Steve On Stop Calling

A couple of weeks ago, a reporter from the Guelph Mercury called our house looking for me. That’s not something that happens every day, so as I walked to the phone my mind raced through the last little while, trying to remember if I’d done anything stupid lately. Luckily, it turned out I hadn’t, even though Cuban rum is powerful stuff.

Drew Halfnight was working on a series of stories on the state of Guelph’s transit system and wanted to interview me based on a letter I wrote a couple of years ago to see if anything had changed since then. I’m pretty sure that letter would be this one, all about the lack of stop calling in this town.

So has anything changed? The short answer is no. Drivers still don’t call the stops and the city still hasn’t bothered installing the sort of electronic announcers that so many other cities are getting.

But the slightly longer answer is not yet. According to the article, we should have those by the fall. I’ll believe that when I step onto a bus and hear them for myself, because we’ve been fed the they’re coming soon line more than once since the things were mandated in Ontario and they’re still not here.

By the way, this part of the story made me want to punch things.

Today, Guelph’s official line is that it has complied too. Michael Anders, general manager of community connectivity and transit, said drivers were asked to call out stops since that human rights order came down. But some drivers don’t do it, Anders hastened to add, since they feel it’s the city’s responsibility to put in electronic stop-calling.

“It is a sticky point,” Anders said. “Certain promises had been made by certain city staff, and the union was holding us to that.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 president Gary Daters declined to comment on the issue.

One driver, Jim Hanlon, said the idea had been “laid to rest” since drivers didn’t want to call out the stops and the city couldn’t afford the technology. “We haven’t been doing it, and it’s just kind of been let go,” he said.

The city has complied with the order just because it asked nicely? Guelph Transit must own a much different dictionary than the one I’m using, because we have vastly differing opinions on what comply means. If I kindly request that you please don’t hit me with that shovel you’re holding and you go ahead and crack me one, have you complied? That would be no. Maybe the city asked the drivers to tell me where I am, but 99 times out of 100 that doesn’t happen. Once in a blue moon does not equal compliance, at least not to the people it matters to most.

And no, the idea hasn’t been let go or laid to rest. It’s just been stalled for the last 5 years because the union and the city have chosen not to concern themselves with small, unimportant things such as customer benefit and improving the rider experience.

The article is here if you’d like to see what I said. Not everything made it in, but he did a good job of capturing the most important things and looking at the issue from all sides.

And now all we can do is wait for the fall. Will we finally get what we’ve been promised? I’m not holding my breath, but I hope that’s a mistake.

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