Why the buses just stop

October 4th, 2014

A friend of mine just emailed with a very good question: Why do the buses just stop sometimes, with no one getting on or off, no traffic jam, etc, and no clear reason why they  aren’t running?

The Answer:
The buses here operate on a fixed schedule, with a set time for each and every stop. Planners try to adjust these times to accommodate varying traffic conditions like rush hours and other factors. Obviously, they can’t do this perfectly, and sometimes buses tend to run late, ie slower than the schedule says they ought to. Just as often, they should tend to get early. This can happen if traffic is particularly light, there aren’t as many passengers as usual, or maybe the bus just hits a string of green lights. When that happens, the driver tries to stay on-schedule by driving more slowly, or sometimes stopping completely. When they do stop completely, they’ll often take the opportunity to read a couple pages of their magazine, send a text, take a bite of lunch, etc.

To someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, it probably looks like the driver is behaving quite capriciously. Many systems make announcements explaining any longer-than-usual waits, but I’ll speculate that SORTA and TANK don’t do this because they’re not seriously trying to attract or retain new passengers. They see themselves as serving a relatively captive and stable audience who has already spent a lot of time learning the system’s quirks. This also explains their complete inattention to providing easy-to-understand overviews of the system in favour of obtuse and overly detailed maps and schedules.

2 responses to “Why the buses just stop”

  1. The more generous school bus drivers also take these breaks, which may take the form of an extended chat with a parent, since schoolchildren aren’t known for arriving at their stops early.

  2. MW says:

    To be fair, there are a few SORTA drivers who will announce the reason for the stop, and state how many minutes they will be stopping. One driver is particularly good – he’s often on the 17 – and will strongly encourage people to exit through the back door.