Dear [name withheld for privacy],
We’ve been dating a while, so believe me when I say this letter is difficult to write. But I need to get this off my chest.
Some of my friends are always talking shit about you. They don’t like you. They don’t really know you, but they have all sorts of excuses to hate you. They say you aren’t reliable, that you don’t go places, that you sometimes smell funny. Some of them have had bad experiences with people like you, and assume that everyone is the same.
You don’t smell funny. You go to places I like. I told them you were dependable. I told them you were different. Well last week you left me stranded. You told me you would pick me up at 7 AM, right near my house. It was convenient, I was happy. I’ve had a mostly good experience with you, so I thought it would go well. It did not. Granted, I eventually got to work when your friend picked me up 25 minutes later, but if I wanted to ride with them I could have spent that time inside my house, not waiting out in the cold. I thought I would be spending time with you, not your friend.
The worst part is the lack of communication. When I try to call and find out what happened, why you didn’t show up, I don’t get any response. I know sometimes accidents happen, but then you need to let me know- “hey I’m sorry about yesterday… you know I had some problems with my wheels… why don’t we try again next week?”
I hope you can get your shit together. I really thought we had a future together. Maybe you need to get your priorities straightened out, I know the higher ups at your job sometimes mess with your head. Please respond.
OK, so if you didn’t get it – COTA left me stranded last week, twice in a row. Same route, same bus. I called their number, asking for an explanation, and the first day was told the bus was having mechanical problems, so it was running late. But it never showed. Second day I was told the driver had told a supervisor he had run the route. Well if he did he was damn early, more than 5 minutes. I was transferred to the complaint department twice. The first time it never did anything, I was just in some limbo without music or clicking or anything. Finally hung up after a few minutes. Second time I did reach a human’s voice mail, so I left a message with my name and number. No call back, even though I was instructed to leave a number and “someone” would call me back.
I’ve had similar experiences with their complaint department before, so I’m not really surprised. COTA customer service is a joke. Everyone I spoke to was professional and polite and I bet even the lady whose voicemail I got is a good person trying to do a good job. But the system is broken. Clearly the managers at COTA don’t give a shit.
I remember the look of surprise on Mr. Lhota’s face when I told him about buses with drivers who don’t know the route, who go off the route, who try to argue with you about the route…. this was during one of his “ride the bus and talk to people” days. It happens, and while it doesn’t happen everyday on every route, it’s going to lose COTA riders. I remember this happened one time and thankfully I got a ride to OSU with another OSU student who was waiting for the bus. He normally drove, but was trying out the bus. Think he’s really going to try it again after being stranded?? People who are on the fence about this need buses following schedules and decent customer service, and they don’t always get this. Not to mention the effect on people who are depending on the bus, and as a result of COTA’s mistakes are late to work, school, picking up their child, etc.
I don’t really know what COTA’s problem is. I do believe that if Mr. Lhota and the people who work directly under him really took customer service seriously, then things would change. I generally try to keep quiet about any problems I have with COTA, because I want to encourage people to ride the bus, not discourage them. But twice in one week, with no good explanation, was too much. For the record I have been using the bus at least a few times a week since fall 2005, and more often since summer 2006.
I’ve heard COTA is getting more money soon, and that will lead to all sort of improvements. That’s good. And I’m not trying to turn this into fuel for the “see the streetcars take away from COTA buses” argument because I don’t buy that. (Basically I want better COTA bus service and rail service. We can have both.) But seriously COTA, get your shit together.