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Having just lived in Paris for 8 months I think that AC Transit's desire to design a "European-style bus system" is laudable. Unfortunately they followed the form but not the philosophy of those systems.
First, in Paris, the bus drivers were always kind and considerate. If I was between stops there were several times that I waved and the bus driver pulled over and picked me up. Contrast this with all the times that AC Transit drivers deliberately pass up people waiting at stops just because they are running late.
Secondly, in Paris, you can buy weekly, monthly or yearly passes which allowed you to use unlimited transit, Metro, RER, buses, and Tramways. Total cost for that was, at most (weekly) about 20 USD a week, even with the crappy dollar. Contrast this with 1.75 a trip, .25 cents for a transfer, and if you need to transfer twice you need to pay another 1.75. That's up to 3.75 a trip. Might as well drive.
Thirdly, in France, people do not poop on the buses. I have seen actual coils of human poop on both AC Transit trains and very often on the BART.
Fourth, in Paris, every bus stop has a posting of the bus schedule and many stops have GPS monitors that tell you how long until the next bus arrives. In the East Bay almost all the schedules have been removed from stops so that you don't even know if the bus is still running -- for instance today I learned that the 7 stops running at 6pm on Sundays. Insupportable!
The difference as I see it is that AC Transit doesn't see its customers or workers as people who deserve to be treated with some kind of human dignity. They do not pay their drivers enough to care about their jobs so they are just mean and surly most the time. It is really awful having to return to the Bay Area and use the buses here. Sometimes they don't even come! That is probably the main reason ridership is down. If you have a job or a class that you need to be at at a certain time you cannot afford to gamble on a bus system where buses often do not even come and other times drivers just speed past the stop where people are waiting.
AC Transit can buy all the fancy hardware they want, but until they realize that actual human beings are their customer base they will never be anything like a European system.
Finally, they are lying about the number of complaints they receive. I know that I personally called to complain after a Van Hools bus's hydraulic doors suddenly slammed on my leg as I was trying to get my bags of groceries off. No one ever called me back like they promised to. They just don't give a damn.
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