Bad bus driver contact made better by good CTA customer service experience

I just found this email buried in my inbox from last month. It’s dedicated to the good folks in the customer service department at the CTA. I’ve had a couple good experiences with them and so did Sarah:

#50 Damen.jpg

Copyright – All rights reserved by thelilddude

I wanted to let you know about a recent experience with the CTA and how they handled it.

Last (month) when we were having the really cold temperatures, I was
going to take the bus South down Damen (from Foster).  I think the CTA
Bus tracker for the #50 is sometimes a bit weird so close to the start
of the route.  I tracked the #50 on my phone and it showed No Buses.  So
I checked a few minutes later…No Buses.  Then at about 6 p.m. I hit
Refresh again it the Tracker showed two buses – 6 minutes and 20

I hustled out of the house, down Berwyn, onto Damen and raced to
Foster.  I looked East on Foster and here comes the Damen bus.  I was
waving my arms and thinking that the driver would miss the light and I
would be able to cross South across Foster.  Well, the driver took the
left onto Damen after the light turned red so I raced across the

If you know the intersection the bus stop is really close and about the
length of a bus.  I kept running and kept my arm up and got up alongside
the bus trying not to fall on the ice. The driver slowed, don’t know if
he saw me and right about the time I *almost* made it to the door he
pulls away.  Ugh.  I was so pissed that I fired off an email right then
to CTA Customer Service since I had to wait a good 15 minutes for the
next bus. 

Now, I know…I am spoiled.  I expect Bus Tracker to work.  It’s a great
invention.  But when temps are so cold I also wanted the driver to be
looking out for me.  It’s a lot to expect and I did say in my email to
the CTA that I was really ticked off more than anything else.

The CTA emailed me an apology.  I also received a phone call from the
Garage Manager apologizing.  I know I can’t expect every bus to wait for
me – that would be nuts but on such a cold night, with the wind chill
and all the ice preventing me from walking to my destination, my point
was be aware of people trying to make the bus. 

So I really appreciate the CTA following up. 


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  • There seems to be some sort of air born disease traveling around Chicago. The main symptom seems to be causing people to think "well I can see the bus, therefore the person driving the bus surely can see me, thus if the person driving the bus does not wait for me, the bus driver is a terrible person and should lose his or her job."

  • I have been passed up very, very few times. I understand Sarah's concern given the weather conditions, but unless I know I can board a bus easily without running, I don't assume I'm going to be able to board that particular bus and wait for another or begin walking the route until the next one arrives. You are correct that drivers don't necessarily see potential passengers who are not present at the bus stop. There are so many bits of information that need to be processed to operate a bus safely that it may not always be possible, especially on a street with heavy traffic. I'm glad CTA Customer Service was responsive to Sarah's complaint. I have always received a reply within 12 hours and they are always specific to the complaint, which shows that someone actually read it and it's not just a form letter.

  • This is the bit I would be concerned about, personally: "the driver took the left onto Damen after the light turned red".

  • In reply to lintilla:

    I think you're taking this the wrong way. Whether cta bus, over the road tractor trailer, or miata, when making a left turn you wait for traffic to stop before you can turn, often, you have to wait for the light to turn red before you can turn.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    It's possible, but I've seen enough busses run red lights unnecessarily that... well, I guess I don't automatically give them the benefit of the doubt.

    The only time I've ever emailed the CTA to complain was a case where the bus I was on entered an intersection after the light turned red, AFTER having stopped to let passengers off (so "not enough time to brake" was certainly not an excuse), and AFTER sirens became audible approaching from the cross street. The bus couldn't clear the intersection until the next light turned green, and neither could that fire truck.

    The rest of the time, though... if the light has only just turned red, it's pretty much a behaviour I've come to expect from bus drivers, ever since taking the big yellow school bus as a kid.

  • In reply to lintilla:

    "a behavior I've come to expect" is not a fair thing to say. Just because a commercial vehicle goes through a light, it doesn't at all mean they wanted to, it seems unsafe to you, but it's actually a lot safer than slamming on the breaks, risking skidding out into the intersection, fish tailing, and (in the case of bus drivers) risking passengers on board from falling out of their seat.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    "A behaviour I've come to expect" refers to perceptions and beliefs about reality, not to reality itself, and isn't fair or unfair. It's simply descriptive of the contents of my brain mixed with a bit of hyperbole. So, okay -- the hyperbole may be a tinge unfair. I can be a bit cynical. If you want a more accurate statement of what's in my head: "in my experience, bus drivers have run red lights unnecessarily often enough that it is not a behaviour that I find unusual or unexpected when I see it happen again".

    And do note the word "unnecessarily". As in my example above, I've seen drivers move from a stopped position through a red light. I was never referring to situations where stopping in time would mean slamming on the brakes, which does happen. Although, many times it's because the driver was going too fast to begin with...

    Anyway, since we don't know any more about the situation in the actual article... beyond explaining why I would see something potentially concerning about a bus and a red light being mentioned together, which I've done, this is all irrelevant.

  • Sorry to hear that happened to her. There is a lot of factors going through your head when you're in "the hot seat". I always try to make an effort to wait for people if I see them. But like Martha said, just because you see the bus...don't assume the driver sees or is seeing you, especially when they're attention is diverted to where it should be...driving. Either way, this driver is still wrong.

    I will saw however, there are some people who abuse the "bus waiting" privledge, either by slowing down to a paced crawl across the street or stopping to call one of their friends to come too and say "oh wait wait my friend". These are usually the first to complain the bus is late, yet they easily contribute to this annoying factor.

    At any rate....I hope they follow up to this obviously wrong issue.

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