Saturday, August 27, 2016

How I spent my Saturday

ABQ Ride Customer Service
Alvarado Transportation Center
100 1st SW
Albuquerque NM 87102

To whom it may concern,

Saturday morning, I went to Kirtland AFB to get some work done on my car. Not a real problem, nothing to worry about, but since I didn't particularly want to wait around in the mechanic's waiting room, I checked the schedule and noted that Route 157 was running on Saturday morning.

This is where the problem comes in.

I ride your buses just about every weekday to get to work. I don't tend to ride them to the base a lot, so I'm not entirely familiar with your routes in that area. So I checked your app, and the "Plan My Ride" feature told me that I needed to get to Building 800.

(As a side note, one of the alternate routes that it planned for me involved me walking up Wyoming Boulevard, and climbing the eight foot tall, locked steel gate that doesn't happen to be open on a Saturday morning, and catch a bus that way. Which isn't quite as helpful as you might think.)

Now, I retired a little over ten years ago, and "Building 800" wasn't a particularly descriptive term (another side note: you could mark it as "377 ABW Headquarters," which might be a little more helpful), but I remembered that there was a bus stop right by Gibson Gate on the way out, so I walked that way.

Arriving at the bus stop, I noticed that the sign didn't list Route 157 as one of the buses that stopped here. This seemed odd, since the stop was blatantly on the bus' route. But while I was considering my options, I happened to glance up and notice that the bus I wanted was entering the base. This coincidence made me reasonably happy.

I crossed the road and, when the bus stopped to let the guard on to check ID on the passengers (standard practice when entering the base), I walked up to the open door and said "Mind if I get on here? I'm really not sure where your stop is."

The driver glared at me and said "No. The stop is Building 800."

Considering that I had my bus pass in my hand, the bus was already stopped and the door was open, I have to ask what kind of sense that made? Do you even consider training your drivers in the concept of "customer service," or is yours the only section in the Transit Department who are tasked with that?

The two guards at the gate didn't know where Building 800 was, either, so I felt a little better about my confusion (as I said, consider labeling it differently), but the one in the Visitor's Center was able to make a call and learn that it was at 8th and K, right off Wyoming Blvd, which was helpful. Eight blocks east, ten blocks south. I had a little over 20 minutes, so I made it in plenty of time.

At which point the driver glared at me again and said "We aren't boarding yet."

I asked him to please explain how that made any sense, but he didn't reply. So I got the opportunity to stand around, outside an idling bus, for about 10 minutes before the driver could be bothered to allow me to enter.

And incidentally, on the ride, I discovered that there was, in fact, one more stop on base: outside the gym, at G Street and Texas. Which would have been a short walk (two, maybe three blocks) from the gate. This would have been useful information the driver could have, for example, passed along when denying me entrance at the gate.

So, what we're left with is three suggestions:

1. A more descriptive listing for "Building 800" would be helpful.
2. Somewhere in your app, a listing of the minor stops that the schedule itself omits.
3. Perhaps a remedial class in Customer Service for at least one of your drivers. Maybe make it an annual thing.

Just a thought from one of your customers.


david herman said...

Google maps is helpful.
Here in Seattle we have an app "One Bus Away".
OBA may work in other areas, I didn't know.
I find these can be more helpful than "Plan Your Ride" provide by our transit system.

Entering the bus at a checkpoint doesn't sound like a good idea.
Perhaps the driver only knows the building as 800.
The driver could be just as lost/frustrated as you.
Customers interaction can always be improved.
I'm sorry you didn't have the best experience.

As an transit operator I do enjoy those few quite moments between trips. I enjoy a little time to myself. Also, preloading can lead to an earful. I don't mind delaying those conversation.

david herman said...

One Bus Away will total Not work in your area.
I'm sorry.