*Before I even get started on this post, I wish to issue the following disclaimer: I have been riding the busses** in San Antonio most of my life. I quite literally came home from the hospital on the bus shortly after my birth. There are still a lot of really good bus drivers out there, though most of them are nosing toward retirement. And bus drivers here are still better than bus drivers in Norfolk. Still, I say what I say here from years of personal experience.
One of the news stories I saw while in the hospital--yay me, giving birth during sweeps month--concerned a surveyor who was hit by a Via bus being driven by a sleeping driver. Not too long before that, a bus driver was convicted and sentenced to jail for rear-ending a woman on Loop 410 while texting.
Via has been battling the issue of bus drivers using their phones for a while now. They are officially not allowed to be on them during working hours at all; of course anyone who has ridden a bus in the last four years or so knows what an absolute joke that is. Bus drivers are on their cell phones almost as often as people driving any other motor vehicle. Or, to put it another way, bus drivers are on their cell phones almost as often as their passengers are.
As a rider, that actually doesn't bother me all that much. It's one of those things you learn to live with, like the fact that the busses** are late quite often because the people who make the schedules never actually ride the routes, or having to flag down the occasional extra board driver who doesn't know where his stops are. (Or, my personal favorite when I lived on the far northeast side of town, having to call dispatch and get them to tell the driver that the 632 does not, in fact, go down Gibbs Sprawl--it goes down Montgomery, and there are people waiting for it.)
What does bother me?
Erik and I were on our way to LuLu's tonight to meet up with his mom and my three older girls for dinner. We were on Navarro (which may or may not still be Navarro at the point where it crosses St. Mary's; like most native San Antonians I know how to get there from here but not the street names) behind the number 5. It turns onto St. Mary's. To do this, most bus drivers swing very widely to the left--so much so that they essentially turn right out of the left hand lane.
That isn't what bugs me, though. I told Erik to be careful, and pointed out that he was going to catch the light red, as the bus was turning on yellow. And that reminded me of what I hate about too many of the Via drivers today:
They don't like red lights.
Though my knowledge of Texas driving laws isn't ironclad, I do have a pretty good handle on the rules of the road, and so far as I know, busses** aren't excepted from that whole red = stop thing. You can't tell it from how they drive.
Anyone who's driven the same road as a Via bus has seen the "stop at the bus stop and then drive through the red light" maneuver. Chances are, they've seen it often. Let me tell you, it's really no more pleasant for the people on the bus. True, in all the times I have ridden the busses** here in San Antonio, I've never been in a wreck, and my rides likely number in the tens of thousands by now. (For two years straight I rode between six and ten different busses**, five days a week.) But when I was younger there were far fewer incidences of red-light running than there are now. (To say nothing of the fact that I never once encountered a sleeping bus driver as a child, nor did I ever ride on the same bus as a couple of very young drivers discussing how wasted they'd gotten the night before and the fact that at least one of them was probably still slightly inebriated.)
But man, it's only a matter of time. It would be really, really nice if the powers that be at Via Metropolitan Transit would call in their drivers for a little refresher course on basic driving skills. I know we don't have the bus rodeo anymore, but maybe a brief training session where they actually had to, you know, stop at a red light would not be out of the question.
**There is a point to all these paired asterisks. It's this: Screw you, Firefox spell check; busses actually is a valid plural of the word bus.