Bus drivers worried about hostile commuters amid construction chaos

Bus drivers are asking increasingly frustrated passengers not to blame them for heavy delays and daily detours caused by Montreal's notorious construction.

Drivers can't handle angry passengers anymore, union president says

The head of the bus drivers' union hopes the STM will do something about the increasingly hostile situation on its buses. (Alison Northcott/CBC)

Bus drivers are asking increasingly frustrated passengers not to blame them for heavy delays and daily detours caused by Montreal's notorious construction.

The union that represents Montreal city bus drivers took out an ad in the Tuesday edition of Le Metro — a free daily newspaper often handed out at Metro stations — asking passengers to be patient.

Hostility on buses has spiked in recent weeks, prompting more drivers to call their union, said Renato Carlone, president of the drivers' union. 

"It's been constant calls — 80 to 100 calls in the last three weeks from drivers saying they can't take it anymore," Carlone said.

With the city amid a major road construction blitz — affecting major bridges, the Turcot Interchange, and sundry roads, boulevards and avenues — there are few bus routes that don't encounter delays. 

The bus drivers' union took out a full page ad in Le Metro Tuesday morning to reason with the public. It reads: "Your driver is doing what he can in impossible circumstance." (Le Metro)

Carlone said that commuters are typically accustomed to being a little late. But delays now see them arriving at work up to an hour behind schedule.

"It's been way too much. Bus drivers are worried," Carlone said. "They're calling me. They're stressed."  

At a news conference Tuesday for metro accessibility, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said 90 per cent of commuters are pleased with the city's public transit system.

What commuters say

Commuters sympathise with bus drivers, but some wish they would be more accommodating.

Jahrel Kurbel commutes from the West Island and says he arrives at his bus stop early. But never knows if the bus will arrive, or if he'll have to call his parents to drive him to the Metro.

He worries he's getting a reputation at work as being "a late guy."

He wants bus drivers to be more understanding of what their passengers are going through. For instance, passengers should be allowed to get off between stops if the bus begins to take lengthy detours. 

West Island commuter Jahrel Kurbel says he doesn't want to be thought of as someone who always shows up late for work. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

"People are still relying on the bus drivers to be on time. If someone asks to be let out early to grab the Metro, the bus driver will say, 'No I'm not allowed,'" Kurbel said.

"If someone's late, the bus driver should let them off, even if they're not allowed."

Another public transit user, Nilmini Mendis, commutes from Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. She says it takes her about an hour and a half to get to work.

"It's really bad. They do the detours because of the construction, but there's detours on the construction as well," Mendis said.

President of the bus drivers union, Renato Carlone, says frustrated passengers are dangerous because they can distract drivers. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

Revise outdated schedules

Carlone is hoping the STM will step in and do something to protect their drivers. He wants to see schedules revised so people have more realistic expectations about when they will reach their destination.

He says the STM revises their timetables every 12 to 18 months and that isn't good enough.

"We don't have enough time to do our job and now we have construction on top of it," Carlone said.

with files from Shaun Malley