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Henry Gardner, former Oakland City Manager
I am a 73-year-old, mildly disabled man who often uses AC Transit. I first encountered these Van Hool buses almost three year ago, when I was taking classes at Berkeley City College. On my first trip on one of the new buses I almost had a very nasty fall. The high step to the seat was not the problem but rather it was the virtual absence of any safe hand-holds. I knocked over at least six people as I swung around the slippery vertical pole. Fortunately they were younger and stronger than I and this prevented any serious injuries.
I thought "What idiot designed this bus and what bigger idiot at AC Transit accepted this poorly designed bus?" When I phoned to complain I was told that "the Boss" liked them but most others did not. I suppose like most bureaucrats he never rode the buses.
This past summer I had occasion to spend a week in Ghent, Belgium. I realized that the problem did not entirely lie with the bus design because the buses used in Ghent have many vertical and horizontal hand-holds everywhere, making movement though the bus safer for all. The responsible bureaucrat should either be terminated or his salary should be cut to pay for the necessary safety upgrades to these buses. I expect to be using the AC Transit system more and more as I age, but you can be sure I will always have an electronic device to capture in pictures and voice of the near-injured and injured.
Monroe Pastermack, Oakland
I'm Outta Here
Last month, AC Transit made changes in service that resulted in replacing the green commuter buses with the wireless access with the Van Hools on the line I ride in the mornings. The bus line services mainly commuters who previously were able to use the time to work on their computers, read, or access the Internet. On the Van Hools, there is no wireless access and the ride is too bumpy to be able to read or do work. I'm looking at discontinuing my monthly pass and using casual carpool instead. If I am not going to be able to use the time for enjoyment, I have no interest in giving my money to an agency that downgrades the level of service, yet still charges the same amount.
If you don't believe that the buses are disliked by the passengers, try riding the route and talking to them. I've been doing so, and not one single person has expressed a preference for the Van Hools. Why the agency is so determined to ignore the needs and desires of the consumers is baffling to me.
Dinah Hayse, Oakland
Your article on the AC debacle does not have the true insight that could easily have been derived from those with engineering experience. My first time aboard a new VH vehicle informed me by the sounds of the rear-end gears that they were not cut to proper mesh angle. This sound signature continues to become more prominent with age. I have seen several vehicles on the hook and when inquired of those involved found several instances of power train failure.
This is a result of Eastern European sources for these components. Machine tools left behind by the Russians are both poorly designed and now well worn. The product is garbage. Though the company is based in Belgium and design done there, the mechanical production is mainly in Hungary.
The other element of this proposition B rape of the taxpayer is the obscuration of the flow of purchase funds due to overseas purchase. US purchase would put the transaction under public scrutiny and control. There is inordinate and most intentional concealment with highly probably kickbacks common to European transactions.
The irony of the remainder of the fleet, though old, being consistently more reliable and built here in Alameda County was not mentioned. The export of a few thousand jobs from the county would explain some part of the decrease in ridership.
I would suggest that we REPEAL measure B and rid the Awful Crappy Transit of asinine control. A further example is the recent move to field supervisors who have never driven a bus displacing those who moved to those positions from line driver. I have resided in this county long enough to watch drivers from the first day of employment to retirement with 28-30 years. Universally most older drivers retired due to deterioration of the working environment. I have observed several drivers that departed before their first anniversary. The system, if that term could be applied, is broken. I have been passed up at stops by drivers under penalty of being chastised for being late to a time point. Rules are without regard to the transit goals that should inform all actions.
I do recall the fifteen-minute intervals 24/7 of WWII transit mandated by H.J. Kaiser as a condition for production of ships. Our productivity cannot overcome overseas with the 8-9 hour a day travesty in place in a 24/7 economy. That is where the fare box lies also. No one will get out of their auto when threatened with loss of a job due to late or nonexistent buses. Most often only one direction of workplace transportation is accommodated. "Take a taxi" is the AC cry when confronted with the problem. Go think!
Robert B. Wister, Hayward
A Huge Improvement
These buses are a huge improvement over the old ones. They're comfortable, easy to board, and spacious. I ride the 1R, where the bus drivers drive pretty fast, and it's rare that a bus driver does not wait for an elderly person to make it to his/her seat before driving away. Also, there are the fold-out seats available on the side of the bus that are very close to the ground. I often see elderly people using these.
Rebecca Saltzman, Oakland
Bad to Ride
Seven Days - February 24, 5:52 PM
Seven Days - February 21, 3:30 PM
Seven Days - February 18, 5:00 PM
Seven Days - February 17, 4:09 PM
Seven Days - February 16, 3:24 PM