Transit Riding Tips from Bus Drivers

Jul 1, 2021

Driving a bus is rewarding, but it can also be tough.

Buses are big and our streets are often tight. Most riders are great, but sometimes our drivers have to deal with challenging people. Like many jobs, there is often a lot to juggle and it can be stressful.

Our operators handle it all admirably – we maintain they’re the best in the business – but there are still things you can do to help them out.

We asked several bus drivers what riders could do to make jobs easier. Here’s what they said.

1. Stay near the blue pole while waiting for the bus.

We don’t want to pass you by we’re here to help you get where you need to go. But if we don’t realize that you want to ride with us, we’re going to pass you by. 

All we have to go by is your body language. If you’re standing away from the stop with your back turned to us, we’ll probably assume you’re just a pedestrian and we’ll keep going. 

Make it clear to us that you’re waiting for the bus. Stand close to the blue bus stop pole (you can take a few steps back for safety as we pull up). Feel free to give us a wave or thumbs-up sign as we approach, too.

2. Riding in the dark? Use your phone to signal the driver.

If you’ve ever driven on one of our rainy nights, you know how bad visibility can be. If you’re waiting for a bus in the dark especially if it’s rainy pull out your phone and wave it around when you see the bus approaching.  Even better: Use your phone’s flashlight setting or a strobe light app. 

The movement is important  there are a lot of lights on the street but if we see a moving light by the side of the road we know that’s a person trying to signal us. The movement also prevents you from shining the light directly in our eyes, blinding us (not good!).

Seeing riders in the dark is a big challenge for us, so anything you can do to make yourself more visible for us is greatly appreciated.

3. Waiting at a stop where multiple bus lines stop? Signal your intentions to approaching buses.

Keeping on schedule is a big priority. It can be frustrating when we stop to pick up a rider who doesn’t actually want to get on our bus. 

If you’re waiting at a stop where several different bus lines stop, signal your intention to the approaching buses. There are a lot of ways you can do this, but probably the easiest and clearest one is a simple thumbs down or thumbs up. Shaking your head “yes” or “no” works too. Don’t be subtle about it  make sure we see it!

4. Have your fare ready

Another thing that can help us keep on schedule? Having your fare ready. Whether it’s cash or Hop or your phone or a contactless credit card, have it out and ready as we pull up. We’ll get everyone on board faster, we’ll get back on the road faster, and you’ll get where you’re going faster.

5. Know your tapping “best practices”

Yet another thing that often slows us down is someone having trouble tapping. Most of the time these issues can be prevented by knowing your tapping “best practices”. 

Hold your phone or Hop card over the black rectangle below the screen on the green reader. And hold it still  don’t move it around. Sometimes it takes a moment or two to register, so be patient. If you’re tapping with a phone, know that the transmitter is probably on the top of your phone, so hold that closest to the reader.

6. Take care not to fall when the bus starts moving.

Your safety is very important to us. One of the most common ways people get hurt on board transit is falling when the bus starts to move. We try to make sure everyone is seated (or at least holding onto something) when we start but sometimes, especially on a full bus, we can miss someone. Help us keep you safe —  hold on to something.

We’ll often call out that the bus is about to start moving, so use that as your signal to grab something. Another hint that a bus is about to move? You’ll feel the bus rising from its kneeling position.

If you’re concerned about falling, it’s always okay to ask the driver to wait until you’re seated before moving.

7. Exit out the front door if you have mobility issues.

We tell riders to exit out the rear door and that’s what you should – it helps speed up buses by allowing people to board and exit at the same time. It also prevents unwanted crowding near the bus operator during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But if you have limited mobility or large and cumbersome bags, it’s okay if you exit out the front. Our buses kneel so the front door is closer to the curb.

Tip: let us know you’d prefer to exit out the front door so we can tell boarding riders to wait until you’re off. We’re happy to help with some “traffic negotiation”!

8. Riding the bus with a bike? Make sure the driver knows when you exit.

There’s a lot going on in a bus. It’s rare but not unheard of for a driver to forget which passengers are the ones with bikes. 

Driving off with a bike isn’t good for anyone. And having a rider unexpectedly step in front of a bus to get a bike we didn’t realize is theirs is dangerous. So, help us out. If you came with a bike, give us a shout as you’re about to get off and remind us you need to get your bike.

New to bringing your bike on buses? Here’s a primer.

9.  Thank your bus driver!

Yes, we hear you and yes, we appreciate it! Like we said, driving can be stressful. Even a small act like a “thank you!” helps make it worthwhile.

These are all simple things, but they’ll help keep us moving, you safe and will allow everyone to get where they need to go.

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