complaints are transit related.
Besides behaviour, people called in about:
- Driving concerns
- Accidents claims and injuries
- Late buses
- No shows
- Missed connections
- Marketing complaints
- Overloaded buses
Brendan Elliott, spokesman for the city, says even though it’s the top complaint within HRM, he feels the bus drivers are doing a good job.
“To put everything in perspective here, where you had roughly 2,500 complaints against bus drivers, but in the course of a year our transit drivers are interacting with the public 30 million times,” he said.
Elliott says the majority of calls are about the fare box.
“Someone disputing if they’ve put enough fare into the box, or someone using an expired transfer and the bus driver calling them out on it. People don’t like being called out when they’re at the bus,” said Elliott.
“You show up as a driver and you’re doing the best that you can, but the passenger is already burning up inside so they get on the bus and they’re ready to take it out on anyone wearing that Halifax Transit uniform. It’s unfortunate but it’s a reality,”
Metro Transit was renamed Halifax Transit this week.
Every new driver gets ambassador training before they hit the road. Drivers get annual refresher courses.
“That includes everything from understanding a customer to understanding how to deal with different situations,” Elliott said.
Public vs. transit
Shane O'Leary, the transit union vice-president, says bus drivers are often the first target for the public’s wrath.
“I don’t think it’s so much public versus bus drivers as it’s public versus transit. A lot of people are unhappy with the transit system and it’s not always the driver’s fault, but the driver is the target out front,” he said
“I would assume some complaints are bogus and some are not.”
The city says it investigates every 311 complaint call.
“If it’s proven a driver has done something wrong then it's looked at, rectified, and if it’s needed, training could be offered to that driver,” Elliott said.
The numbers are based on complaint driver calls and don't include general inquiries.
Passengers waiting for a bus at the Dartmouth bridge terminal shared stories about their transit troubles.
“I’ve just had a couple of drivers be rude to elderly people,” said Michael Gaudet.
“Sometimes the bus driver will see you coming and close the door and take off,” said rider Colin Kingsland.
“I think people have been complaining every time something bad happens now. I have actually complained two or three times. It used to be bad two years ago at least but I think those complaints are really making a difference.”
Some of CBC's Twitter followers spoke up for transit drivers.
@CBCNS 10% of the drivers are probably generating 90% of the complaints. Most are great! But a few are terrible and we tend to focus on them— christina andrecyk (@cmandrecyk) July 17, 2014
@CBCNS I have complaints as a passenger more often then not, but I feel this is one sided. not entirely fair against drivers.— Amy Langdon (@alangdon17) July 17, 2014
@CBCNS I've had a bus driver that thanked everyone who got on & wished them a good day when they got off. Not all bad.— Scott MacDonald (@wblakelives) July 17, 2014