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The 11 Prospect is a popular route for students heading from downtown and the off-campus residences on Forest Hill, to St. Thomas University. Students fill the bus, standing shoulder to shoulder. Sometimes more than 20 students get on at one stop and the driver has to drive past other stops because the bus is at capacity.
Kelsey Sellars, STU student, has had some uncomfortable moments when finding a seat. She’s used her bus pass to get around the city for over three years.
She was waiting for the 11 Prospect to go to work at the Regent Mall, in September.
“When the bus came, I waited for people to get off before I went on out of courtesy… and the man yelled at me ‘I don’t have all day young lady.’ I was only waiting for people to get off so there wasn’t a jam in the entryway,” Sellars said.
“I felt pretty embarrassed because everyone on the bus looked at me and I didn’t want to say anything to the driver to cause a scene, so I smiled and got on.”
“There are seven mirrors on a bus and the operators are always watching that the passengers are preparing to seat themselves,” Jason LeBlanc, associate director at Fredericton Transport said.
“Safety is the number one priority since we’re hauling human cargo.”
LeBlanc said when the driver feels like the passengers are preparing themselves in a secure spot, they are permitted to begin a “rolling start.”
“If there are time restraints, like during rush hours, that’s when we primarily have to keep our schedules in respect… once they pay the fare, or show the pass and are past the yellow line that’s present on the floor as they are seating themselves is when the operator is permitted to start a slow rolling start.”
LeBlanc said the operators go through an ambassador program, before dealing with the public. Aside from relations with passengers, there are other regulations for bus drivers to consider.
This includes how much time a passenger is allotted to use the bicycle rack at a stop. The rack on the front of the bus is open for passenger use from May until the first week of December.
Patrick Brennan, STU student, didn’t use the bicycle rack all summer out of intimidation. There’s only so much time the driver and the passengers enjoy idling at a stop.
“I’ve ridden the bus before and have seen people who haven’t been well versed in using the bike racks and the drivers seem to give them a hard time. For me, I just didn’t really want the hassle and it didn’t seem worth it.”
LeBlanc said the rack is designed to be a three step program and passengers are free to ask for guidance when the driver has time to help, such as at Kings Place.
“[They can use] whatever time is required for them. Hopefully they’re not taking more than five minutes to do the whole process because that would delay the scheduled runs during the day,” LeBlanc said.
When asked if the driver can get off the bus and help the passenger, LeBlanc said the driver shouldn’t be leaving his seat. In order to help the passenger, the driver would have to put the bus in park, use the emergency break and leave the passengers on the bus unattended.
Stacey Budd, STU student, also relies on her bus pass to get around. She says some bus drivers make her time on the bus enjoyable.
“Some of them are super friendly so that makes up for it,” Budd said.
“One time the bus driver dropped me off right in front of the Montgomery [Street] house when I lived there, instead of down the road.”
Brennan says the majority of the time the drivers are “accommodating and nice,” and since he uses the bus system so often he knows one driver from another.
“You take the bus enough, you get to know the bad ones and you can get ready for their attitude,” Brennan said.
But Brennan said in general, his experience is usually a positive one.
The University of New Brunswick’s Students’ Union is holding a referendum until Oct 19th. This includes a question about a $115 bus pass fee for students lasting 12 months, and with no option for students with vehicles to opt out of the fee.