Monday, August 8, 2011

Why You Got Left Behind (or "Hey! You're Early For The Next One!")

One of the single greatest complaints that those poor devils at the Customer Relations Office (1800 800 166 6am-Midnight every day) have to put up with is Tram Drivers failing to pick up passengers. Now right off the bat, I'm going to come out and say that I've accidentally missed the odd passengers or two over the years, but I can count these on my fingers. Dark clothes, hiding behind a pole/shelter, arm comes up at the last moment, etc. However, looking at the sheer volume of complaints and the sorts of things I see on the road, I'm wondering how this situation is getting worse, especially when people are becoming more educated about public transport. Anyway, Here's a list of reasons why I've left people behind and please remember - they aren't personal. I don't wake up wanting to piss people off - I leave that up to Transport Ministers.
Before I start, I should state that according to our rules and regulations, Drivers must always be on the alert for intending passengers at termini and at stops. This makes sense and I can see plenty of passengers using this as ammunition. However, when you mix this with the timetable we're supposed to be running to, it can (and often does) cause a bit of conflict. Please bear in mind that we need to find some sort of balance between the needs of passengers on board as well, and this isn't always easy.


1. You're Not At The Stop
You're running like Carl Lewis and I'm running late for whatever reason. If you aren't at the stop when I'm due there, what makes you think I'm going to sit there and wait while you get to the stop when I've got passengers on board? It might sound harsh, but we're not a taxi service. Oh, and putting it into perspective - imagine if you were on the late tram and the driver stopped for each and every person who looked like they might want the tram? If I'm running on time, I try to wait, but I can't do it all the time. That's why there's other trams. 

2. Freeze Frame!
I'm approaching a stop, there's someone standing there. Not moving a muscle. No eye contact, no movement, nothing (no guide dog, cane, helper, or evidence to suggest they might need help!). I ring the gong, and still nothing. Finally, just as I pass the stop, the person springs into action, waving like they're drowning. 
If your tram is coming, make eye contact, extend your arm and hail us. Just like a taxi isn't going to be able to read your mind, don't expect us to.

3. Bus Stop/Tram Stop
There is a difference. Bus are orange, tram are green. Don't find this out the hard way. Lots of money was spent here.

4. I'm On The Other Line
You're on the phone or listening to music, don't expect anyone on public transport to give a shit. I've pulled up at lights, watched, nothing. Lights change, I move off, then all of a sudden the important phone call can wait. Like he did. For the next tram.

5. Jaywalkers
I try not to swear, but these twits take the cake. My light's green, my doors are shut, I'm moving off. What fucked up sense of entitlement allows these idiots to run in front of traffic because they want that tram? I don't know what it is, but I let them think about it as they wait for the next tram. I'm doing my job and driving safely, while these morons break the law and get pissy when they don't get what they want. Once again, people take this personally, but if I waited for everyone who wanted the tram, I'd never leave the city. 

6. Destination.
Read them. I've been transporting trams around depots and have "Sorry Not In Service" up before I leave the gate. If I'm out when there's plenty of people around, I slow down and if they see me point at the desto, they usually work it out. Of course then there's the smart-arse who thinks that somehow, after over a decade of privatisation, the company is willing to pay someone to simply drive an empty tram around for hours just to piss people off. These types bash at the door, can't take no for an answer and expect for you to know why the seat at Clifton Hill station still hasn't been fixed yet.

7. Special Events
When the football is on, trams are commandeered from every depot and sent to do the football. This pretty much involves running between Flinders St and the appropriate ground before and after the match to carry the crowds. I'd love to know who pays for it, because it's certainly not done for the fare-payers! Anyway, trams run out of service from the depot to the run and out of service when returning to the depot. This can often upset plenty of people, especially those who happen to forget that it is a religion in this city. My tram's been kicked, I've been spat at and my parents marriage status questioned, all for the sake of carting around yobbos, some of which barrack for Collingwood. While you might see hundreds of trams on short runs, the usual service still runs. However, like Punt Rd, don't expect it to be immune from the masses.

8. Multiple Lines
On some routes, numerous tram lines run. Think St Kilda Rd heading away from the city, for example. If a tram is running late on a line shared with others, it's unreasonable to expect each and every tram to stop for each and every passenger. That's why intending passengers need to signal. But what about blind people? Any decently trained driver will be able to recognise somebody whose vision is impaired, and that's not just keeping an eye out for dogs or canes. A good driver will slow down, sound the gong, and stop if somebody signals. If nobody signals or there's an absence of body language (not picking up your bag does tend to send me a signal), why should we stop everyone on the tram from getting home?

9. No Room At The Inn
On occasion, usually during the peaks, trams get so full that people can't get on. Yes, it sucks, but when this happens we end up running later and later, pissing more and more people off. If it gets to this point, and we stop for more people, it often wastes more and more time as you run from door to door looking for room that simply isn't there. Under certain conditions, full trams can leave passengers behind at the stop (as long as there's another following). Drivers are supposed to clearly signal that there's a tram not far behind. 

I never feel great about leaving people behind. Never. Why? Because I've had the chance to change someone's opinion about public transport and to do something good. That might be their last straw, and the next day they might be that dickhead who's driving their car in the tram lane. In all my years as a driver, I've never enjoyed it because like passengers, we're humans. Yes, there are some bad eggs who will scrub stops to make up time, but these ones cheat us both:
a) Rostering looks at the run times and notices that trams can make it through this section at this time taking less time than usual. So they cut time. Yay.
b) The passenger may well let the next driver have it, as though we're all connected. 
If you have any dramas with any drivers, don't hesitate to report them. Take the time, location, tram route, destination, tram number, that sort of thing. Yarra Trams is obliged to follow complaints up and I've had a few over time (Dickheads who run in front of the tram mostly). We have some bastards who need to be kept honest. Every time we get notices around the depots about customer complaints, they always proudly point out that a majority of complaints are caused by the same few drivers. They never seem to do anything about them though...
Maintain the rage against shit Tram Drivers though!

Anyway, if you're enjoying this stuff let me know. I need inspiration though, so if you can come up with any issues you want exploring, drop me a note here or hit me up on twitter (@melbtramdriver). 

7 comments:

  1. Great entry. As a passenger (though one with more than just a passing interest in trams - yes, I am a gunzel), I never cease to be amazed/irritated by how daft other members of the travelling public are.

    Here are a couple of suggestions for entries. Or perhaps they are more just questions/bitching from me that may or may not prove inspirational:

    1. Passengers need to do their own bloody research before boarding trams! I don't know how you drivers cope - I'd be giving sarcastic or inaccurate answers all the time to idiots who, for instance, hop on a northbound route 19 on Sydney Road and ask "is this the tram for Flinders Street?" Is it THAT hard to read the map at the stop or the tram's desto?

    2. When there is an unruly passenger on the tram, what are drivers obliged to (not) do? I've seen fairly inconsistent responses, and I'm not sure if the public can legitimately complain to YT about driver inaction. I can think of multiple drivers just outright ignoring passengers who have approached them with complaints about drunk/lecherous/violent people, or fobbed them off with excuses and taken no action. One incident in particular, one man threatened another with a hammer; the driver resolutely stayed in his cab, would not call the police, etc. On the other hand, I was once on a tram with a violent hobo; the driver got out of his cab and made the guy sit right up the front until police could meet the tram. So, what's the expectation? Are drivers meant to get involved and keep order on their tram, or is there a "don't be a hero" policy?

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  2. I really would like to see the customer service staff that take these complaints have to play passengers a short recording before they take the complaint, educating the passenger on why they may have been left behind.

    Last time I spoke to an insurance person in relation to an insurance claim, one of the things they made me do was listen to a 90 second recording of terms and conditions and other stuff. Metlink/Yarra Trams need to make similar recordings for the various complaint categories (such as failure to pick up/set down) that clearly outlines the passengers obligations.

    Things such as "giving a clear signal when the tram is at least one tram length away from the stop, showing your intention to either board or be set down". Another good one would be that "tram priority signals are fitted to many intersections and are usually only visible from the tram drivers cabin, so as to avoid confusing motorists".

    But then again, it would mean that the company couldn't carry on the practice of all complaints being allocated to a driver - blame would need to be put else where!

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  3. axver, this is true. However when it gets dark those timetables are useless not always clear. Besides, the odd question now and then keeps me awake! I get testy with people thinking I'm some sort of travel agent/walking Melways though!

    As for drivers responding, under the OH&S act, employees aren't supposed to put themselves in danger. We can request for police to attend if needed. However, this involves a lengthy process with a third party. If you have a problem on a tram, don't be afraid to dial 000 yourself and encourage others. We are not required to leave the cabin. I have now and then to give vandals a surprise or to make sure the chromer is actually chroming, but I don't often. I can't get into too much more detail because funnily enough not everyone reading blogs are law abiding citizens.

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  4. msilsby, I don't know that a pissed off passenger would react too nicely to that. It's one thing to make an insurance claim, it's another to pour petrol on the fire.
    As far as I'm concerned, people aren't always total morons all the time unless they think Andrew Bolt is always right. Well, always correct. I think if someone gets bitten once, they will make more of an effort the next time to be seen. If they can't make this sort of leap, I don't know what else to do!

    ReplyDelete
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  7. It normally takes me 45 minutes to get to work using the train and tram system. Well I get to the station at 8am but the 8:05 has been cancelled. The 8:13 is too crowded to board so I catch the 8:20. But it is running late so it is diverted to run direct to Flinders Street so I have to get off at Richmond and catch another train. I get off at Melbourne Central and being late run up the stairs to see your tram at the tram stop. BUT you don't let me on. So I have to wait another 10 minutes for the next ram - getting to work 25 minutes late.

    This is why we get angry at you and hate the system you represent; a system that values timetables and profits over the people who pay your wages.

    ReplyDelete