Riders not happy with GoBus

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Manager says operations improved since service began Jan. 1

Bill Bennett and Suzanne Petten speak about some of the problems they say they are experiencing with the new GoBus system. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

People who used to ride on the Wheelway paratransit bus service are now becoming accustomed to GoBus Accessible Transit, which took over the service Jan. 1.

According to some riders, it has been a rocky first month of service, although the general manager for GoBus says numbers show service is improving.

Suzanne Petten, who uses a wheelchair, made a booking mid-January to have the service pick her up at her apartment on Bay Bulls Road at 9:45 a.m. so she could make an appointment 45 minutes later at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre.

The night before she was due to leave, her boyfriend Bill Bennett called to reconfirm the booking.

The time had been changed to 10 a.m. Checking again the next morning, the time was changed to 10:10 a.m.

In the end, Petten’s bus arrived at 10:25 a.m., five minutes before her Miller Centre appointment.

 

“I phoned them the next day and said, ‘Boys, I had to be there for 10:30 a.m,’” said Petten.

Ralph Clarke, who has cerebral palsy, has made bookings with GoBus only to learn later they were cancelled.

“It’s really a hassle,” he said. “There’s a lot of people having problems with them.”

Petten said when booking times are changed, no notice is given to users.

“It’s very stressful, because I could call in now, and they’d say it’s all booked up,” said Petten.

“I’d like to see them treat people half-decent,” added Bennett.

Mark Pritchard, general manager for GoBus, said the service started out with a reduced fleet of 10 wheelchair accessible vehicles. It now has all 18 of its vehicles, operating 17 each day.

“When we pulled out on Jan. 1, as with any transition with new companies, we did have some isolated start-up issues, which have over the last month been dramatically reduced,” he said.

For the day of Jan. 30, Pritchard said GoBus operated with an on-time rate of 97 per cent. He said increases have been experienced on a weekly basis through to the end of January. The average from Jan. 1-29 was 92 per cent.

Pritchard added that GoBus operates with a 15-minute window for pickups, meaning a bus can arrive 15 minutes before-or-after a scheduled stop.

A class of new drivers are now being trained, according to Pritchard, giving the service more staff to use for on-call purposes.

“Of course with new drivers, it takes them a little while longer to learn the city,” he said, adding that buses are being equipped with computerized GPS devices. “That will help the drivers get around town.”

Bennett said they have called the GoBus general manager multiple times to voice their concerns about the service, but those calls have not been returned. The only person who responded to their complaints as of last week, according to Bennett, was Coun. Tom Hann, who serves on the City of St. John’s paratransit committee.

Contacted by The Telegram on Tuesday, Hann said based on information he has received from the city’s transit co-ordinator, there has been an increase in paratransit usage since GoBus began operating.

“A 91.75 per cent on-time rate is not bad for the first month of operations,” he said.

“Yes, there have been some complaints, and as soon as they come in, they’re addressing them.”

While service provided by Wheelway in the past was not always perfect in his own view, Bennett feels Wheelway tried its best to accommodate passengers.

“Wheelway wasn’t this bad,” adds Petten. “When you called Wheelway, they were right there to get you on time.”

While it may be a new company in name, Clarke said many GoBus workers were previously employed by Wheelway. He would like to see the city arrange a meeting for users to voice their concerns.

Hann said the city has already hosted a public meeting on paratransit and consulted with the public prior to selecting the new service provider.

“It’s not the city they have to deal with, it’s the company who has the contract to run the service,” he said.

Petten suggest GoBus should have made a fresh start with all new drivers and dispatchers.

Bennett said his girlfriend has received improved service since voicing her complaints through local media. However, he is adamant problems persist for others.

 

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Miller Centre

Geographic location: Bay Bulls Road

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Recent comments

  • JM
    February 02, 2012 - 20:20

    I think it is awesome to have a public forum to express our opinions,but it is extremely upsetting to read comments that are in accurate. Most of the comments that I have read or heard on this matter seem to bash our local company.As a small business owner I do not understand this.So as a refresher please read the following with an open mind as I have read your comments. MV was given the tender for the operator of the para transit sytem servcing the city of St.Johns.In the tender process which is of public record, the tender was open to the companies who could operate according to guidelines set out by the city and adhere to those.The bids were to be submitted by the closing date and then would be opened by the city and usually in the process a representaive from each party would be there for the opening....the parties who bid,and there were more than one local company, were not permitted to be at the opening,then the tender was extended for an additional two weeks , in comes an American bid to be opened at the new tender closing at which time no reps from the bidding companies were allowed to attend! The first time a 5 YEAR contract was given out for the para transit, and it doesnt go local, not to the former carrier, but not even local! This is what we should be upset over,I would rather the revenue generated by a company servicing the city be kept in the city not linning the bank acct of an American firm.its simple folks, we all dont have the knowledge of having a local company to build a rig or drill for oil but if you have companies who can do this ,wouldnt you rather the business stay local...and to one of the above commentators...the new company has been in business for 35 years this is what they do for a living , they go in and bid on existing contracts,isnt it sad that we are so leniant with a stranger than our own,"the rusty -falling apart buses" you spoke of,are inspected by provicial government so that they may operate on the road safely.People are so quick to judge by appearance...I wonder how many of you have walked into a house with paint peeling on the outside...were you afraid it would collaspe on you when you were sitting down? This forum would be great if people expressed an opinion based on fact. So go read the public tender on this and ask questions about that.Were you aware that the previous operator was getting new buses? Did you know that was in the tender?Would you be upset if this company took over the Metro bus contract in 5 years? Is this a possibilty?JAMES- with all due respect Ms.Petten has the right to book for the bus for medical,entertainment, and work , I dont think she suggested this was shuttle service.I find it disturbing that she has received better service since she went public,is this what has to be done?As for the stats that were represented...none of us have to be mathematical geniuses to know that they do not add up, as an commentator above said ,do you only think 9 people have had issues.So instead of bashing a local company,why isnt everyone questioning city hall about supporting our own,then when we have issues we address them constructively, so from someone who has thrown a stone or two in my lifetime - to those of you living in glass houses....please obtain the appropiate information ,then comment with knowledge. Thank you

  • Joanne
    February 01, 2012 - 20:15

    I find it interesting that people are so quick to pick on the new company without giving them an opportunity to work out the kinks. Have people forgotten what it was like to ride on a bus that was a 20yr old converted school bus, rusty and ready to fall apart any minute? If you called Wheel Way to request a ride were you able to get it same day, or did you have to call a week or more in advance just to get to and from an appointment? What about the times Wheel Way couldn't accommodate a trip, forgot to pick up a client, or left someone waiting for an hour or more? It happened with them, but the difference was they didn't feel the urgency to improve the service, get better buses, or spend any money on making it a professional service. Gobus is making the effort to to provide the city with a client focused, professional service...yes there might be a few bumps and hiccups right now....but at least give them the chance to show the city what they have to offer before you put them in front of a Bus! From what I've seen...even with a few errors or late pick ups or drop offs...it's a big improvement over the specialized transit service that was being offered before.

  • ryan
    February 01, 2012 - 11:32

    for everyones information not all wheelway drivers went with gobus.all they got was3drivers . as for the rest of the drivers they were the ones wheelway got rid of.

  • KM
    February 01, 2012 - 11:02

    Wheelway and GoBus are used to shuttle those incapable of getting their wheelchairs on or in other forms of transportation. To all those ignorant, uninformed people - it IS for appointments just the same as it is booked for leisure activities. And like calling a cab, you would expect it on time if you had to be somewhere!! It is not a free service. Some people and their uneducated comments...grrrr! Oh, and I care for people that need the services of GoBus, so I see their struggles and frustration.

    • Jeff
      February 01, 2012 - 12:48

      KM........a lot of us use it for transportation for work not just leisure activities . i always grin at people who comment on these issues only points they always refer to is medical appointments and leisure....we work and volunteer also duh!

    • Robin
      February 01, 2012 - 13:28

      I am Gobus user and use the service for work and errands as it is MY right to participate in society no matter if there's sun or snow, wind , etc. It is my right to give Gobus feedback and voice my concerns so that the new company will learn in a positive way to improve their services more effectively and efficiently (minus the stats b.s.). Improvements won't happen overnight but if users keep up in their communications and make them aware of potential barriers, hiccups, etc then change will have a snowball effect. People with disabilities are experts...not the city, not gobus or wheelway or the public patting them on the head "I care"..."i feel your pain." where's the dignity in that.... Go Bus isn't a shiny magic bus but in my opinion it's more receptive and easier to work with than Wheelway. There's many issues that need to be resolved that will benefit all. It's human nature to learn. So Gobus, learn from the people who use your service....put better running system and postive-born action plan that is bullshit free. With that, Gobus can strive to go beyond paratransit standards and expand outside the box...It's a win-win! Perhaps the company will improve so much it will services and resources hopefully to the entire island and even labrador. Possibilities are endless but the way you go about it, matter the most. It's extremely important or the business will be crappy like wheelway.

    • Frank
      February 01, 2012 - 13:30

      For the day of Jan. 30, Pritchard said GoBus operated with an on-time rate of 97 per cent...Great for one day ...nice. called the GoBus general manager multiple times to voice their concerns about the service, The only person who responded to their complaints as of last week, according to Bennett, was Coun. Tom Hann, who serves on the City of St. John’s paratransit committee....so why have an General manager? Hann said based on information he has received from the city’s transit co-ordinator, there has been an increase in paratransit usage since GoBus began operating.“A 91.75 per cent on-time rate...may I ask when is the City's transit co-ordinator getting their numbers? If say there are 100 users of Gobus you mean to tell me there's only 9 people complaining or should say having issues? I think not I personalty know of a couple of people who refuse to use the system now and I'm willing to bet there are many who will not complain fear of losing their ride or service they do receive. don't want to singled out as a complainer or trouble maker.

  • Darren
    February 01, 2012 - 10:25

    Of course wheelway would make it on time as I have witnessed them speeding, running stop signs and red lights and even cutting people off and flipping them the bird. I hope this matter improves for those requiring bus service.

    • ryan
      February 01, 2012 - 11:40

      Darren if someone flipped you the BIRD you probley deservered it.

  • Bill
    February 01, 2012 - 09:45

    Where they getting their stats from?...I know many users whom have trouble getting and coming from places and it more than the 15 minute window they talk about? they also said at their meeting improvements in accessing them email and text..ok wheres the text? and email response time can be days...Wheel Way was not much better if they were we would not need new company now would we? What I don't like is if Gobus shows up to pick you up they wait 5 mins if you are not there off they go but expect you to have a 15 min window..where is the fairness in that? Just saying if you want to run a company and provide much needed service then please respect us as you would want us to respect you as a service, commit to your promises. Sure there will be hicups but try not to have so many.......Please? I just want to work like any other person be on time and picked up just like any employee not to go to my employer and always say sorry I may be late or I have to leave early because my ride is here.....opps please let me keep my job even though I may have to have a work schedule accustomed to my needs not yours sorry boss?

  • Bill
    February 01, 2012 - 09:38

    Where they getting their stats from?...I know many users whom have trouble getting and coming from places and it more than the 15 minute window they talk about? they also said at their meeting improvements in accessing them email and text..ok wheres the text? and email response time can be days...Wheel Way was not much better if they were we would not need new company now would we? What I don't like is if Gobus shows up to pick you up they wait 5 mins if you are not there off they go but expect you to have a 15 min window..where is the fairness in that? Just saying if you want to run a company and provide much needed service then please respect us as you would want us to respect you as a service, commit to your promises. Sure there will be hicups but try not to have so many.......Please? I just want to work like any other person be on time and picked up just like any employee not to go to my employer and always say sorry I may be late or I have to leave early because my ride is here.....opps please let me keep my job even though I may have to have a work schedule accustomed to my needs not yours sorry boss?

  • Stats...
    February 01, 2012 - 09:25

    Where are you getting the stats? lol

  • james
    February 01, 2012 - 09:14

    With all due respect to Ms. Petten the para transit system was never intended to be used as a shuttle bus for medical appointments.

    • Dee
      February 01, 2012 - 10:58

      It is if you use a wheelchair and have no other way of getting around the city...its not like you can wheel yourself on the sidewalks!

    • gobususer
      February 03, 2012 - 16:50

      how would u get to a doctors appointment if you was in a wheelchair? lol the cabbie going to lift my powerchair into the trunk or tie me to the back?

  • HockeyFanNL
    February 01, 2012 - 08:35

    @Keith I believe the only workers that this new company hired were the drivers so the drivers should know their way around the city. The problem is with booking the bus. I don't use the service but I know someone who does and they were told one night at work that they would have to wait 2.5 hours to be picked up and taken home because of a change in the schedule. That never happened before with Wheelway. Of course what can you expect with anything that is run by the City of St. John's right? They can't run the City let alone a bus service.

  • Marian Atkinson
    February 01, 2012 - 08:33

    There is GO BUS and GO Train operating out of Toronto. How can this company call itself GOBus? I heard this is an American company. Is it legal for them to also be GO Bus? GO Bus in Ontario is a great transit system -- very efficient. Maybe this crowd should call themselves "slowbus".

  • Keith
    February 01, 2012 - 08:25

    The way I see it is that if a new company comes in to replace a company was wasn't providing a positive service and that new company hires roots from that previous company then the problems won't be solved. This should be a brand new company with brand new employees and the disabled community should give input on the problems in the past so this new company can move forward.

  • mary
    February 01, 2012 - 07:00

    Being a user myself I have to agree with Ms. Pettens comments, Go Bus is defintely not 97 % on time. I have been to the HSC many times and there have been people waiting there from 2 to 4 hours waiting for the bus. One thing I have to say is Wheelway defintely did not leave their clients there that long waiting, Wheelway would also accomedate you the best they could and it was never extremely really hard to get through to Wheelway like it is with Go Bus. Looking back now people should really appreciate Wheelway for everything they have done and tried to do.

    • Heather French
      February 01, 2012 - 09:17

      I have used Go Bus on 2 or 3 occasions since the beginning of January. I have found the staff who I have dealt with, both by phone or in person to be polite and pleasant. The requested timing of the rides have been met with excellent punctuality and the bus to be clean and comfortable to travel in. The mode of transportation that is being used by the patron, whether motorized or not is made much easier with these buses. This is a very welcome choice of transportation in this area..

  • Annie
    February 01, 2012 - 06:36

    Yes there has been major delays in picking up people since the new company started. I know people who had to wait 2 hours to be picked up. That is not called for. They need to look into the problems and try and fix them. It is a cerdit to the company if they have seen an increase in use since they took it over. I think this is just a matter of supply not keeping up with the demand.