July 30, 2015 - 6:30 PM
KELOWNA – A small group of women are banding together on social media to make public their complaints about negative experiences on Kelowna buses after being ignored by B.C. Transit.
The women describe situations with bus drivers ranging from rude to potentially dangerous and say these aren't the only stories.
“This is something I've been battling with for years now,” Sarah Halford, a 25-year-old mother of three, says.
She says she had just boarded the 7:43 p.m. bus from West Kelowna to Peachland on Friday, July 24, after going to dinner with her young children.
“The driver immediately makes a big deal about how my stroller is too big and blocking his entrance, even though people are passing by just fine, and I need to fold it up or get off the bus,” she says. “He said I should feel lucky to even have my children… and that because I can't drive them myself reflects on what kind of parent I am.”
She says another incident happened last week when she was seated with her stroller again and the bus started driving before she could get her two-year-old daughter out and seated.
I yelled out "excuse me, but my brakes weren't even on yet and my daughter is small and wasn't seated. He said to me 'oh sorry, I was trying to make the light.'"
City buses are managed by B.C. Transit, which published the results of a first quarter 2015 customer satisfaction survey in April. It says only 41 per cent of users consider bus drivers to be courteous, well below the system-wide average of 51 per cent and below Kamloops at 56 per cent. Only 46 per cent said they feel safe riding a Kelowna bus, also below the system-wide average of 55 per cent. Fewer than one-third of users say the system is improving.
Calls to B.C. Transit were not returned, but its website has information about how to deal with strollers.
These specific confrontations are taken from notes they made of the events, which include descriptions of the drivers, and they say their complaints were submitted to B.C. Transit.
Halford says she would like to see more understanding from drivers when it comes to travellers who have small children and for B.C. Transit to look at improving safety for young children.
Danielle Farr tells a similar story. She was boarding the 8 bus from Rutland Road at 9:30 a.m. with her two-year-old when a driver refused to lower the bus for her or give her a transfer. When she repeated her request for the transfer the driver made a comment she says she won’t forget.
“He said next time you should open your mouth wider to speak, you have a big enough mouth,” she says.
Farr pointed out that maybe he didn’t hear her ask for the transfer because of the Bluetooth in his ear and sat down.
“He got out of his seat and said 'you don’t think you’re riding on my bus do you?' and I said yes because I haven't done anything wrong and he said 'you get the hell of my bus before I make you.'”
Farr says she got off the bus in tears.
Amanda Martin says she was returning from Value Village after buying a pterodactyl costume for one of her two young boys when the driver of a bus from Rutland to Glenmore refused to wait for them to get off a double decker bus.
“We were dragging home a huge shopping bag from the store and we also had a backpack with extra food and spare clothes,” she says. “My son insisted on bringing a small backpack of his own as well.”
She says she had never ridden on a double decker bus so when it came to a stop she began gather her son and their belongings.
“There is a very sharp turn just before our stop and with all the things we had, as well as trying to manage a small child down those stairs, I decided to wait until the bus had stopped and then immediately started getting ourselves down the stairs. We had just gotten to the bottom of the stairs and were about to get off when the door shut and the driver started going again.”
She called out thinking he hadn't seen them.
“He immediately started yelling at me that we needed to be down at the bottom of the stairs when the bus stops,” she says. “I tried to explain that I didn't know that and that it was hard to manage with a small child and our parcels, yet the bus driver kept yelling at me about reading the signs and having to know what to do before we got on the bus.”
She says the behavior by the drivers has gotten so poor she now avoids using public transit in Kelowna whenever possible.
“When we do take the bus, we often have to deal with bus drivers taking off at full speed before we are seated safely, as well as being rude and just plain unpleasant. I know they deal with a lot of bad characters, but it makes it very hard to want to take transit when you are treated that way.”
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