Tuesday, October 7, 2008

OCTA's Inconsistency

My commute via train has been largely enabled by the establishment of Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) route 473, which runs between UC Irvine and the Tustin Metrolink station. My morning commute works wonderfully: the train drops me and the bus scoops me up. I've never had to wait for the bus in the morning, it's always waiting when I get to the station.
The afternoons have been a bit different. For some reason the buses do not leave UCI on schedule, arriving and departing willy nilly. Today I called OCTA up after I'd waited until 4:07 pm for a bus due at 3:55 pm. I'd been waiting at the stop since 3:45 pm, so it probably didn't sneak past me. Using my patented friendly, "I'm confused" approach, I asked if perhaps the posted schedule was inaccurate. No, the nice lady on the other end of the line assured me, the schedule was correct; she would check with the dispatcher.
A few moments later she informed me that the bus had left on time, but they could not get the driver to pick up the radio. AWOL bus? Little explanation was given for why or how a dispatch center could lose contact with a driver. It reminded me of the news I read recently about the pilots falling asleep over Hawaii. They were also difficult to contact.
Lo, directly after I said goodbye to OCTA, there came little 473 along curvy Campus Drive. I asked the driver if he was driving the 3:55 pm bus or the next scheduled bus. And there the intrigue began, at 4:11 pm!
The driver disagreed with the dispatch account, claiming that he left the yard late because they did not have a bus for him to drive. He said that "the window" had lied to me, and that they had "more work than drivers." Leaving aside the question of why they would have to search for a bus if there was a shortage of drivers (and not buses), he was very polite and I find this scenario quite believable.
So who do I trust? The customer service line or an unusually composed driver?