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A CTA driver's view of bus bunching

Recently a CTA bus driver wrote me with his view on bus bunching. Thanks to him for sharing:

Bus bunching is obviously something that we all see happen, two or three, maybe even four buses running together in the same direction at the same time.

There are a number of reasons buses can bunch, one of the biggest reasons being traffic. However, from the riding publics point of view...at least in my experience, they find it so easy to blame it on us (drivers) all the time, or say the bus left the terminal late. The reality is that even if a bus leaves its starting point on time, it still can run into "on route" conflicts that can quickly and easily but a bus behind on its schedule. Add a pinch of inclement weather to that and...VOILA! You have a bus bunching situation waiting to happen.

Schedules are based on NORMAL travel conditions, or at least what is sought to be normal. The sad reality is, traffic and weather are so sporadic and unpredictable that there is no real easy way to prevent a bus from becoming late. A late bus only becomes later because it now must pick up a heavier load.

There are many things the public can do to help.  Board as quickly possible manner, and cooperate with the driver when asked to step to the rear. 

Excluding seniors and disabilities, some folks just take WAY too long to pay their fare and step out of the way, not limited to waiting until they step on to take it out.  This only ties a bus at a service stop longer, and a missed light is a possible minute later on an already late bus, or a bus that was on time is now late.

Tomorrow: Chris' thoughts on drivers purposely slowing down to reduce bunching.


You left out fare collection; people looking for exact change, buying/checking transfers.

socialscientist: If you weren't just a link spammer, you'd know the CTA does not have transfers.

Maybe anon should learn that farecards are transfers!

And this driver obviously has never been or had to work with other drivers that deliberately hang back & refuse to pass up a late & crowded bus.
Or he's never the the driver of a late & crowded bus, who knowing full well there are two other, empty buses behind him, makes his bus even later by stopping to pick up passengers when he has no passengers to let off, instead of passing them up so they can get on the next, empty bus.

And he always pulls up to the curb [when not blocked by illegally parked cars] to make it easier & faster to board the bus!

And of course, this driver gives an understandable response to a passenger whose smart card doesn't work, instead of a mumble that causes the passenger to stay at the front, blocking others from boarding until he figures out what Mumbles is trying to say!

Oh, no, he's never done or seen any of that!

And he's always on time to start his route, especially at Foster & Clark, where the 22drivers start or Foster & Sheridan where the 151 & 147 drivers start.

And in the bus terminals, he always pulls right up to the front, so everyone knows his is the next bus out.

Yeah, sure!

I have to say that I'm down with Chris. I live way up on the north side, so I've pretty much always got a seat on the way into the city - which means that I've got a great view of my fellow travelers. What do I see?

People walking four steps into the bus then stopping to adjust briefcases, purses, ipods, whatever.
People rummaging for money after standing in line (also seen at the grocery store, the movie theater, basically any place where you have to pay for something)
People refusing to move to the back - why?
People blocking free seats, which causes delays in boarding, which causes delays in transit.

And my personal pet peeve - students with huge backpacks and women with huge commuter bags that will NOT take them off their shoulder to hold down by their feet, where there is room. If you're sitting, you get battered. If you're standing, you've got less room - causing delays in boarding, causing delays in transit.

Yes, there are things that the bus drivers can do, Unindicted Co-conspirator. I've seen all the things you complain about in your comment, and they're not unwarranted. But there is definitely a fair amount of blame to be laid on the passengers.

Tomorrow: Chris' thoughts on drivers purposely slowing down to reduce bunching.

Kevin, I wish you would have posted his complete comments at once. I don't want to comment yet because so much of what I could say today is going to overlap on what might be addressed tomorrow. How can we really make any kind of valid comment knowing only half of the story?

This driver is correct that traffic does in fact cause buses to bunch up, however, I've been trying to think through how traffic jams work, maybe I'm completely off but here goes. Ok, the first bus starts it's route and reaches heavy slow moving traffic backed up at a stoplight 2 miles/10 minutes down the route. Second bus leaves the terminal 10 minutes after the first and also reaches the traffic jam 2 miles down the route. During that time period, scores of various other vehicles have backed up behind the first bus. The first bus then clears the heavy traffic area and now is operating in "normal" traffic for the particular route. Meanwhile the second bus is still in the traffic jam being held up by all the cars that were in back of the first bus. Now...my point is unless all the traffic behind the first bus somehow vanishes or the traffic tie up cleared very quickly for the second bus, I find it very hard to believe that traffic causes 3 or 4 buses to be following each other with NO or few other vehicles between them. I could understand if the interval was supposed to be 10-12 minutes and it was down to 5 minutes or so between buses due to traffic issues, but I'm sorry the 30 and 40 minute gaps on the 22 Clark on non-Cubs games days within 2 miles from the Howard terminal I have a hard time believing are related to traffic and slow passengers. Does traffic/slow passengers cause major bus bunching at times, of course. Do I think it completely explains the chronic bunching issues on the 36, 22 that occur on a daily basis, no!

The thing that bothers me is when bus drivers purposely take their route slower than necessary, or slow down for green lights, hoping to catch a red. I can see doing this off-peak to stay on schedule in light traffic, but I've seen this during rush hour, when intervals are important, not schedules. I've seen 156 drivers at rush hour take the entire route at ~10mph, regardless of traffic. What are they doing??

In the end, bus bunching and the inability for buses to remain on schedule boils down to a question of on-time performance. A good bus schedule should allow time for drivers to slow down and speed up so they have the opportunity to keep to schedule. Solving bus bunching boils down to improving on time performance. This means means faster boarding and exiting, and some sort of priority for buses (bus only lanes, traffic signal priority, queue jumpers, etc...)

An interesting aspect of the new bus tracking technology is that it may produce better bus service because it will eliminate the need for buses to run on schedule. Lets say buses bunch - the guy trailing the delayed bus is actually driving on schedule so he is doing a "good job" according to existing performance metrics. Nevertheless, the buses are bunched. The new technology would allow a dispatcher or someone to tell the bus driver, hey, don't stay to schedule and it's ok because you're still doing a good job, and you won't be in trouble.

Passengers need to take some of the blame for bus bunching as well as the transit agency...for not buying better buses that speed up boarding and alighting. Most major European cities only have three door low floor buses. You exit at the rear two doors and people enter at the front door. In the US, too many people exit at the front, which adds to needless dwell time. You may think that this increase in dwell time is trivial, but it means missed green lights and after a while, you have bunched buses.

I say start threatening fines for people that try to exit out of the front door. The only exceptions should be seniors, disabled persons, anyone using the ramp or someone removing their bike from the rack. Clearly there is a price to pay for the inefficiency these front door exiting people cause. Drivers should remind people or even request people to exit through the back door. I would love to see drivers keep the front door closed if nobody is boarding and ask able-bodied people to go out the back! Its unreal when like 15 people exit out the front door and there is a big group waiting out in subzero temps to board at places like Water Tower. Why doesn't the driver say anything?? Don't all the buses have a PA system? So why not use it when a large group is waiting up at the next stop. "Attention riders, due to heavy boarding please exit through the rear doors to help keep this bus on time." Would that be too hard? I think it might actually help.

What makes the 36 and 22 special? If you explain bunching, you have to explain it across the board.

Traffic jams work like waves in water. See http://www.smartmotorist.com/traffic-and-safety-guideline/traffic-jams.html among others. If you read this you'll quickly understand how traffic jams create bus bunching; as the "wave" moves backward, it essentially compacts traffic, removing the space between vehicles. As the "wave" passes, private passenger vehicles are able to go around obstructions. Buses that have to stop every block or two can't do that, so as the previously trapped traffic clears out, the buses bunch. Because the "wave" is traveling through traffic approaching from behind, the process repeats, allowing multiple buses to bunch.

(I'm not saying that's the only cause of bus bunching. I'm saying that's how traffic jams cause bus bunching.)

I've said this before -- just load up the bus tracker for an afternoon and let it run in the background. You'll see bunching come and occasionally go across the entire tracked bus system. The claim that any routes are worse than others is flat-out wrong.

And Rusty, I'm surprised you aren't planning your own three-part series, with comments to this, to tomorrow's, and then an omnibus entry to wrap it all up.

I think the driver's explanations are entirely reasonable. There are countless different things that can happen when a bus (or any vehicle) is in traffic that can alter each trip and how long it takes to get from point a to point b. A bus is particularly prone to these things because of the passenger activity, which is probably also the greatest variable on why one bus might catch up to another and cause bunching.
If a bus starts running behind schedule for whatever reason, the problem is exacerbated because it's more likely to have more passengers boarding along the route. As it makes all of these stops, the bus behind it is catching up because it's not picking up as many people. The leader is going slower and slower because of the extra pickups and dropoffs, while the follower catches up. It can happen very easily, especially on longer routes and ones on heavily congested streets, such as Clark.
For the record, no, I'm not blaming the problem on passengers; we're all just waiting for the bus and getting on the next one that comes along. The problem, in my humble opinion and daily observation, happens almost all of the time because of traffic flow.

I have no doubt that some (many?) passengers blame drivers inaccurately for bunching.

On the other hand, I think a lot of passengers are looking for some acknowledgment when the bus is late. But a lot of drivers pretend they can't imagine why their bus arriving late would be a problem to anyone.

If you act like a late bus isn't a problem, passengers assume you probably don't do much to avoid being late, and then they become angry about it. And I can't blame them much.

On a related note, I had a driver the other day who refused to let people on while she waited for the light at State/Monroe (or State/Madison -- I'm not sure which corner it is). She was the second bus in line. I and another guy both walked towards her bus, and she didn't open the door. I knocked, and she looked at me in that fake surprise that people adopt when you do something normal that they don't like, so they try to pretend it's shocking, and waved both of us to the corner.

When the light changed and the first bus pulled through, she pulled up and let us on. By way of explanation of why we had had the gall to try to enter while she was second at the light, I pointed out in a quiet tone that other drivers on the route let people on when they're second. (It was an understatement -- actually, every other driver on the 6 or 8 routes using that corner seems to do so.) She nastily retorted "I'm not other drivers. I don't care what other drivers do."

If that's her policy, then she makes a regular contribution to bunching, slowing not only her own bus, but ones behind her who have to wait to get close to the stop, since there are often 3 buses at the corner. But I can just imagine the attitude she'd put on like an ill-fitting dress if anyone ever blamed her for bunching.

It would be nice to see a driver come here and acknowledge that he has a fair number of crappy drivers as colleagues. That would go a long way towards justifying any complaints he had about passengers. Passengers here regularly acknowledge the knucklehead passengers. Drivers need to start by doing the same, to show they're serious and not just being defensive.

I used to drive a bus for 3 years in college. It was in a MUCH smaller town, but we had radios to each other and a dispatcher if we got bunched. We would fix it immediately, but I know that that's impossible for the CTA.

As solely a passenger now, I see both sides of the issue. The fact is, its both the passengers AND the drivers faults.

2 comments thus far:

1) The drivers need a working microphone, and they need to use it. People are cattle, and need to be instructed (respectfully, of course) as such. Biggest problem is the refusal to alight and move immediately as far back as possible. Drivers yelling "Move to the back" without a microphone won't do ANY good to the guy wearing his Ipod near the back doors, who is the one blocking everyone.

2) I have never, in the 10 years I have been taking the CTA, NEVER heard a bus driver refuse to let someone off at the front, or even admonish them. Never. Rules are only as good as they are enforced. The public has been trained therefore, to ignore that one. The driver isn't going to say anything.

My $.02 for the day

Ryan: The CTA ran a 3 buses board at once trial on State St. years ago. It was a miserable failure.

People use the front door rather than the back door because the back door has had so many problems. It's supposed to be power assisted, but many don't work. Then there are the drivers that don't see or hear the stop signal, plus some stop signals don't work.

The CTA refuses to pay for the option of the double wide front doors, so people can both exit & enter at the same time. They had a number of them 10 years ago, but never expanded the purchase, they say it doesn't work.
It doesn't work because people aren't taught how to use it properly!

I'm sorry, but I don't buy the driver's excuse. I've seen bus bunching at 2 a.m., when there is zero traffic, and I've seen two buses start their route at the exact same time--and I've seen this several times.

If this is due to a bus getting off schedule, then starting its second run late, the CTA needs to monitor that and add buses where needed to get them back on schedule. There's no excuse for bus bunching at the very first stop.

I would promptly report any driver rude enough to comment on my exiting the front of the bus. I have good reason to exit from the front and don't need to prove I'm disabled to anyone. Secondly, it's often FASTER to get off the bus from the front than to push past an entire busload of people, bags, and strollers to get to the back door. Each situation is different, every time you ride. I exit from the back when possible, but it's often not for me. Fining people for this "offense" isn't going to change anything - it would only cause MORE delays.

I would like the drivers to speak up more, but they also risk their personal safety doing so, and I'm much more concerned about traffic safety at the time being before we address customer problems. I'm shocked that busses go through red lights and crosswalks as often as they do, often AFTER they've already come to a complete stop for boarding/unloading passengers. There is no excuse for that kind of traffic violation.

I take the #55 bus in Hyde Park and see bus bunching all the time. I know that it isn't due to any of the excuses listed above because I catch the bus just a few stops from where the bus route starts.

[People use the front door rather than the back door because the back door has had so many problems. It's supposed to be power assisted, but many don't work. Then there are the drivers that don't see or hear the stop signal, plus some stop signals don't work.]

I've never, never had a problem with the back door not working (and I always exit the back). I guess you're talking about the power-assist not working, which may have been the case a couple of times, but it's nothing an able-bodied person cannot handle with ease.

Let's face it, Mike's comment aside, most people exit from the front because they simply don't think about it very much. Making more of an effort to stress this point would lead to results, as is the case with pretty much any other crowd-control scenario out there. Give people direction, and most of them follow it.

My personal belief is that bus-bunching is simply not a problem. The problem is long intervals between arriving buses, and the lack of reliability that goes along with that.

And I suspect that bus-bunching is not a *cause* of delays, but rather the effect of many other factors that have little to do with either drivers or passengers. It seems obvious to me that two things are undisputedly true:

1) That the city's infrastructure is very poor in many places when it comes to buses, with narrow streets and a near-complete lack of designated bus lanes, and
2) Many busy routes simply aren't served frequently enough, so that any minor delays quickly snowball and become to long delays.

Any "solutions" that don't address these two issues may have some limited success, but the problem will fundamentally still remain.

Just because you're at the start of the route and see buses leave bunched doesn't necessarily mean it's the drivers' fault.

Oftentimes, this occurs because one of those drivers was very late in finishing the previous run and thus has to turn around right away because they've already used up all their "recovery" time.

In some cases, these are things CTA could improve:
(1) better schedules that are more appropriate for a given street. An old schedule might assume an incorrect running time for a certain route such that buses are always early/late/etc. This is generally a manpower issue, with schedules not being rocket science but not being an automatic process, either. You need serious staff time to maintain quality schedules, and while I can't speak to what CTA's scheduling staff situation is like, its possible this is just one of many areas that doesn't get the (financial) attention it deserves due to scarce funding.

(2) delays could be caused by equipment problems. See: Lack of Capital Funding.

(3) In cases where a delay would lead to bunched buses starting the route, maybe the standard procedures could be revised to space them more evenly. Hopefully bus tracker will help with this process. I'm not sure if union work rules restrict the flexibility here.

Alternatively, due to unpredictable traffic congestion, the bus bunching may be totally out of CTA's control. It will vary with each individual situation and event, and usually be some combination of several of the above.

"I would promptly report any driver rude enough to comment on my exiting the front of the bus. I have good reason to exit from the front and don't need to prove I'm disabled to anyone." -Mike

Oh yes, I see. The rules don't apply to you, and you're better than everyone else. I get it now. And of course! Report any driver RUDE enough to enforce an existing rule. How terrible.

In Belgrade, Serbia, the buses use both front and back doors for entry and exit. Not only is it fast and efficient boarding, but it keeps buses running right on schedule. A paper ticket system is used where the rider alights the bus, goes to the ticket puncher located near each entry and punches a ticket they purchased at a nearby kiosk. The ticket puncher patterns are changed daily and from bus to bus on the same route so no bus has the same pattern daily. They have conductors who randomly sweep the buses and anyone without a ticket pays a $25 fine.

It also helps that their bus stops are not grouped every 50 yards or so. The close proximity of each bus stop to its neighbor contributes greatly to bus bunching.

I think bus bunching is almost entirely the fault of drivers -- that is, the people out there driving cars. In a congested city, there's only so much you can do. The CTA should of course do that much, but the ultimate solution is to become less car-oriented.

Anonymous' comment is the most accurate, I think. It's a combination of many factors, all of which come into play at different moments, and there isn't a single easy solution either.

The wrongheadedness of the people who complain about riders exiting through the front bothers me most. The fastest way to clear the stop is to use both doors, especially if there's a greater number of riders exiting than entering. Balancing the number of people who use the doors is always faster than forcing exiting riders to use only one door.

(In real life, this scenario needs to be adjusted, but only slightly, because entering does take a bit longer than exiting. Then again, if everyone at a stop, say, has a Chicago Card/Plus, the difference is negligible.)

Take the 84 Peterson. That's often crowded during the morning commute, and almost everyone gets off at the Bryn Mawr Red Line station. I think if Ed, Mike, and Emily want to block the front door and force as many as three dozen riders to exit, single file, through the rear, I would like to see that. Rules are rules, Ed, Mike, and Emily! Be there tomorrow at 8, OK?

Again, given a minor adjustment because entering takes marginally longer than exiting, any time there are more riders exiting than entering, it's fastest to use both doors. The reasons are as simple as calculating an average.

Let's face it, Mike's comment aside, most people exit from the front because they simply don't think about it very much.

Has it really been that long since winter?

When there's snow on the ground, there are a lot of stops where the back door allows you to exit into a snowbank. Or ice water puddle. Or ridges of slush. Or some other hazard.

I would promptly report any driver rude enough to comment on my exiting the front of the bus.

This seems to imply that no matter how polite, you'd consider it rude because of the content. That's the kind of preception that makes customer service such a difficult proposition. If no matter how politely you say something, enough people find it rude, then where's the incentive to say it politely in the first place? If they can't win, why should they even try to win?

A paper ticket system is used where the rider alights the bus, goes to the ticket puncher located near each entry and punches a ticket they purchased at a nearby kiosk.

Portland, OR uses a similar fare collection on their light rail system, and the taxpayer's patience with it is waning. It may be more efficient, but there is a growing preception that a lot of people are riding for free. (That preception probably does not match the reality. Statistics showing high levels of compliance are disregarded.)

But they only do that on the light rail system, and the trains only stop at stations, and a single train carries up to nearly 400 people. Buses that stop at corners on the street, and only have a clear aisle when there are fewer than 40 people on them are a different story. I couldn't imagine how expensive it would be to have enough fare inspectors (or conductors) to enforce such a fare collection scheme on any US bus transit system.

Now I certainly wouldn't say that passengers who aren't ready to pay, and/or block boarding by alighting in the front don't contribute to buses falling behind schedule, targeting them for blame is not going to be very effective.

You can't make these people be more efficient. More could probably be done to educate people, but it wouldn't be a good allocation of resources. And on-the-spot education has a high probablity of leading to unnecessary confrontations which will only further delay buses, and put people in dangerous situations that could be easily avoided. (And dangerous situations that could be easily avoided equals lawsuits waiting to happen.)

I was going to wait for the rest of the drivers comments before adding my comments, but already whatever has been withheld from his comments has become irrelevant. We've already passed the point that they matter anymore.

There are a number of things that can be done to lessen bus bunching. First, realistic schedules need to be created. While the public face of the Bus Tracker is a cute toy, the information that can be collected and analyzed on the back-end is it's real value. That data can eventually be used to create more realistic schedules. That's why the money was spent on Bus Tracker.

Second, routes need to be configured so that the majority of runs on those routes can be handled by regular drivers, and not run off the extra board. This may also require some negotiation of different work rules concerning driver assignments. There needs to be some continuity, and the experience that comes with continuity.

Third, field supervisors need to be trained in how to effectively supervise a route. The data that they can get from Bus Tracker gives them insight into what's happening on the entire route, and not just what they can see from their car. They need to learn how to use this information, and be given the power to use it. Turning a bus into an impromtu express, or short-turning it to get it back on schedule are a couple of examples of what they can do when they can see the entire route.

Scolding passengers, and trying to control their behavior is not going to be a very effective way of dealing with the problem. Focus has to be on the things that CTA can control or change, and how they can react to the things they can't control or change. Focus on what they can do, not on the things that are largely out of their control.

As for the behaviors of specific bus drivers, Bus Tracker data can also give better insight into not just route performance, but driver performance. However it will also take effective supervision to differentiate between performance/training issues, and attitude issues, but the data can be used to identify where that kind of extra supervision is needed.

See a theme here? No? Well, the theme is that it all starts with the kind of data that can only come from Bus Tracker. Not the pretty web-based toy part of it they gave us, but the real reason why so much money is being spent to impliment Bus Tracker.

And results aren't going to be instant. Enough data needs to be collected for some of the most basic steps (like realistic schedules) to be implimented. While supervisors can start to use the tool now, it's still new enough that it's too easy to misuse it (which might also screw-up any chance of getting good data to create those realistic schedules.

I expect that if the operations folks are on-the-ball, we can start to see some major improvements in bus bunching sometime next year. That's assuming that they get down to work, and aren't too hindered by a President's office full of Powerpoint creating, political hacks instead of the transit professionals that should be there.

"That's assuming that they get down to work, and aren't too hindered by a President's office full of Powerpoint creating, political hacks instead of the transit professionals that should be there."

Considering that 50 years of "transit professionals" have gotten us into this mess, new thinking is definitely needed!

It is the "transit professionals" that said both Blue Line derailment evacuations were handled properly!

It is the "transit professionals" that kept quiet while most of the rail system ended up a slow zone under Kreusi!

It is the "transit professionals" that keep telling us that most CTA buses run on schedule!

It is the "transit professionals", well I could probably add a few dozen more disasters perpetrated & perpetuated by the "transit professionals"!

Or has Rusty forgotten that Kreusi is & was the ultimate political hack?

I didn't think exiting from the back door was a rule, like the no eating/smoking/soliciting rules that get ignored. I thought it was more of a suggestion.

Considering that 50 years of "transit professionals" have gotten us into this mess, new thinking is definitely needed!

Interesting logic.

Medical professionals have as long of a list of failures as any profession. I suppose you think it would be a good idea to get, oh, let's say a bunch of accountants together to run the health care system because some new thinking is needed.

Oh, wait. That mistake was already made. And we can see how well that's been working.

The idea that people who know nothing about the business they're running can run it better than professionals in that field because they have "new thinking" has got to be the most illogical way of doing something I could imagine.

Yeah. Let's get inexperienced, but smooth-talking pretty-boys to replace all the professionals in the world. They're bound to do better than the people who've dedicated their lives to their chosen field of work. That makes so much sense.

I was on the westbound 92 this afternoon and was observing the amount of delay time due to people exiting through the front door. My totally non-scientific data-gathering indicates that it slows things down a lot. I was even timing elapsed exiting vs. boarding time with my cellphone, which elicited the interest of an off-duty bus operator headed back to North Park. I told him about the bus bunching debate and that I was trying to see how much passengers were responsible for creating the little bunching snowball that turns into an avalanche. He was grateful to know that some passengers realize it's not all the operator's fault.

Just like the typical apologist for the incompetents running the CTA for decades, Rusty sets up a straw man, the bean counters at the HMOs & insurance companies as an example to knock down.
What's needed are people that have successfully run businesses that have good customer relations to take over the CTA.

There are other transit systems in this country with finances as bad as the CTA, but somehow they don't seem to be as rottenly run.

Maybe Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines would take it over. He built the only airline that's making money, has saved it billions by hedging on fuel & maybe most importantly, the employees of SWA know that the passengers are the most important people at the airline, not the employees!

The CTA can't run trains on time, run buses on time, figure out how to evacuate people from a tunnel, build the Block 37 station & the dozens of other examples of the avoidable problems its had.

Rusty's vaunted transit professionals have brought us to that low point & more.

And yes, I know Daley must take a huge amount of the blame, it would be fun to have some reporter what bus he would take from his house to go to City Hall, he wouldn't know. Richie, it's the 3,4 X3 or X4.

"Maybe Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines would take it over."

Are you nuts? I think that may be the stupidest statement that I have ever seen on this blog, perhaps even any blog or message board. Good grief! And if you are going to say that CTA management is incompetent it really doesn't make you look good when the only name you can come up with as someone who can do it better is the one of the three or four most successful executives in the history of transportation.

[What's needed are people that have successfully run businesses that have good customer relations to take over the CTA.]

But ... you still need people who actually know something about public transit. Business sense can help make you money, and good customer relations are good for PR, but neither one of those things makes the buses run on time (or designs sensible L stations, lol).

There's something weird about all the defenses for people exiting at the front door. They're all correct, in a sense, but they've all written as if their tiny little exceptions were actually rules to live by.

Yes, there are times when exiting the front door is better, and passengers for whom it's the only option.

Nonetheless, for 90% of passengers at 90% of their disembustions, there is no reason for them to exit the front, and they are definitely delaying the bus by doing so.

Yes, their are multiple causes for bunching, but the biggest problem is the speed differential caused by having more people getting on and off. And people exiting the front contribute enormously to that speed differential. A bus that stops, lets 3-4 passengers off at the back while loading 3-4 passengers would rarely miss a light. The same bus letting 3-4 people off up front and then loading 3-4 people on will usually miss the light. It's that simple.

"Oh yes, I see. The rules don't apply to you, and you're better than everyone else. I get it now. And of course! Report any driver RUDE enough to enforce an existing rule. How terrible. "

It's not a rule. It's a request. And since your reading comphrension isn't that great, you must not have picked up on the fact that I NEED to exit the front of the bus most of the time, unless the bus is completely empty, cause I have mobility issues. But don't let me interrupt you being nasty, it's very becoming.

People getting ON the bus? Take FAR more time than a few exiters getting off the bus in the front. The thing that gets me the most is people who don't have their money out - usually they are the ones who push past everyone to make sure they board first, even though they aren't ready.

MK: Was your post supposed to be ironic?

As for needed someone with a public transit background, Ford hired Allan Mullaly from Boeing to run their company. He doesn't know anything about building cars or trucks, airplanes are built totally differently than cars, no assembly lines.
And just today, I read that the Post Office has hired Robert F. Bernstock as president of the newly created Shipping and Mailing Services Division, Postmaster General John Potter said. Bernstock has been president and chief operating officer of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., senior vice president and general manager of the Dial Corp., president and chief executive of Atlas Commerce, and executive vice president of Campbell Soup Co. Bernstock "is not shackled with a mail background," allowing him to bring an outside business perspective to the agency, Potter said."

Gee, the PO is trying to get better by hiring someone "not shackled with a mail background".

CTA: Hint, hint! Hire people "not shackled with a public transit background".
It can't get any worse, really!

I fervently hope that no one in any position of any authority whatsoever ever has the stupidity to listen to any recommendation of Unindicted Co-conspirator. I'm done trying to combat his incessant and belligerent idiocy, and Rusty and MK should stop wasting their energy as well. It's pointless, guys, he's not only clueless but desires to stay clueless, so any argument you offer might as well be directed at a pile of bricks.

"And since your reading comphrension isn't that great, you must not have picked up on the fact that I NEED to exit the front of the bus most of the time, unless the bus is completely empty, cause I have mobility issues. But don't let me interrupt you being nasty, it's very becoming." Mike

Mike- Mobility issues or not, it was YOU that was rude and abrasive first- your "I-can-do-whatever-I-want-and-I-don't-have-to-prove-anything-to-ANYBODY" attitude was stellar. Here- let me hold the step stool while you climb onto your high horse.

Clearly, I am not referring to the 1% of the riding public in a wheelchair or walker or who are just really really old and need the bus to kneel. No, I'm referring to the 99% of us that can easily exit to the back WHEN there are people trying to enter at the front. Clearly, if no one is trying to get on, and a huge crowd is trying to get off, then it makes sense to exit at both doors. Otherwise, it should be the back door only! (ooooh- that sounds naughty...lol)

I'll reiterate, though- the inability of people to move immediately as far back as they can get on the bus is the biggest holdup.

My personal experience leads me to agree with Patrick's post (way) above. The 1st bus is delayed by traffic & picking up people, and the no. of people waiting at a stop will generally increase with delays, meaning a longer loading process. Meanwhile, the other buses are slowly catching up because they're not picking as many people up. Again, this is a personal observation, but cars move faster than buses (faster starts? fewer stops?) which seems to also help the buses bunch. For example, if there is a bus, 5 cars, and then another bus in one lane, it's good odds that a few blocks later, those 5 cars will not be there unless they're turning right shortly. Exceptions for the very worst of traffic jams, of course! And even then, you shed a car.
I think schedules should be emphasized in these situations, and allow buses to pass each other. Despite what I have seen here on the subject, a lot of drivers still say they cannot pass their leader. Let bus B pass bus A, so B has a chance of being on time (or less late, whichever applies).

For the record, I usually exit the bus at whatever entrance is closest to where I am sitting. I do take into consideration what the other people are doing; for example, rather than stand behind someone in a wheelchair or pushing one of those monster strollers, I will go from the front to the back. Or on an almost empty bus, I will walk to the front. Or, as was pointed out, if I can't exit through the back (stopped in front of a pole or garbage can--yes, it happens--or with tons of snow right there--happened a lot this past winter), I have to go forward.

Someone mentioned entry & exit through both doors. If I am not entirely mistaken, they used to do that on the CTA about 20 years ago. Rush hour especially. Of course that means hiring someone to stand there, so we can all see why that was stopped.
(feeling a little cynical this morning--strangely, not CTA inspired)

Whenever someone comes up with an improvement or idea that will slightly inconvenience individuals, but greatly benefit the whole, suddenly everyone has a disability or is worried about the disabled/elderly.

You know what? With all the dumb slobs standing in the front because they want to exit the front, the real disabled people can't get through! I myself am currently (temporarily) disabled and must exit the front. You should see the looks I get from these able-bodied schmucks that are clogging the front, I assume because they are holding that spot to make it easier for them to exit quickly. I'm making their life harder because I have to squeeze through their space.

As was said before, rules and regulations should be made according to the 98% rule. You don't manage to the exception, you manage to the norm, and then serve the exception on a case-by-case basis.

Yeah...In Serbia everything works efficiently. Why? Well..up until a few years ago they'd put a bullet in your head and dump you in a ditch if you didn't follow the rules exactly.

Despite what I have seen here on the subject, a lot of drivers still say they cannot pass their leader. Let bus B pass bus A, so B has a chance of being on time (or less late, whichever applies).

I don't think it's a problem of not being allowed to pass their leader, but rather the problem is that they aren't allowed to get ahead of their own schedule.

I'm also not sure I would want individule bus drivers making this judgement call. The routes with the worst bunching are also the ones that have the least experienced drivers. Giving that much authority to an inexperienced employee is likely to have some unintended consequences.

However, the field supervisors should have -- and use -- the authority to suspend the regular schedules in order to aliviate a problem. If not, why did we bother giving them Bus Tracker? That's where it's biggest value lies.

Now, as for this whole debate about how quickly people get on and off the bus, does anyone really think they can make a big difference? Passengers are not the Borg. They won't ever form a single mind, and act as a collective in an efficent manner. Ain't gonna happen. You're wasting energy if you want to try.

But if you still think it's a horrible problem that just has to be solved, I suggest thinking about the last time you did any air travel. Sure, there are more people on airliners than there are on a CTA bus, but didn't you ever wonder why it has to take 20-30 to board everyone? When you put it all in perspective, collectively CTA passengers are doing pretty well most of the time.

And, again, you aren't going to be very effective at changing mass behaviors of the passengers, so you might as well learn to accept it as a part of the problem that has to be worked around, rather than something to focus on changing.

I'm just surprised that KevinB hasn't gotten in on this thread.

All I have to say is that there is no perfect fix based on the traffic patterns that have been allowed to persist.

Tip of the hats to the bus drivers that get us from point a to point b as close to on time as they can!

There are also idiots who stand by the driver and spend the whole time yapping with the bus driver, causing people to have to get by with less space. I wish the driver would tell them to sit down but if the driver is allowing this to happen, I blame the driver. The other thing that causes problems at the front door are two people standing face to face at the front, each one leaning on the areas before the first seat begins (you know what i mean?)... and now whats left is about 4 inches for everyone to be able to pass by them. Why do they have to stand up there at the front??? they are not getting off at the next stop either - they just want to stand there like an idiot.

I also hate teenagers who scream when they are going to and from high school. Ok they do NOT need to scream that loud when talking to their friends on the bus.

oh yeah, i forgot to mention my other peeve - when the bus is very crowded and your trying to get off there is a line of people in the way - specifically in the stairwell. they want you to squeeze past them. or in the front, theres a row of people on each side and they wont get off the bus to let you out. I do not want to fall off or have to squish between them and have to touch their body as I squish by. If I'm in a bad mood, I squeeze thru them not worrying that I injured them as they should have MOVED OFF THE DANG BUS TO LET PASSENGERS OFF. Or if they are in the stairwell, I do not wish to stumble over them so I ask them to please step off the bus, and they do. Instead of cursing them I use my big mouth and ask them to please step off the bus. You can do this too. if they dont move then they have automatically given you permission to shove them. Oh yeah Im sounding rude, but this is how it is, especially on the #147, the first stop on Foster, if you have ever been on a super crowded bus trying to get off there, you will know what im talking about.

I'm with you on that last bit, Pookie. If I say excuse me & get a blank look (and they're under 70 and physically whole), I just shove on through, backpack and all. I have places to be, after all, just as they do. The bus is not going to take off and leave them standing there, nor are they going to have to pay another fare, no matter what they think.
I do allow for those who plainly cannot move out of the way, however--those trapped between those who don't briefly step off and me. I try not to bang into them, especially if they make eye contact, or apologize if I do.

I've actually had two incidents where women began boarding the bus as I was trying to exit and refused to budge! One actually said, "Go around me" and refused to budge, and we both stood there on the steps - me, not being able to disembark, and this woman, refusing to move aside. The driver got so pissed off and yelled at her. The second time some someone pulled that sort of crap, I just shoved her out of my way. It was really weird because neither of them was being clueless, they were intentionally being jackasses.

I know the CTA is enthralled with them, but the Chicago Card also delays boarding on buses somewhat, on average, due to frequent malfunctions and general confusion. The Chicago Card does indeed seem to speed passage through rail station turnstiles, but on buses where boarding speed is an even bigger issue the magnetic strip cards are more reliable and, consequently, faster.

I'm sure anyone who rides the buses regularly long ago lost count of the times a bus driver has to call a Chicago Card user back to re-touch the card to the receptor. I rarely use my Chicago Card, but on those occasions when I do, it seems to take multiple "touches" nearly a majority of the time. And there's no apparent way for a rider to know whether the touch was successful except to wait for the driver to say something. The magnetic strip reader, on the other hand, gives clear audio and visual indications as to whether a card has or has not successfully gone through.

It's probably not a big time issue, but it's also worth noting that the Chicago Card seems to result in arguments between bus operators and passengers more often than the magnetic strip cards. It's quite rare to hear a dispute erupt over whether a 7-day pass went through or not.

not to mention trying to interpret all the noises the reader makes. Some people stop dead and back up because it made a different set of beeps & they're worried whether or not it went through. Which suggests to me that it's not uniform, ot that some of the sequences are too similar.

Bus bunching caused by traffic? Get real. You are asking us to believe that the traffic that SLOWED DOWN the lead bus also allowed the 2nd and 3rd buses to catch up to them??

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