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Life as a Scot in California

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Public Transportation

Posted by berkeleyscot on October 20, 2007

I wish I could use it, but our local public transportation isn’t easily accessible to me and I find it to be dangerous.
Our local transit company, AC (Alameda County) has a fleet of fairly new buses. A Belgian company, ‘Van Hool’, has supplied these.
Berkeley has always been proud of the fact that not only is it a completely accessible town, but also has been a pioneer in the disability rights’ movement. So it’s a terrible shame, if not a disgrace, that my first and last trip on such a bus, recently, was nerve-wracking!
I no longer have the knees to climb the steep steps into the bus, but the bus driver lowered the steps so that I could get on more comfortably.
But once I was aboard my experience was terrifying! The driver started off before I had put my money in the box and I lost my balance. The bus was shoogly and unstable. (That’s probably redundancy.) I didn’t fall, but I did stagger about a bit, probably looking more drunk than spastic to people who don’t know me. I was very afraid of falling and hurting not only myself but also anyone else I might have fallen on. I’m particularly afraid of falling and breaking my teeth and having done so in all my life, I believe I have now more crowns in my mouth than there are on the thrones of Europe.
I clutched a pole to stop myself flapping about and potentially poking someone in the eye with my cp hand and saw that I had to hoist myself into a seat that was a step up. Seating for ‘senior ctizens and people with disabilities’ is in the MIDDLE of the bus, not directly behind the driver as was the configuration in the old fleet. So people who have mobility and balance difficulties have to access those seats usually while the bus is moving.
I didn’t feel comfortable or safe as the bus swayed north along Shattuck Ave and then west on Solano Ave. An elderly lady, holding her bags of groceries, fell on her back as the bus lurched to a halt. The driver didn’t come up the aisle to check on her. He didn’t seem to notice and ignored the concerns of the passengers who picked up the lady and helped her off. She was more concerned about her broken eggs than the possibility of broken bones.
My stop came near and I located the donger thingie to ding, but I couldn’t reach it. It was behind me and on my right side. No good. I called to the driver, but he chose to speed up and when I tried to stand up, the force thrust me back into my seat. I screamed at the driver to stop and let me off and he did so, but didn’t lower the steps so I could exit gracefully.
I believe this driver was an exception, but ought he to have been driving a bus?
Last year I met an AC bus driver at the gym and described the situation to her. She expressed sympathy and said that she and other drivers hate the buses. But they are under great pressure to be on time and to reach the terminus for their scheduled break. If they are late, they often have time only for a bathroom break and no food.
I’ve participated in a letter writing campaign to AC Transit and copied, as many others have, to a Berkeley bi-weekly newspaper, in which I’ve seen letters describing ‘Van Hool’ as ‘Van Hell buses.’
I’m not the only one who fears to ride the bus.

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4 Responses to “Public Transportation”

  1. […] near a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station and have problems with the buses. I blogged about the local buses in October last […]

  2. Roy Findlay said

    Hi berkleyscot im agine a loon staying Portlethen finding this You mentioned Sir Jimmy Shand I was born in Alyth Perthshire but used to go on the bus to Dundee when I was about 4or 5 and sat in the corner of the room while my mother got her accordian lesons from Jimmy ows that and now i’m near doric land and meet Robbie Shepherd quite regularly need to bring you some Garioch Bend music I;ll be in California in April (two weks time) Roy

  3. Thank you for your response, Roy. What a wonderful personal memory you have of Sir Jimmy Shand!
    I listen to Robbie Shepherd, on the Internet, at the weekends and enjoy, ‘Take the Floor,’ ‘The Reel Blend’ and his Doric podcast.
    I have had a few of tapes the Garioch (Geery) Blend’s music, but no longer have a tape player!
    Are you coming to California on vacation?
    Aye yours,

    Margaret

  4. Mark said

    It’s a shame about your bus driver. When rich and powerful people start riding the buses, they will demand better service.

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