Should bus drivers be forced to call out stops?

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Agent 204 Agent 204's picture
Should bus drivers be forced to call out stops?

I hate to use this article, because the headline strikes me as having a kind of anti-union tone to it, but I do have to wonder about the objections that the drivers give:


chief human rights commissioner sees only poor excuses for Grand River
Transit drivers refusing to call out all bus stops.

"I really
find it difficult to believe that calling out stops will have the kind
of impact some people are alleging," Barbara Hall said.

The commission has asked all Ontario transit systems to call out all stops on all routes.

This is to assist the blind who have "a compelling need," Hall says.

The request has received a mixed response across Ontario.

drivers say calling out all stops puts their health at risk. They have
launched a workplace safety complaint, stalling call-outs.

officials in other cities say the rights commission has not grasped the
complications, and is pressing too fast for changes.

"It's a
mishmash across the province, none of which is really working very
effectively," said Kelly Paleczny, chair of the Ontario Public Transit

Some of the reported challenges include:

Naming all stops and training drivers to memorize them;

Making calls heard over noisy buses;

Driver distraction and workload;

Straining driver vocal cords;

Monitoring compliance.

From the Waterloo Record.


It could strain some vocal cords - that sounds legitimate. I'm not a bus driver, so I don't know whether it would detract drivers. I know chatty passengers can (this from a former bus-driver friend. But the guy who pulled a knife on her once was far worse).

Drivers SHOULD know all their stops, no? I can certainly name most of those on buslines I frequently take.

But why don't they have an automated announce system? I remember one - both visual and sound - on Amsterdam trams - I believe it was on buses too, though I didn't take them often. Visual helps deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers, and those who may not speak the language fluently and connect pronunciation with street names. They make buses and trams now that are much more accessible to people with motor handicaps, and streetlights with sound for visually impaired people - deafness to varying degrees is very common, in our noisy world, and deaf and hard-of-hearig people should be entitled to ths same provisions, since modern technology makes them possible.


You don't have to go to Amsterdam to find this.  Announcing all stops on the Toronto transit system was mandated by lawsuits brought by a blind lawyer, and the TTC responded by instituting automated announcing systems on all buses, streetcars and subways.  On buses and streetcars there's a screen displaying the next stop for the hearing impaired.

Even for those of us who are not hearing or sight impaired, it's great; I frequently used to miss stops because I read on transit.


we have the screen on the métro, because there is a kind of advertising/announcement board in each car, and it displays the next stop.

Er, I go to Amsterdam much more frequently than I go to Toronto. But I'm glad to see Toronto has it as well.

Lots of provisions for people with disabilities are also an improvement for others, the most obvious example is the sloping curbs for wheelchairs, making it SO much easier to push a pram or stroller.


Busdrivers used to call out stops in Toronto regularly when I was a kid.  I don't recall when they stopped.  When it resumed here, there was some minor passing resistance from busdrivers, but AFAIK it's gone ok.


Vancouver has an automated system that calls out each bus stop and announces the route designation every time the front door opens.

A few pronunciation errors here and there though-maybe it's a synthesized voice because I've never heard anyone say PowELL St.Undecided

Maysie Maysie's picture

The TTC is my main source of locomotion, aside from walking. I love the verbal and visual cues to the next bus/streetcar stop, especially when I'm on an unfamiliar route, but even, like Sineed says, to alert me when I'm reading/dozing/distracted.

Of course there's a cost attached to installing such as system, that from a management perspective it's easier to try to "force" drivers to call out the stops, but accessibility comes with a cost, and it's worth paying as far as I'm concerned. 


I agree.  I think the automated system is the best way to go.  Even when they were trying to enforce drivers calling the stops, many of the drivers didn't comply.  And what if the driver him or herself has a disability or a weak voice and finds themselves unable to do it? 

The automated system is best.

One thing I thought was so neat in NYC was their subway announcements of stops.  I've never heard anything like it.  First of all, the New York accents of the drivers were pretty neat, but very difficult for me to understand because they speak very quickly.  

Anyhow, it's amazing the way they rattle off all the connections at each stop.  They don't just say the stop name, they tell you all the different lines that connect to it, what the cross-street is, etc.  At least they did on the ones I took.  

My big thrill when I went to NYC for the first time a few years ago was "taking the A train" after loving that old song for so long. :D

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

I appreciate the utility of this, but have a hard time identifying with the emotional statements... I am trying to picture how this would work in cities where the streets are numbered rather than named.... Edmonton would be the best example (especially since they start their numbering at 100).....



This has been mandated in Winnipeg too, I believe, Agent 204. And Winnipeg transit has started installing electronic voice and text, which is a big help, when it's working.

In the absence of the automated voice, I don't think they should have to call out every stop. Maybe just the major intersections. I overhead a driver talking to another driver about it, that it's OK for the first hour, but after that, it's a real strain on the voice. Also, some drivers like to talk with passengers while they're driving, and if they're having to call out a stop every 6 - 10 seconds, that affects their ability to interact with passengers. 

In the past, visually impaired riders would simply ask the driver to let them know when they've reached their stop. And because they're sitting in the front of the bus, they can hear the driver.



Another issue for the Winnipeg drivers is that they feel that the stop-calling is extra duties (which it is) without extra compensation (which is also true).

Although the automated system is the best. And the new LED signs in the buses have the time on them as well, presumably set to bus time, which removes the need to actually interact with your fellow passengers. But yeah, it's nice to have a clock on the bus.


Automate calling the major intersections.  The last time I was visiting Toronto they had it on the Bathurst Streetcar.

I couldn't believe how advanced the system was in Prague when I visited last year.  The next six stops were highlighted inside the tram car on a rolling sign, and the stops were called out by different randomized voices... my assumption was to avoid boredom or repetitiveness perhaps.  The metro lines lso had different voices for each line (or maybe train model since some were Soviet cars and some were not)

Ken Burch

They have automated annoucements on the Tube in London.  Helped me a lot when I was there and I didn't know anyone in the whole place.

Our Demands Most Moderate are/
We Only Want The World!
-James Connolly


I think streetcar drivers in San Francisco call out stops. Cal train crew called out all the milk run stops from Mountain View to San Fran.

I think it would be less distracting-more efficient for bus drivers to have a second person collecting fares, like the buses in England used to before Maggie. I think that now, drivers have to accelerate away after picking up passengers and still keep one eye on the automated fare collector - give directions and advice about changeovers, attention to transfer tickets etc.


In Toronto, all buses and streetcars have automated announce systems, and they call every stop, not just major intersections.  It's really fantastic.

I think all transit systems in Ontario should get money from the province to install them.  It's really a matter of accessibility and human rights.