LTC: Equality and the Bus

by

Wheels on the Bus

Correction posted 2008/09/10 @ 6:15pm EDT. Please be advised that this article is not current. It was originally published on the author’s site in January of 2007. FMBS regrets the error and apologizes for it.

I take the LTC on a daily basis in this city, I use it go everywhere; work, school, play. There are days when I have good experiences, days when I have bad, but overall I like to think that the positives out-weigh the negatives. Today, on the other hand, a single negative was so overwhelming that it has clouded the vast amount of positives I know about the LTC.

I think it’s appropriate for me first to state that I am all for the public transit system here in London and in any city across the globe. I think it’s essential in a properly functioning city and it is one of the mandatory pieces of infrastructure that cities should not neglect. I believe that the bus system should be accessible to the entire population, regardless of age, sex, social status or any handicap that they may have. I believe that having a transit fleet that is fully accessible is essential and I think that London having 95 % (or so) of its buses this way is a step in the right direction.

When someone needs a seat because they are of an older generation, pregnant, with small children (strollers exempt from this example) or have some form of disability I will be the first one to get up out of my seat. I sit at work 90% of the day so I honestly don’t mind standing on the bus for a relatively short period of time. I have no problem with this what-so-ever.

What I do have a problem with is when I am kicked off of a city bus for no ‘good’ reason. This is where my anger lies today.

I hopped on the bus in the morning as I always do, catching it to go to work or school (in this case work). I made my single transfer and was on my second bus of the day (2 Dundas Route). I was standing up on the bus near the front where the accessible seating is located. The seats were folded up as they had just been in use and I don’t bother to put them down until someone needs them. Perhaps 20 minutes or so had passed and by this time it was packed with people, mainly students as I was heading to work. Suddenly as of out of nowhere I found myself standing on the curb with the bus driving away from me long before I had made it to my destination and long before I had intended on getting off the bus. What happened?

I had gotten on well before anyone else had, but the entire time I had been standing. As with many bus routes in London during the school year, the bus was full to the brim and had no more room. Everyone on the bus had moved to the back and we couldn’t fit another soul on the bus. The only time the bus would stop is if someone were to request a stop. With that said, the bus had no choice but to pass those people waiting at bus stops and leave them to catch the next bus going in the same direction

The bus driver had not made a single stop as no one had requested one, and then out of no-where he made a stop for a single person waiting at a bus stop.

This person was in a wheel chair.

(The fact that this person was in a wheel chair is not the issue here. The person could have been someone with a stroller, a pile of groceries, a Seeing Eye dog or a person of generous proportions; it’s the principal behind things that matters most here.)

I began to think to myself; “where is this person going to fit on the bus”, its was apparent to me that there was no room for anyone else to stand, let along a wheel chair and the space it takes up, but apparently there was a solution to this problem that I was not aware of. Not 2 minutes later I found myself standing on the curb with 6 other people, most of who were on the bus as long as I had been, and we were watching the bus drive away from us. We were nowhere near our destination and had to wait another 20 minutes for a bus.

What were the implications for me that day? I was 20 minutes late for all of my meetings and engagements for the remainder of the day but things are far more serious than how I was directly affected.

The rational, discretion and responsibility of the LTC in regards to this situation is apparently beyond my scope of comprehension. I honestly cannot understand how the LTC (or that particular driver) can justify kicking 6 people off the bus to fit a single person on the bus. The bus clearly had no more room and denied many people previously the chance at a bus ride (leaving them at their stops), so why was this person and this situation any different?

All people under Canadian law are equal regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, mental or physical disabilities, so I wonder how this situation is in any way above the law. Why should one person be given preference over 6 other people, why is one person more important and entitled to more services that those that live side by side in society with them?

Perhaps it is the fact that the LTC drivers use their discretion when they shouldn’t be using it at all or that this particular driver has some sort of hatred towards post-secondary students in the City of London. I don’t know and I don’t think writing pure speculation is productive in anyway.

If there was room for the wheel chair (or an extra person) from the beginning and it was simply a matter of people getting up out of their seats and standing than this would be a non-issue. It is the fact that the LTC made a poor decision and put out 6 people to accommodate a single individual. What right did the bus driver have to kick people off to accommodate one other person?

Needless to say I am not happy in anyway about this situation.

(Don’t even get me started on the topic of strollers as that’s an issue in itself)

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8 Responses to “LTC: Equality and the Bus”

  1. fowgre Says:

    Kevin:

    In spite of all the negative things about the LTC that I’ve witnessed/experienced over a lifetime of using it’s service, this story comes as a bit of a shock to me.

    Hopefully you will have captured more detail than what you’ve disclosed here, such as the exact stop where you were put off the bus, the direction of travel, the bus #, the time that the incident happened, the names of some of the other passengers who were forced off, etc.

    I suggest that you make an immediate verbal complaint to the LTC and then follow that up with a written one.

    In addition to that, I’d suggest a written submission to the next board meeting … the submission should include a copy of your written complaint, a request that they identify the official policy that’s supposed to be followed by the operator in a situation like you described, and a request that you be financially compensated.

    I’d also suggest a similar written submission to the Environment and Transportation Committee.

    If you’d like assistance in doing any/all of that, just let me know.

    Finally, I think you should contact a lawyer.

  2. Jesse Says:

    I would like to hear about strollers please. Being a mum with a baby in a stroller I feel bad about catching the bus. I’ve even bought a special “umbrella” stroller to take on the bus that folds up small in a snap so that the baby goes under one arm and the stroller under the other. I have a backpack for the shopping and wotnot.

    How do you see strollers and other users of London Transit working together in harmony?

    In Birmingham (UK) where I lived before, most buses were “kneeling” buses and the first half of one side of the bus was standing room only, the other side was infirm seating (as one single fixed bench) and thereafter, the seats were 2×2 across the bus. There were no steps up inside the bus. That system worked well, no clumsy benches to heave up or bang down, no silly straps to fiddle about with and plenty of space for strollers, wheelchairs, shopping bags on wheels etc.

    I would love to use the bus more, but it’s too intimidating.

  3. fowgre Says:

    Jessica:

    I have no problem with the use of collapsible strollers during the good weather in which it’s feasible to use them.

    The large, non-collapsible buggies are very problematic, and should not be allowed during good weather. Read my Sept. 5 inquiry to the LTC Commission (https://frommybottomstep.wordpress.com/2008/09/07/ltc-courtesy-seating/).

    Having said that, I also recognize that infant children are people too, and that as such they are entitled to the use of public transit. Which is to say, there should be a policy which allows/regulates the use of buggies during the winter season.

    Competing interests, working in harmony. It’s a nice dream. But there’s not much prospect for it without a lot of work by well-intentioned individuals. And that will require consultation, not arbitrary decrees by the LTC and/or City Council.

    At the current time, Larry Ducharme and the LTC are planning to spend millions of dollars on a ‘modernized’ system, but how much consultation has there been? Were you asked about your preferences? Did you attend information sessions in which you were presented with the pros/cons of various transport models including rail? Have you had anything to say about the expenditure on things like GPS and electronic arrival signs instead of improved frequency? Were you asked if you agree with the LTC executive’s stubborn refusal to consider a grid system instead of the old centralized one in which Dundas/Richmond is the centre of the LTC universe? Did you know that LTC is proposing to increase user fares, even though it decimated ridership the last time that they did it, and despite the fact that LTC users currently pay more per-capita than public transit users in other cities?

    It’s past time that decisions were made TO us, or FOR us, instead of WITH us. It’s time that there was more consultation that’s more than just lip-service. The users deserve to have more influence on how the system is managed. And instead of parachuting system administrators into London from other cities, maybe we should be hiring people who have a vested interest in the system’s operation. People who actually use it and rely on it the way that ordinary, regular users do.

    Interior architecture decisions are not something that users are ever consulted about. It seems that bus procurement decisions are made in secret, based on … who knows? It seems that every time the LTC buys new buses, there’s a new interior layout. You’d think they’d have gotten it right by now.

    I have more questions than answers with respect to ‘standing room’ and especially with crowded standing.

    Why is it even allowed to begin with? Isn’t it unsafe? Are Greyhound buses allowed to have passengers standing in the aisle? If a bus has to stop suddenly and a standing passenger falls and is injured, doesn’t LTC have some legal liability?

    OTOH, I can also appreciate the economic considerations. And I can appreciate that there’s considerable common sense in the U.K. system that you described.

    If there’s one point that I’m trying to make with this long-winded response, it’s that there needs to be a lot more public input before we can hope to resolve these kinds of problems and where/how we should be spending money on public transit. The only thing I’m sure about is that we should be spending lots more on public transit, and less on catering to SOV’s. And that the municipality has to step up to the plate and start funding public transit a lot better than what it has been, instead of jacking up user fares.

  4. Phronk Says:

    This is absolutely shocking. I agree that you should file a complaint against the driver who did this; it surely can’t be official LTC policy since it is such blatant discrimination. I’m all for accommodating people with special needs. But going too far and discriminating the other way is perpetuating the problem that such accommodations are meant to eliminate! So dumb.

    It’s weird that s/he managed to kick six people off so easily. Did anyone complain or refuse to get off? Or was everyone too afraid to speak up in fear of violating some unspoken law of political correctness (which I wouldn’t blame them for…it would be very difficult to speak up in such a situation).

  5. KVL Says:

    With all of my excitement in posting about this I forgot to include a very important piece at the beginning of this post:

    This was originally posted on my blog in September of 2007. (http://kvl.name/blog/)

    I have been recently re-publishing things as I work on my personal blog and thought that this would be an experience I would like to share with FMBS readers.

    This did not happen recently but rather a year ago.
    Sorry that I missed this important detail ar the beginning of this post.

    (I would have edited it to put this in, however, it appears that I do not have the privilege to do so)

  6. KVL Says:

    Greg.

    Blame it on my forgiving nature, the excitement over the issue at the time, or my general (relaxed) attitude regarding life, I did not manage to do anything about it. I honesty hoped at the time that it was an isolated incident and still believe to this day to be that way. I was(am) just angry that things of this nature happen.

    Such a thing could happen with any service anywhere, and with any of these cases I assume (or rather hope) that they are isolated incidents. I know its not the most proactive approach, but at the time of this incident occurrence I did not have the same outlook on it as if it were to happen to me today.

    With that said I simply wanted people to know that it happened for if it ever happens to them I know that it is not a single incident but rather a larger problem.

    (Greg, are you posting sometime soon on the far increase?)

    Jesse.

    As for strollers, I can comment on it in greater detail at some other time, but basically I have issues with those who abuse the transit system, think it is out to serve only them and their “SUV style” strollers and are incoherent to fact that there are 1000’s of other people who use the bus besides them on a daily basis.
    (very similar to what Greg commented on in his Sept 5 post, which is what sparked me to post my entry here as well)

    I use the LTC on a regular basis with my nieces and nephews and although I am not the perfect public transport rider I am conscious of what effect my actions have on others. This is why I insist on bringing the umbrella stroller so I can safely stow it when on the bus.

    By no means do I think strollers should be banned from buses, I just think that a reasonable and enforceable policy needs to be in effect.

  7. fowgre Says:

    Kevin:

    “This was originally posted on my blog in September of 2007. ”

    OUCH.

    I’ll insert that into the beginning of the post. It’ll clarify the situation for people who read the article here, but it won’t do anything for the people who read what may have gone out from the feed.

  8. Kevin Says:

    Greg.

    Thank you for the correction. It is my fault that I missed putting that in, and I regret that. I understand those who might read the feed version might not get the update.

    Thank you for the edit.

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