• Bus lockout

    I’m among one of the tens of thousands affected by the suspension of bus services. What bugs me the most is there’s no end in sight – we simply don’t know when the situation is going to be resolved. I’ve paid $110 upfront for my monthly pass, and can only hope that NZ Bus will compensate us for the lost days.

    In the meantime, I’m being forced to walk / get T to drop me off at Blockhouse Bay central to catch an Urban Express bus (which don’t come often) or take me all the way into town, and vice versa for the trip home. Each journey costs me $3.87 – that’s around $40 a week, if the lockout carries on that long! By contrast, my monthly pass works out to less than $30 a week, and provides unlimited travel…

    If I knew how long the NZ Bus routes would be out, I could purchase a 3day or 7day UE pass. But there’s no point doing that, so I’ll just continue to be left out of pocket.

    The bus drivers are not actually striking, so they shouldn’t be blamed. They are being locked out by their employer. They are currently in dispute over pay, and the drivers and cleaners were planning to work-to-rule; ie do exactly what was required of them, and nothing more. This would also include not driving buses which aren’t up to scratch in terms of safety standards. Sounds fair enough to me! It’s only the company that then decided they wouldn’t allow the drivers in to work at all. They actually physically are being locked out of their work grounds. Gates, fences, etc.

    The company has offered a pay rise of about 70c on their current hourly rates of $14.05c to $16.75c , to be followed by 50c next year and 60c in 2011. So that’s about 10 per cent. IMO, that sounds reasonable, especially given they’re negotiating at a time when we’re still in a recession. Apparently, the unions say take-home pay of $544 is not enough (Really? Now that sounds to me like a sense of entitlement…)

    I also disagree with those who say we should tip drivers. I catch theĀ  bus at least twice a day. The vast majority of drivers are civil at best. They are surveyed by mystery shoppers, who assess not just their driving skills but their attitude and helpfulness. I’m sure those who go above and beyond are recognised for it (trust me, I do these surveys, and the criteria is tough).

    I do however, think the practice of split shifts is disgraceful. If nothing else, I think this is something that should be abolished. I don’t necessarily agree drivers are underpaid, but if you’re at work, you should be paid for every hour that you’re there.

    Either way – please, just hurry up and reach a solution!

  • Days like this I thank my lucky stars I take the bus to and from town. Honestly, I think I would go insane if I had to drive myself. People are RUDE. They tailgate, fail to indicate, park where they ain’t supposed to, and cut you off freely. My walk home from the bus stop takes less than five minutes, and takes me round a corner on which there is a pretty average sized roundabout. Took me only a couple of minutes to pass through there, and for almost the entire time I was bombarded with the sound of cars honking. Impatient drivers, conducting arguments through their horns, ripping through the air every few seconds! I’m a really jumpy person. I HATE loud noises, especially loud, unexpected, shrill car horns. I was not pleased by this and spent the rest of the way home muttering about asshole Auckland drivers.

    But at the same time, I love to hate the bus. There are a few blogs around devoted to Auckland public transport. Auckland Bus Stories, Auckland Trains, Auckland Transport Blog. which ALL have plenty of fodder thanks to the outrageously terrible system we have. But my gripe today, surprisingly, is less to do with buses or driver, but PASSENGERS.

    Specifically, passengers who get on the express and then try to get off during the non-stop zone.

    People, it’s called the EXPRESS for a reason! It says so right there on the timetables, and on the digital display on the front and side of the bus next to the route number.

    Sometimes, there is even an extra physical sign saying “express” in the front window, and believe it or not, some intelligent and frustrated drivers even resort to reminding each and every person “this is the express” as they board.

    Does this stop the problem? Nope. Not on your life. There’s always someone who pushes the buzzer sometime along Sandringham Road, at which point I cringe and hunker down. The poor confused person then edges down to the front, has quiet words with the driver, and slinks back to their seat.

    I don’t know what else anyone can do, except CHECK and DOUBLE check. ASK if you’re not sure. I’m so sick of the same thing playing out every day – people getting upset because they can’t get off the bus – and I know everyone else, drivers AND passengers, is too.

  • Bussing isn’t ALL bad

    To be a working Aucklander is to be a commuter, and to be a commuter in Auckland is to drive.

    Tell me about it. I swear, BF would rather eat nails than get on a bus.

    I can probably count the number of times he has bussed in the last three years on one hand. The last time would have been late last year when he spent a morning at Auckland Uni taking part in a study (on party pills no less; they drugged him up, paid him and taxiied him home. We went over to a friend’s for poker that night and in his addled fudgey state he lost $20) and driving in wasn’t an option.

    Even right now, when we have no car, and he occasionally has to get somewhere, he snubs buses. He’s been lucky that he’s usually able to borrow his brother’s scooter. Like I say, are you too good to bus? I think not. But if he can avoid it, then kudos to him.

    Who in their right mind would bus when they don’t have to? Some people do. Bussing, assuming you’re on a fairly modern bus and not one of the rickety old ones, is rather restful. Occasionally I get on the bus, shut my eyes, and let my head loll in a fairly good semblance of sleep until I reach town. Sometimes I sit there and mentally draw shorthand outlines. Most of the time though, I just let go, relax and space out. I find that more restful than closing my eyes and trying to sleep.

    Like Greg Dixon says, riding the bus lets him get on with simply being the passenger. And that’s really nice. To have the freedom to watch fellow passengers, wonder about the person on the other end of their phone conversation, about the book they’re reading, about how uncomfortable their boots look, about where they live and what they do and what they’re like. You can observe them discreetly and wonder what makes them tick.

    It’s a weird little sort of microcosm to observe others in. Some are regulars; you see them on certain days of the week, or going in in the mornings and out at nights. You get to see the same faces and the same bus drivers. You almost get to know a bit about them and their routines, without ever speaking, and wonder what happened when they don’t get on at their usual stop one morning. For the nosey among us, for the peoplewatchers, there’s no better fodder for observation to be found than on a bus.

  • Puzzled

    by two things.

    On John Boscawen’s billboards, ACT advertise themselves as putting Mt Albert (taxpayers) first.

    So they don’t support stay-home parents? Children?

    But apparently they would support beneficiaries, given that beneficiaries pay tax on their benefits.

    Seems odd for a right of centre party.

    And secondly, the sign above the doors in buses that state “Read doors cannot be used while buses are on school services. Please exit via the front door.”


  • I’ve been doing a lot of mystery shopping lately. I wasn’t sure what I was going to put that towards, but then I remembered that our contents insurance is due this week….so I will pay that on my Visa ($84) and pay it off when I am reimbursed at the end of the month. I’ll definitely be able to cover that because I did six bus surveys yesterday; I travelled out to Wesley to take photos for a story I’m working on. Then I had some free time and did a few more random ones around town. Off peak buses are so much more punctual! And often the drivers are much nicer.

    The bus companies must spend a lot on mystery shopping. Sometimes they do over 200 in a month, and assuming the mystery shopping company takes a 50% cut on each survey, that would be $4000 a month on surveying customer satisfaction!

    And yet, another mystery shopping company I’m with also conducts surveys for the bus companies – they used to pay fairly well, but have cut their bus payments in half or more. Now the gimmick is getting “free rides” rather than actually getting paid to ride.

  • Midweek slump

    First day back at work after my leave.

    I nearly missed the bus home again today. Why? The lifts. The goddamn lifts at work, the slowest, oldest lifts known to man. The lifts which go all the way down to B, then all the way up to floor 4, before coming down and settling on 3.

    Early to work? Think again. Once you’re done waiting for the lift, you’ll be five minutes late.

    And now that daylight savings has kicked in, it’s dark by 6. It’s dark when I walk to the bus stop, and home from the bus stop.

    Last time I finished work at six I missed the bus by about 20s. Today I sprinted – in boots – and made it just as the bus pulled away. ONLY because the driver was nice, and there’s a handy light just after the bus stop which seems to be red about 90% of the time.

    Then I got home to the phone bill. I had a 17 minute cell call earlier this month to a source for a phone interview for a story I wrote. I knew it was a long conversation, but 17 minutes?????

    On the bright side, I came home to dinner cheerfully cooking away (thanks BF) and knowing that I can accompany him to an interview on Friday. Thankfully my cool boss doesn’t mind whether I come in during the morning or afternoon. So I can direct BF up to Albany (neither of us are on the Shore, ever, and he doesn’t like or know the area at all) and give him some support, and then maybe we can tiki tour around up there. We’re def. not Shore people, but it’s nice to be away from home. And if we’re up there and have to spend the gas money anyway why not make the most of it?

    Now I just have to get him to put together a list of three companies he’d like to work for – something the agency wants to see. I totally agree – what’s the point? In this economy there’s no way this new, small agency would be able to place you where you want. I’ll be amazed if anything at all comes from this. Still, it’s small, it’s friendly and a far better shot than the big faceless agencies who focus on admin or managerial staff. We want to impress them.

  • ah, the joys of public transport

    bus drivers are all powerful. they can refuse to let you on, kick you off, scream at you for not having the right change, give you directions or get you so lost you end up on the other side of town.

    if i ever doubted that, well last night i learned it all over again. after working 14 hours straight i caught the 11pm bus home. we waited for about ten minutes at the third stop. we thought the bus had broken down, or maybe we were waiting for a new driver to take over. how wrong we were. the driver kept pacing around the back and texting off his phone. finally a guy dashes up the road and gets on, panting his thanks. clearly the driver held us up JUST SO HIS FRIEND COULD GET ON.

    that really pissed me off. abuse of power! buses are so terrible as it is, this made my night ten times worse. there was no traffic and I should have been home in half an hour, tops. that clusterfuck added at least ten minutes to my commute.