If you visit here regularly you know I am a big supporter of public transit. No matter where I am.
My home town is Ottawa, and the system there regularly frustrated me; I have written about it often. The frustrations didn’t stop me from using it daily. When it worked it was a great ride and cost effective. I just wished that it always worked the way it was supposed to.
Public transit in my area of Germany is very different. My only real complaint is frequency. Two hours is too long between buses but the service itself is pretty good. (I haven’t quite figured out all the aspects of this regional system. My bus pass works on inter-city trains to some extent also.) There are few local routes, which also means fewer drivers than in a city the size of Ottawa.
I have an acquaintance who drives a bus in Ottawa. In the 30 years or so I have known him, I have only been on a bus driven by him once. It’s quite different here. On the routes I take there are only a few drivers, and the buses are rarely crowded. The drivers know the regulars. After a couple of weeks of daily trips to Mullheim for language class I count as a regular. The drivers don’t expect me to show my bus pass, they know I have one. Not surprising that they know me – sometimes I am the only passenger on the bus.
I’m not sure how many buses serve this immediate area, but it is not very many. What I find amusing, and at times frustrating is that no two seem to be alike. I guess new bus purchases are few and far between, so there is no bulk purchase discount like Ottawa gets.
There is one bus with curtains, which I think could be used also as an inter city charter, or could if it had a washroom. There’s one articulated bus – it usually does the morning school run. No two buses have the same seat configuration.
Which means no two buses have the same method of signaling the driver that you want off. On one of them I couldn’t figure out how to get that “stop requested” signal light to come on. Not a big deal of course since the driver knows my stop, but it bothered me. Other passengers seemed to have no problem. I’d hear the bell ring and the light would come on, but I never saw what was being done to make that happen. There were buttons by the doors, but not by the seats. There was no cord to pull such as you find in older buses.
This week I finally figured it out. The stop request buttons are in the bus ceiling. That possibility never occurred to me. I can’t reach the ceiling without getting up. Maybe Germans have longer arms.
Or maybe no-one requests a stop until the last minute and they are getting up anyway. I’m used to a system where the bus stops every couple of blocks. Here the bus stops at every town – and it takes a couple of minutes to get from one town to another. No need to give the driver much advance warning – there is usually only one stop per town.
It’s nice to have that mystery solved, but it doesn’t strike me as efficient engineering. I thought Germans were supposed to be efficient, and having to get up to push the button just isn’t efficient. Although I must admit, living here at times has me wondering if German efficiency is just another myth. But don’t get me started on that topic – I’ve got to go catch a bus, ‘cause if I miss it I’ll have to wait two hours for the next one.