I thought this story from The Other Paper was pretty funny. While I understand a driver’s need to get some food when he or she has been on the road for nine hours, I’m not sure blocking a lane of traffic on Tuttle Crossing Blvd during rush hour is good for COTA’s public relations. I imagine drivers will react in one of two ways:
1. “I can’t belive this bus is blocking my way. Effing COTA.”
2. “That bus is just sitting there. There’s no way I am ever riding that.”
WHAT’S UP WITH THAT: Anyone on this here COTA bus want some chicken?
By Steph Greegor
Published: Thursday, September 11, 2008 1:19 PM EDT
…Last week, TOP news staffers heard a tale of a driverless—but full—COTA bus stopped on Tuttle Crossing Boulevard during rush hour blocking an entire lane of traffic for no apparent reason.
Was it an emergency? A breakdown?
This COTA driver left her bus doors wide open and passengers waiting while she grabbed a bite—politely getting it to go—from the nearby Boston Market, arriving back to the driver’s seat with her oven-roasted poultry deliciousness in tow. It was an apparent hunger emergency.
Did it matter that the driver was in the middle of her shift, in the middle of the road and in the middle of Columbus rush hour traffic?
According to COTA spokesman Dan Liggett, it did not.
“Our operators are allowed, in a situation like this, to radio in and ask if it’s all right if they can take a break,” Liggett said. “Then they shut down the bus.”
COTA provides rides for approximately 50,000 folks each weekday, offering nearly 60 routes and some 4,000 stops. Its drivers generally work 8-hour shifts, but sometimes a driver can end up the road for up to 10 hours, Liggett said.
This particular operator, on this particular route, had been on the road for approximately nine hours and was hungry, he said. So she called it in to COTA authorities and requested a chicken stop—they approved.
“In certain situations, if a driver has to take a break, maybe go to the bathroom, they stop, secure the bus, and get off for a few minutes,” he said.
The bus hardly looked secure with its doors wide open.
“The air isn’t running so they leave the doors open,” he said. “Plus, they’ve taken the key, so no one can steal it. And then, I don’t know if you could even hotwire a bus. I’ve never heard of it happening.”
Liggett said most breaks for COTA drivers occur at, what they have dubbed the transportation’s central hub for taking breaks, at Broad and High streets. “Many buses come and at least stop there for a minute,” he said. “If they’ve got some time, maybe running a little ahead, they can stop, get out, and stretch their legs for a minute.”
But if they’re far from their home base and they need to “meet their human needs,” Liggett said, “they can do that.”
As did our Tuttle Crossing driver. Did the driver take food or drink orders for her passengers, who may have been hungry themselves at 5 p.m. for some chicken of their own? Alas, passengers were not offered sustenance of any kind, said Liggett.
“It’s a very long day for our operators,” he said.
And, apparently, a bit longer than expected for passengers at the mercy of a hungry driver.