How do bus drivers know where they’re going? Sometimes I see a person in a driver’s uniform sitting behind the driver watching out the front and I’ll think, maybe they’re learning the route, or maybe they already know the route and are giving directions to the driver who’s really the learner. And I know that buses are, or at least were, equipped with tracking systems. I first learned this when I mentioned to a friend that on some buses the same bass baritone voice that says, “Stop requested, please remain seated until the bus comes to a complete stop” also occasionally chimes in with things like, “Now turning onto Twenty-First Avenue South.” I said it would be pretty embarrassing for the driver to have announcements like that pop up at the wrong time and pretty hilarious for me because I’m obnoxious.
Anyway that’s when my friend told me they have location tracking so the automated voice is activated based on where the bus really is, and to me that would make it even more hilarious to have the announcements pop up at the wrong time because I’m really obnoxious.
And I did once get a real demonstration of the location tracker when a driver was forced to make a detour because of construction. Within less than a minute of the driver turning onto a side street the radio beeped and a voice crackled, “Number 459, why are you off your route?” And the driver picked up the handset and explained about the construction, and fortunately it was a short detour so we all got where we wanted to go. I wouldn’t have found it hilarious at all if I had to walk a long way out of my way.
I also think sometimes the drivers turn off the location tracking system. I’m not sure this is something they’re supposed to do, and it certainly doesn’t seem right. I can’t even understand turning off the automated voice. Sure, if I were a bus driver I wouldn’t want to listen to the same announcements over and over, but it’s there for the benefit of visually impaired riders.
The reason I think they can turn off the tracking system is the other day I was riding the bus and the driver suddenly took a wrong turn.
“What the hell is this?” she asked. “Is this where I’m supposed to be going?”
I walked up to the front of the bus and started giving her directions.
“I thought this was too soon to turn into the end of the route,” she said.
“Yeah, you’re right, there’s still an overpass to go under. The end of the route is still about a mile away.”
I got off shortly after that and the bus continued on its way. Fortunately it was a straight shot and I hoped I’d helped. The next day I got on and recognized the driver from the day before.
“Did my directions help?” I asked.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
Either she really didn’t remember or she didn’t want to admit she’d gotten lost. I went and sat down. I decided I wasn’t going to try and embarrass her by pushing it. I’m not that obnoxious.