Metro column: Breakdown leaves customers in the dark

01 June 2009 05:26

TransLink is on a roll these days.

Sparkling mega-projects like the Canada Line and the Golden Ears Bridge are nearing completion. For cyclists, the Central Valley Greenway will be completed at the end of this month. Needed upgrades are happening across the transit system.

So it’s a shame that when TransLink screws up, it has to do so in royal form.

A case in point is the No. 44 bus service. At the best of times, it is a frustrating, unpredictable affair — complete with pass-ups, overcrowding, and third-rate scheduling.

But at the worst of times, it simply doesn’t show up.

Last Thursday, I arrived at a bus stop on West Hastings Street at 10:10 a.m., hoping to catch the service to Point Grey.

I faithfully turned on my iPhone to check out TransLink’s schedule application — indicating a bus would arrive in one minute.

Perfect.

But after 10 minutes, I was still waiting. At 10:25, still no bus.

The good news? Another bus was to swing by at 10:31. But, of course, it too would be a no-show.

At roughly 10:35, I called TransLink. An operator was kind enough to look into the matter, but eventually indicated there was no problem. Hold tight, he said, a bus would be on its way.

Before long, I was waiting for three No. 44 buses: The 10:11, the 10:31, and the 10:51. And I had been on the phone with TransLink for more than 30 minutes.

Finally, my tireless agent had an update. The service had been rerouted. For whatever reason, customers weren’t informed.

So nearly an hour after this ordeal began, I abandoned the bus stop.

But this episode begs some serious questions.

First, in the event of a service change, why wouldn’t TransLink post information immediately at every affected bus stop? Or at the very least, to its much-hyped mobile phone app?

Second, how was it that information agents were ironically — and faultlessly — in the dark until nearly an hour after my fiasco began?

Third, short of a major weather event, is it ever acceptable to abandon fare-paying customers at a bus stop?

At 11:15, by the way, I had made my way to Burrard Street, where I finally caught a bus out of downtown.

And at 11:30 a.m., an advisory was posted to TransLink’s website: The No. 44 was being rerouted.

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Filed under Commuting, Transportation

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